iOS 4.2 bugs: Disappearing Folders

Disappearing Folders have been tormenting iPhone and iPod touch users since iOS 4 came out in June but now that iOs 4.2.1 is out for iPad, the disappearing Folder bug is out with it. Here's the gist -- you have spend minutes if not hours organizing your countless applications into Folders only to come back at some time in the future to see one or more folders gone and your apps exploded back across your Home Screen.

We'll go over the details and offer some potential fixes after the break!

First let me just point out that it's more than losing your Folders that makes this bug so insufferable -- it's losing the time it took to make those Folders and the time it takes to search out the apps that were in them (if you had more than would fit on the 11 Home Screen pages without Folders, some might even have been bumped into invisible space and be a nightmare to find) and make the Folder again. Yes, re-Foldering is infuriating.

Since it's been around for several months and is is still around after iOS 4.1 and iOS 4.2 it's hard to know the cause. Some have experienced it after updating to a new version of iTunes, others after updating their applications on-device or doing hard resets. I have had this happen to me without updating iTunes or my apps, so who knows? (Maybe Apple should add a "Folders, re-Assemble!" button in the next update?)

Painthead from Apple Discussions posted a possible fix.

Update all your applications, move them into folders and then sync your iPhone/iPad.

If you've had this bug happen to you let us know in comments, and if that fix, or any other fix you've tried, has solved the problem for you let us know that as well.

Have something to say about this story? Leave a comment! Need help with something else? Ask in our forums!


Senior Editor at iMore and a practicing therapist specializing in stress and anxiety. She speaks everywhere from conferences to corporations, co-host of Vector, Review, and Isometric podcasts, and should be followed on Twitter @Georgia_Dow.

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Reader comments

iOS 4.2 bugs: Disappearing Folders


I have this issue whenever I restore my iPod Touch. It happened after I wanted to get rid of a jailbreak on my 3rd gen, I only had it jailbroken for an hour and this was just to test out (doesn't work anymore). Then it happened again when I got my 4th gen and it didn't copy the folders over, which made me have to spend hours on reorganizing my apps. Very annoying to deal with this.

I haven't had that issue but ever since updating to 4.2 I have had issues when moving/deleting apps there is a slight delay in the apps starting to wiggle. It's really noticeable and kind of annoying. Anyone else having any issues?

A "bug" huh? I just thought this folder dissolution thing was a new "feature" like the disappearing hardware orientation switch on the iPads. Both are a terrible pain.

I don't see the point in updating to 4.2.1 to be honest. Airplay is a joke. Give us some dlna support and we'll be talking. Until then. Me and 4.1 are just fine.

That happens to me every time I restore my iPod Touch (3rd gen). I hate it so much, and with having 190+ is hell

I'm having this problem right now which is why I came on the site tonight to see if anyone else is having this problem and what do you know, it sounds like it's not just me. It actually happened to me while trying to update all my apps in the appstore. It asked me for my apple id password, I put it in like always, it paused for a while then told me that my account could not be found, please re-enter password. but the folders were frozen with the load bar empty. I tried to re-enter my password a few more times but it still "could not find my account." Finally I hit cancel instead of retry and the downloads were still frozen. So I did a hard reset and when it came back all the apps that I was trying to update were out of the folders and back on the main screen, and I've changed my itunes password six times just to make sure, and it's still saying that my account cannot be found. But I will still let me pull up all of my account information online, so I know it's there. It's really pissin me off!!!

TechManMike - you should not be having to input your password all the time. Try changing your credit card details in iTunes, that normally fixes it.

not had this folders bug but i've noticed that 4.2 is not as smooth as 4.1. Transitions are jittery and apps freeze for a while when launching now. I really can't be arsed to do clean install.

I also noticed last night a long lag when moving apps. The wiggle lags. Also keeps wiggling after I hit the home button for a longer time than usual. Seems to be getting worse. Thought I had to many apps. Now I'm getting nervous.

Yeah guys, I've posted a comment on this issue as soon as 4.2.1 came out and I updated to it. Mind you that I never cared for "AirEver", but having more than 500 apps I needed desperately the folders function. To cut a long story short, it only worked for me at the 3rd attempt. I was able to reduce almost 30 pages of apps into only 3 pages. Since the folders only shows 9 icons, I sticked to that and made almost all of them with only 9 apps so not to "overload" it. It's been a week and so far so good. It seamed the iOS needed to "get used to it", I don't know. But still I hope they don't get all of a sudden messed up in the future, as I've spent a lot of time organizing it all. And I do prefer and find it fast to do it in the iPad itself, with the help of the docking bar. And yes the wiggle lasts a bit after hitting home, but I wait patiently - better than having to reorganize everything all over again...

FYI, the folders actually hold 12 apps, it's just that only 9 show but when you tap on a folder, it can hold a maximum of 12. :)

Had this happen the first update. I rebuilt the initial folders through iTunes, synced back, and haven't had the problem since.
I do have a new bug with 4.2 though that when my WiFi goes to sleep it won't wake back up again without manually disabling and then re-enabling the radio. I've tried a full restore but no change.

this happens if you start syncing/rearranging apps in itunes and then make changes again and click apply before the first sync completes

Had this issue on 4.0.1 when I tried to keep all 160 apps on one page. It would kick a handful to the second page after a reboot or respiring. Solution I found was to move my game folder(which is my largest) to it's own page. Worked fine then and also now on 4.1. Not going 4.2 till I need to or it's untethered.

This happened to me when I was moving apps around on my iPhone 3GS when I was running low on battery and it shut off. When I plugged in the charger all the folders were gone and apps were out of order. Took a long time to re-folder. Didn't realize it's a bug. Thought it was just due to the low battery.

I've been having the same problem repeatedly since folders were introduced. I've noticed that folders can not live past the 11th page when viewing in iTunes. Something triggers the apps to be sorted by name after an app store update. I have 378 apps, now running the latest 4.2.1 (8C148) with 11.8 GB out of 29.1 GB Free. I've tried working with Apple Care support. Wiping and reloading doesn't work -- just consumes time. Recreating folders from inside iTunes doesn't avoid the bug. When the App Store update (on the iPhone) happens there then only one "Utilities" folder on the first page. Pages 2-11 are sorted alphabetically apps 3D??? thru i???
During the AppStore update sometimes the "desktop" will flash with only one app and two pages -- then within seconds refresh
with 11 pages and only only folder.
Are there any apps that will sort by category into folders to bouncing back from this bug won't be so time consuming?
When you do manually organize back into folders -- the only way I've found to get non-visible apps to appear on the empty spaces created by folder use is the app store update. This seams to be dangerous to get the other apps to appear because this is the same action that can undo all you organizing work.
I wonder if the bug is when an app gets updated but it currently resides past page 11.

You May All Say This Is Happening But It Could Be That Your Clicking The Folder Multi Times And By This It Will Free All The Apps! Think Of This When You Download iOS 4.2 And This Bug Could Be A Good Thing For Some People! Welcome Ti The Truth Booth!

What an unpleasant mess. Had filed the max number of screens full of apps down to two screens of folders and then presto folders all gone after installing accuweathether app. seemed like ram was getting full. May have been updating apps at the same time, not sure because hardcore utilities to monitor background processes and memory usage really do not exist in the non jail broke world.

I am having the same problem with my app folders disappearing. This has happened to me 4 times so I am quite frustrated with this. The last time they disappeared was when I was updating a few apps. I was putting a "." in front of the folder names and that seemed to help keep themfrom disappearing for several days. I even sync without them disappearing. I though I had found a solution until about an hour ago and all of my folders disappeared while updating a couple apps. I have wasted hours and hours fixing my folders. Does anyone have a solution to fixing this problem? It seem to have been around for quite a while.

Hi there, my iPhone 3GS just crashed without any reason while it was connected to iTunes. After that iTunes forced me to recover my information and some of the apps disapeared? Especially my NoteMaster app. Does anyone know what to do to recover the all and stored information?

Jan 1st and this widespread ipad 4.2.1 problem is still with us with no solution! With over 800 apps & no folders again, I'm more than a little annoyed.

this has happened to me both on my Iphone 4 and on my Ipad, mostly when rebooting the device, or resetting the home screen.
i hope they fix this soon. I wish I was still jailbroken and could still use Infinifolders which is more stable.
Dan Curtin

I just had this happen yesterday! Ggggggrrrrr. I was trying to update a couple apps on my iPhone 4, and a message kept popping up saying "Can't connect to iTunes". After about 3 tries I thought maybe I just needed to reboot the phone.
After the reboot and my iPhone turned back on, there were no more folders (except for one labeled 'Utilities' with about 4 apps in it on my home screen), and I had 11 pages of apps!
All my apps were not visible because I have more than can fit on 11 pages, so I had to wait until I got home and synced with iTunes, then all my apps were visible.
I had to manually recreate all my folders. I certainly hope Apple fixes this bug before it happens again - it's beyond annoying!! >:/

Restoring Application on Your Springboard caused by Disappearing Folders in IOS 4.2.1, How To?
Follow this steps:

  1. You have to Jailbreak your Ipad/Iphone and Install Cydia.
  2. Find 'Categories' in Cydia and install this application.
  3. Run Categories and go to "Hiddens Icons" then change to 'ON' for each apps icon.Select "respring immediately"
  4. Upon respring ipad will restore all your hidden applications.
  5. Re-create folder.

Additional Note:
1.You also can install "infinidock" or "infinifolders" from cydia if you want to allow extra app icons in your ipad. Hence will eliminate the need of folder creation in your ipad.
2.Use categories to create folder...safer....
Thank you.

I've had this happen to me 3 times now!
It takes me over an hour to sort out all of my apps what are in the hundreds.
Happened again today when I was updating a app from the app store! It's really doing my head in.

Most frustrating to have all app folders just disappeared without reason. I was experiencing problem with ipad2 connecting to AppStore due to the password error. Don't to jailbreak it. Any suggestions to prevent same problem?

Hello! I have this problem with disappearing apps while updating all of them- the wi-fi connection was not that good so I had to go before they have finished updating and now some of them are missing and some others are on the same way I suppose, cause they dont have even an image on the icon and I dont know what it is. Do you know what I could do? I havent done sync for some time and Im worried especially for my sound clips.

I just updated my apps last night. This morning, there were no more folders and many apps are missing. I'm gonna try that.

restarted iphone for the first time in maybe 3 months. bam folders gone. I got ~20 pages of apps, half of which are invisible now. jesus christ.

Ok, here's the deal, I had this problem once before when I had my 3GS with jailbroken iOS 4.0.1. I couldn't fix it so I re-arranged the icons and it didn't happen again.
But today I experienced the same thing when I wanted to sync itunes with my new 4S with jailbroken iOS 5.1.1.
After the previous incident I learned to sync on demand, not automatically, So I didn't lose any folders, I just saw the folders were gone in itunes apps tab.
After searching the internet for few hours I lost all hope and started deleting new installed packages in cydia. After I deleted "Five Icon Dock" and connected the iphone to itunes, everything went back to normal and I could sync without any problem (without any folders mising or re-arranged)
This was my experience, I hope it helped.