iPad or iPhone Freezes Up? Frozen on the Spinning Wheel? 3 Ways to Fix iOS Crashes
The iPad and iPhone don’t freeze or crash often, but when they do it can be an epic freeze-up, where the device can either get stuck in an app or, worse, it gets frozen on the dreaded iOS “spinning wheel of death”, the little wait cursor that never goes away. Left on it’s own in that state, that spinning wheel can quite literally spin forever until the battery drains and the device dies out, but that’s obviously not a solution to resolve the rare major iOS crashes. We’ll cover three tricks to fix major iOS crashes, the first will attempt to just exit out of the crashing application, the next will forcibly restart the device, and finally for the worst scenarios, we’ll restore iOS as new, though that really should be a last resort that is rarely applicable to most situations.
A quick reminder: the spinning wheel can also be an indicator of general activity, and does not always represent a crash or frozen device. If you’re updating apps, updating iOS, or performing a task in an app, it’s quite likely you’ll see the spinning wheel as part of normal behavior. We are not trying to correct normal behavior here, and we are only looking to resolve crashes and freezes where an iPad, iPhone, or iPod touch is completely unresponsive and truly frozen, often displaying that same cursor in the process. If you’re not sure what to look for, refer to the video below which demonstrates a completely frozen iPad stuck on a crashed app.
1: Forcibly Quit Frozen Apps
The first thing you can try is to force quit the frozen app, this works if the freeze is only app specific, and if you’re seeing the spinning wheel this often won’t do anything. Nonetheless, it’s worth a try since it’s easy and only takes about 10 seconds:
- Hold down the Power button until the “Slide to Power Off” appears but do not touch the slider
- Release the Power button, then hold the Home button to force quit the frozen app
2: Force Reboot a Frozen iOS Device
If forcibly exiting the app didn’t work, it’s likely the entire device has either crashed or frozen up. If this is the case you should issue a forced reboot, 99% of the time this resolves the spinning wheel issue entirely and you’ll be back to using the iPad or iPhone as usual.
- Hold down the Home button AND the Power button together until the iPad / iPhone forcibly restarts
You’ll know this has worked because the screen will turn black and then an Apple logo will appear. Force reboots take longer than a standard reboot, so don’t be surprised if this takes a minute or two for the iOS device to resume to normal usability.
The key thing to remember when forcibly rebooting is to hold down the buttons concurrently. If you hold them separately, iOS will attempt to force quit the current app instead, which is not going to do anything if the device is completely frozen up.
Stuck on a Spinning Wheel During Boot? Restore iOS
If you’re seeing a spinning wheel after updating to a new version of iOS, wait at least 5-10 minutes before trying anything else, it’s possible the device is simply updating itself.
On the other hand, there are rare cases where it’s possible to encounter the spinning wheel on boot that doesn’t go away. If this happens you’ll almost certainly need to restore iOS with iTunes, which requires the assistance of a computer and tethering the device by USB cable.
- Launch iTunes and connect the iPhone or iPad to the computer
- Select the iOS device, then at the primary Summary screen in iTunes choose “Restore”
- Confirm the restore and let the device restore back to factory settings (not from a backup yet)
Note: If the iPad or iPhone does not appear in iTunes, put it into DFU mode first and then restore as usual.
The reason it’s best to restore to factory defaults first is to be sure the iOS device works with a fresh clean install of system software. If the device doesn’t work with an empty slate of iOS, the problem could be hardware and a visit to an Apple Genius or a call to Apple Support may be in order.
On the other hand, if the iOS device does work fine with a fresh install, you can now use iTunes or iCloud to restore from a recent backup. The best way to do that is to reset to factory settings directly on the device, then during the new setup choose “Restore from iCloud Backup”. Everything should now work as expected and you’ll be back to normal.
Example of a Crashed / Frozen iPad
Just for reference purposes, here’s what a completely crashed iPad looks like, frozen on an app with a spinning wait cursor and completely unresponsive to gestures, touch, home button presses, or even long presses on the power button:
The solution in this case was the Force Reboot method mentioned above.
Do you have another solution for resolving a frozen iPad or iPhone? Let us know!