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Posted on December 3rd, 2012 by Barry Collins

How to “fix” an unresponsive home button on an iPad/iPhone

iPad 3 iPhoto

Last week, my iPad 2’s home button – the physical button in the bottom bezel – started behaving erratically. It would take two or more presses to return me to the home screen, or occasionally register double-clicks when I only tapped once.

So I did what any member of modern society does: I moaned about it on Twitter. Before you could say “trip to the Apple Store”, my old chum and editor of iOS magazine Tap, Chris Phin, shot back “Google ‘recalibrate home button’”.

I did as I was told, and followed the top result detailing a simple procedure to supposedly recalibrate the home button. In a nutshell, you launch “one of the stock apps” (such as Weather or Calendar), hold down the top power button until the “slide to power off” prompt appears, release it  and then quickly press and hold the home button down until both the power-off prompt and app disappear.

This solution absolutely reeked of snake oil: how on Earth can a fixed, single-purpose button need recalibration? But, lo and behold, it worked. The button began responding to every click, as good as new. Although, I have to admit that this morning, it’s started to get a little intermittent again.

I have no idea what’s going on here. There are plenty of people on the various websites running the “recalibration” technique that are absolutely convinced it has miraculously fixed their iPad/iPhone; there are plenty of others who claim it’s a myth, that it does nothing more than force the closure of the currently running app.

My instinct says the naysayers are right, but similarly I can’t explain how opening and closing the Calendar app would make the home button more responsive (albeit temporarily). And it’s not an available memory issue, because using the five-finger pinch gesture to return to the home screen works every time (thanks to @projiuk for that tip, which doesn’t work on an iPhone, by the way).

So, over to you. Let me know if this “fix” has worked for you, and if you can work out what the hell’s going on here.

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43 Responses to “ How to “fix” an unresponsive home button on an iPad/iPhone ”

  1. Mark Simpson Says:
    December 3rd, 2012 at 11:40 am

    Didn’t work.

    Jailbreak + activator is a foolproof method to get a phone working, though.

    I have single tap up-volume as task switcher, and single tap down-volume as home.

    Cheaper than a barrel of snake-oil too…

     
  2. David Artiss Says:
    December 3rd, 2012 at 11:52 am

    Ah, yes, I know about this.

    Apple products have a built in obsolescence counter – every time you click the home button it counts down by one. When it reaches zero the home button is designed to be occasionally unresponsive to prompt you to upgrade your device.

    The “calibration” routine, thanks to a bug in iOS, simply adds to the counter so you have a few more stabs of the home button before it malfunctions again – simply re-run the calibration occasionally to top up your limit.

    Hope that helps,
    David.

     
  3. Steve Ellis Says:
    December 3rd, 2012 at 11:58 am

    Wow… if that is true (and I don’t think it is April 1st) I can hear the lawyers rubbing their hands together…

     
  4. Paul Ockenden Says:
    December 3rd, 2012 at 12:02 pm

    Make sure you install the Homeopathy app as well…

    Or alternatively you could drop a few spots of 99.9% isopropyl alcohol around the end of the button, and work it in by pressing the button a few times. That might help dissolve the finger grease that’s crept in down the sides.

     
  5. aa111 Says:
    December 3rd, 2012 at 12:17 pm

    Nope, didn’t work. Had to replace the button.

     
  6. David Artiss Says:
    December 3rd, 2012 at 12:21 pm

    @Paul. Of course, you could combine both and save a lot of money. Add a small drop of alcohol to a jug of water, and thanks to its memory, it should work just as well.

    Or short the device.

    David.

     
  7. aa111 Says:
    December 3rd, 2012 at 12:21 pm

    @DavidArtiss haha, good one! I’m wondering if they also put few lines of code which slow down your iDevice to a crawl when it reaches certain age…

     
  8. Jon T Says:
    December 3rd, 2012 at 12:29 pm

    I had the same problem with my iPhone 4 until I slammed it face down onto the table in frustration. Remarkably the phone stayed intact and the home button issue dissappeared. Still fine 6 months later.

    I wouldn’t recomend this as a fix, I’m amazed I didn’t smash my phone but it does indicate a hardware issue to me.

    BTW, Anger management lessons are on the Xmas list ;-)

     
  9. David Artiss Says:
    December 3rd, 2012 at 12:31 pm

    @aa11 No, but Microsoft does that with Windows. The code is called “The Registry”.

     
  10. Zarniw0Op Says:
    December 3rd, 2012 at 12:51 pm

    Glad I haven’t got any Apple devices

     
  11. Benjohn Barnes Says:
    December 3rd, 2012 at 1:10 pm

    This is reply contains extreme speculation based on a germ of knowledge… True part: physical buttons and switches require a “de-bounce” circuit when interfaced with digital HW. The mechanical parts / springs in buttons judder and bounce then you press them. Without de-bounce the signal the chips get when you press can look like lots of short presses. In my electronics lessons, the de-bounce was just a capacitor.

    Purest wild speculation: Possibly Apple de-bounce the home key in software, and the software has an adaptive component to adjust to button wear. Perhaps this could require a forced recalibration sometimes?

    But mostly, I’d suspect bull.

     
  12. Steve Ellis Says:
    December 3rd, 2012 at 1:18 pm

    This should fix the problem for you… http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=cY4cXn_GcG4

     
  13. MJ Says:
    December 3rd, 2012 at 2:45 pm

    “press and hold the home button down” – this is surely the real answer. A switch may be getting tarnished or similar, and holding the button gives it some physical stress that might clean the contacts. Hence it working for a while, before needing to be done again. I’d be looking at that as an explanation, not anything software related.

     
  14. Rich Says:
    December 3rd, 2012 at 3:24 pm

    I had this issue with my iPod touch 4th gen. I took it back to the reseller and was sent a new one under warranty. The annoying this is that is only happened after a few hours of non use so was a real pain to demonstrate.

     
  15. Andy R Says:
    December 3rd, 2012 at 3:54 pm

    MJ is correct. It’s the firm pressing of the home button that temporarily fixes it.
    Holding down the home button when the power off is displayed force closes the current app.
    Holding down home and power forces a hard restart of the OS with no power down of the circuitry (sim wont need unlocking).
    The button is a simple On/Off button and has no calibration if you look at the hardware inside.

     
  16. Darcy Says:
    December 3rd, 2012 at 7:21 pm

    Woah! just wow! I would never have believed that, it bloody worked!

     
  17. TiredGeek Says:
    December 3rd, 2012 at 8:04 pm

    It’s an ipad 2, surely that’s obsolete and needs replacing with something new, shiny, white and overpriced :)

     
  18. J Gray Says:
    December 4th, 2012 at 8:47 am

    The fix didn’t work for me (Ipad 3) but I found an additional fix which did here:
    http://thehowto.wikidot.com/ipad-home-button

     
  19. John G Says:
    December 4th, 2012 at 2:43 pm

    Never heard anything so ridiculous – calibrating a button(!) But if anyone just said “hold the button down for a while and that’ll sort it out”, who would accept that solution?

     
  20. Tim Says:
    December 4th, 2012 at 4:59 pm

    WD40 always does it for me.

     
  21. Scott J Says:
    December 6th, 2012 at 1:38 pm

    Didn’t work for me on my iPhone 4, I did manage to get it to close the app as per the video but my home key still needs pressing down with force

     
  22. Mike Says:
    December 21st, 2012 at 10:28 am

    Worked for me. I’ve been using assistive touch to get back to the home screen for weeks due to an unresponive home button. Tried it 10 times in a row and it’s worked every time.

     
  23. Huzy Says:
    February 2nd, 2013 at 8:15 am

    Months ago my 30 month old iphone4 home button became almost unusable. Using the ‘what have I got to lose’ principle, I sprayed electrical contact cleaner in while holding the button down. No probs since.

     
  24. Arlene Says:
    February 6th, 2013 at 3:49 am

    Thank you for this! After about five tries the home button is working again.

     
  25. Sir Garretto Says:
    February 12th, 2013 at 2:09 pm

    Worked for my iphone 4. Now if I could just find out how to permanently fix the wifi issue…

     
  26. Kerrie Says:
    February 24th, 2013 at 3:11 pm

    Saved me a trip! Worked like a charm! Thank you!!!!!

     
  27. Arif Mazlan Says:
    February 27th, 2013 at 2:14 pm

    Tried a whole bunch of stuff. Then I wondered maybe there’s some dust or finger oil blocking the button beneath it. So I blow it really hard and suck it really hard (It sounded really gay thanks for thinking it) and voila! good as new!

     
  28. David Winegar Says:
    March 2nd, 2013 at 6:54 am

    Unbelievable! This worked for me! Was having trouble with home button being unresponsive and was really afraid it was going bad…but the procedure fixed it! Give it a try, nothing to lose. I also wond does this problem have something to do with a Smart Cover? I have my suspicions.

     
  29. althea edjec Says:
    March 16th, 2013 at 3:54 am

    all you need to do is turn off your ipod/iphone, turn it on after 3-5 minutes later and press the button until voice control appears. It worked for me

     
  30. John W Says:
    May 20th, 2013 at 4:30 pm

    Thought this was a load of old cobblers, but upgraded ipad and did the button holding tuning thingy and broken Ipad is fixed.
    WOW

     
  31. Diana Says:
    July 11th, 2013 at 3:42 pm

    I can’t believe it worked for me… Thank you!

     
  32. Mike Says:
    July 16th, 2013 at 8:25 am

    Wow. This actually worked on my ipad 3! Crazy.

     
  33. RT Says:
    July 16th, 2013 at 11:17 pm

    A Q-Tip and rubbing alcohol!! I never would have guessed it! Worked great!

     
  34. DStar Says:
    August 20th, 2013 at 12:37 pm

    Had this with a colleague’s iPhone 4 which also started losing signal. A new SIM somehow fixed the button.

    My wife’s iPhone 4 also had the button problem. A factory reset/wipe seemed to fix it!

     
  35. Bill Maslen Says:
    August 29th, 2013 at 10:33 am

    Personally, I rarely use the home button on my iPad2 any more; I use the four-finger method (splay your hand, touch all four fingers to the screen, then draw them all in towards the middle of the screen – works very well). Similarly, I generally use the four-finger swipe (from the bottom up) to view multiple applications (the iPad’s equivalent of the taskbar). I find the hardware button just feels, well, more and more old-fashioned, darlings…

     
  36. Deon Says:
    September 1st, 2013 at 1:29 pm

    Easy solution: In accessibility settings, turn on ASSISTIVE TOUCH. It gives you a touch screen version of the home button (amongst heaps of other things)

     
  37. Dogwhistle Says:
    October 1st, 2013 at 1:19 pm

    it worked for me too!

     
  38. Dogwhistle Says:
    October 1st, 2013 at 1:24 pm

    my iPad 1 home button has not worked well for a long time… I put it down to being overworked by my two year old. tonight it stopped altogether. I activated the gestures etc, but I was skeptical about the ‘recalibrate’ solution. but, i thought it can’t hurt. I tried it and it is now working perfectly!
    speculate all you like on how, but it really worked for me.

     
  39. Barry Müstafa Says:
    October 9th, 2013 at 8:50 pm

    Can’t believe it worked! WALLOP

    THANKS

     
  40. MacMo Says:
    October 31st, 2013 at 1:12 pm

    I had the same problem with my iphone. Solution 4, Isopropyl alcohol worked for me. It needs to penetrate underneath the button so pressing the button on and off, rubbing it around the edge helps. The phone should be powered down and the process might need more than one go.

     
  41. MacMo Says:
    October 31st, 2013 at 1:13 pm

    Having used several budget cleaners in the past I purchased this one 3 years ago. Apart from the awkwardness of using the brush head at times, the cleaner is quite superb. My previous cleaner was bagless, very noisy, filthy to empty and made of brittle components.. admittedly it was cheap. This one has a quality feel to the plastic and is resilient to knocks, the main working head is robust and durable. The hose components dismantle for ease of cleaning. The bags are more costly but you don’t have to change them frequently. The cable length is good and recoils to the plug well, it has excellent suction and I mostly leave it on the lowest setting. There are convenient slots to store the boom either on its wheels or upright. What struck me most on using this was just how quiet it is! This is a well thought out product range with a lot of effort gone into its design and use of materials. It looks good too!

     
  42. Keith Says:
    November 21st, 2013 at 9:49 am

    If you need a replacement home button assembly I can highly recommend these guys Http://www.ipadrepairs.co.uk

     
  43. Fred Says:
    April 12th, 2014 at 4:04 am

    this actually works. thanks. I followed the steps and it appears to work just fine.

     

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