How To: Free Up Resources on Your iPhone With Force Quit

UPDATE: Force Quit has changed in iPhone 3.0. Check out our new how-to!

Those of us who rock Mac OS X know all about the "Force Quit". For Windows users, think killing an application via Task Manager. They're both ways to shut down non-responsive or otherwise rogue applications from freezing us out or just slowing us down. For iPhone users, well, we don't have to worry about that, do we? (Remember Apple mocking Windows Mobile for multitask management?)

Well, since MobileSafari, MobileMail, and other Apple apps do multitask and run in the background, it turns out we iPhone owners do still need to worry about it. And with the App Store providing all sorts of new and potentially greedy applications to strain the more limited resources of Mobile OS X, it's certainly important functionality to have.

So what can we do? Luckily, Apple built in an solution.

Hold down the "Home" button for about 6 seconds. Your resources will then be freed up, and you'll be dropped back to the Home Screen ready for a fresh, clean start.

Faster and easier than a full reset, it can get you out of an App jam or improve the "snappiness" of your iPhone in general.

Note: if you have tabs open in MobileSafari, the cached pages will be cleared, but fret not, MobileSafari will re-load the pages off the net for you as soon as you relaunch it.

(Thanks to Antony for the screen shots)

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

Rene Ritchie

EiC of iMore, EP of Mobile Nations, Apple analyst, co-host of Debug, Iterate, Vector, Review, and MacBreak Weekly podcasts. Cook, grappler, photon wrangler. Follow him on Twitter and Google+.

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Reader comments

How To: Free Up Resources on Your iPhone With Force Quit


I believe any app that can notify or interrupt other apps has to be in memory (or at least have a daemon/service running in memory), i.e. SMS, Phone, iPod, Calendar, Clock.

Sure, but by whom and when? Since Apple doesn't document a lot of their functionality, I know I find it useful to share as much info as possible, in case it helps someone who doesn't yet know.

Before iPhone came out, we have been promised and we have expected a quality product and good service. After the device saw daylight, we have been assured that all the issues will be taken care of. Now, after a second generation of the iPhone, many months later all we get is terrible service, low product quality and no explanation, no excuse, no credit.
Please, post your comments about your iPhone & iphone 3G experience. Let's hope that we can finally attract enough attention to get Apple to do what they promised!

One thing I would like would be some kind of 'force everything to quit'. Like if you could hold the home button down at the home screen for a few seconds, as you can when running a program.
Multitasking is a pain. It's a pain on WM devices, I'm not sure about Blackberry and how it's handled there (whether it's actual multitasking or preemptive multitasking like in the multi-finder days)... it's a pain on your computer! Look at how people complain about their computer being slow because it's full of 'tray icons' (people = Windows users)!
It's like sync. It's a pain.
This is not an apologist comment. I'm not saying Apple's excused from poor software quality. I'm just kind of wondering if it's really something we can 'fix' that easily in general.

@ shameonapple:
Give it a rest. I'm tired of seeing this crap everywhere.
I and every person I know/work with whom have 3G iPhones have no problems.
Quit littering every site with your crap!

Um, am i the only person that this doesn't work for? Held for up to 15 seconds, and got nothing. Just holding the "home" button, the button with a square below the screen...

Is this a 3G thing? Doesn't work on mine. Hold the home button down long enough and all it does is drop to the home screen.

Doesn't work for me either with my iPhone 3G 2.0.2. If i'm in safari, all it does is dropping me to the home screen.
When i launch Safari again all my open tabs are still there.

I have the latest software and phone and all mine does it goes back to home screen as well.

Sorry, I'll edit the post for clarity, but doing a "force quit" is supposed to drop you back to the home screen. The difference from just tapping the home button is, when you hold it down for 6 sec. it clears the resources before dropping you back to the home screen.

Yeah, but you also said that all tabs in Safari should be cleared. They are not, which bring to question whether this actually frees up resources or not.

does not clear a thing. open safari, get on a web page, then hold the button for 6 seconds. the screen goes black, then back to home screen. open safair again, and it will show your tabs clear......for about a second. then they will all come back. great tip. should have put this in the apps store with all the other junk.

Yeah, looks I made a mistake with the tab clearing. The memory cache gets flushed, but the tabs get reloaded over the network if you go back to the browser after force quit. Mea culpa. Updating again...

I'm happy others' phones are kicking back to the home screen too. Everytime I held my home button down for 6-7 seconds I was waiting for that pop up window to show up like in that screenshot. What is that screenshot?

The screenshot is an app telling you how to do a force quit to free up resources for that app. Doing the force quit, of course, drops you back to the home screen when you do it :)

urban myth this. How can we verify it actually does free resources? We can't. Holding the home button for 6 sec is no different to holding it for 1 sec, that is it goes home that's all.

Why is the world populated by idiots? Logic, people. Safari and Mail take up lots of resources by not quitting completely, that is obviously true. You can force-quit them that is also obviously true. Ergo this hint has value but only for the Very Few Apps that don't quit completely, and they are listed by Apple. This is not a fake hint, you people are obviously fake geeks cuz this is really simple logic try to follow.

This is so frustrating too read that I had too comment. If the complainers would read the WHOLE article it tells you where it dumps you and that the tabs come back. The screen shot at the beginning of the article is just an explanation of what happens! dah (sorry about that) For the non believers, do some reading ANYWHERE about OSX. Knowledge is valuable in the correct hands. OR you can just not use the tip and go on in your little closed world. Just stop complaining about something you don't completely understand.And too Rene, sorry for the rant, but good job keeping your cool during this one.

Yes you can see that this force quit works. Purchase the app "free memory" and it shows all the apps that are loaded. You can FQ your apps and watch your free memory expand. Closing Safari with 8 tabs freed up nearly 30mb. It works.
Too bad there are so many conspiracy theorists in this world, we might actually get things done without them.

I don't think this trick works on the 3.0 firmware as holding the home button is now used to enter voice control mode, I guess apple either removed the force kill feature or have changed the way you acess it

ya wont it just go tot he voice control if u keep pressing the home button? or is it different from holding the home button while ur running an app?