Why Is My Touch Screen Not Working?

What to do when an iPhone or Android screen not responding to your touch

cleaning touch screen that doesn't work
When your touch screen stops working, start by cleaning it with a lint-free cloth. If that doesn't work, it's time to dig deeper. Emilija Manevska / Moment / Getty

Touch screens are great when they work, but when a touch screen stops working, all that ease of use goes out the window and frustration sets in very quickly. The biggest problem is that with some devices, the touch screen is the only way you have of interacting with your phone or tablet. When that suddenly goes away, it can feel like you’re totally locked out of your device altogether.

While there are cases where an unresponsive touch screen calls for professional repairs, there are a number of steps, from easy to advanced, that you can take to get things working again.

Basic Fixes for a Touch Screen That Doesn't Work

  1. Clean the screen with a lint-free cloth.

  2. Restart your device.

  3. Remove your case or screen protector.

  4. Make sure your hands are clean and dry and that you aren't wearing gloves.

Regardless of your experience level, there are some basic, easy fixes that you can try when your touch screen stops working.

The first thing to try is to clean the screen and your hands. Touch screens don't work that well when they are wet or dirty, and they can also appear unresponsive if your fingers are wet, dirty, or covered by gloves. If there is any liquid on the screen, or any other substance like dirt or food, the first step is to clean it off.

If that doesn't do the trick, then turning the device off and back on again will often solve the problem. This is also known as rebooting, and the process is a little different from one device to the next.

Cleaning an Unresponsive Touch Screen Device
In some cases, a touch screen will stop responding properly due to built up dirt and grime or problems with the case or screen protector.

Since this is pretty easy to either deal with or rule out, it’s a good idea to give your device a thorough cleaning if a reboot didn’t do the trick.

  1. Clean your hands or put on clean gloves.

  2. Wipe the touch screen with a lint-free cloth.

    • The cloth may be dry or wet.

    • Never use a sopping wet cloth.

    • Always wring your cloth out before using it on a touch screen.

  1. If the touch screen still doesn’t work, removing the screen protector or case may help.

  2. You may need to clean the screen after removing the screen protector if it was damaged.

  3. Take off your gloves, as touch screens don't work well through gloves.

  4. Make sure your fingers are clean and dry as well since wet fingers often result in an unresponsive touch screen.

Restarting a Device With an Unresponsive Touch Screen
It may sound pretty basic, but when your touch screen stops working, simply restarting your iPhone, Android, or laptop is usually all it takes to fix the problem.

The issue here is that with most devices, turning off or restarting involves interacting with the screen in some way. For instance, you may be used to touching the power button and then tapping a confirmation screen on your phone.

Since that isn’t an option when your touch screen has stopped working, you will have to use a device-specific shutdown or restart procedure.

How to Hard Reboot an iPhone With an Unresponsive Touch Screen
Rebooting an iPhone, or forcing it to shut down and turn on again, without access to the touch screen involves pushing a combination of buttons. The specific combination is depends on the age of the phone.

For iPhone 6s and older models with a clickable home button:

  1. Press and hold both the home button and the power button.

  2. Release the buttons when you see the Apple logo on the screen.

For iPhone 7 and newer:

  1. Press and hold both the power button and the volume down button.

  2. Release the buttons when you see the Apple logo on the screen.

How to Hard Reboot an Android Phone or Tablet With an Unresponsive Touch Screen
Forcing an android device to restart when the touch screen doesn’t work can be a little different from one device to the next, but it’s usually a pretty simple process.

  1. Press and hold the power button until the screen turns black.

  1. You may need to hold the button for 10 or more seconds

  2. If the phone doesn’t automatically turn back on, wait about a minute and press the power button again.

If the touch screen still doesn’t work after restarting the device, then move on to the next step.

Intermediate Fixes for an Unresponsive Touch Screen

  1. Dry the device out if it got wet.

  2. Tap the edges if the device was dropped.

  3. Remove memory and sim cards.

  4. Disconnect peripherals like USB devices.

If your device has suffered some damage, like if it was dropped or got wet, then fixing it is a little more complicated. The steps are still pretty easy to follow, but if you aren't comfortable trying to dry out your iPhone, then it's best left to the professionals.

Another slightly more complicated fix for a touch screen is to simply turn the device off and remove all of the sim cards, memory cards and peripherals. The reason this can be complex is that these cards are sometimes difficult to remove, and you have to put them back in one at a time to figure out which one was the problem.

What to Do When a Touch Screen Stops Working After Damage
When a phone or tablet is damaged, either by falling onto a hard surface or getting wet, the touch screen will often stop working due to an internal fault. You may still be able to get your touch screen working again, but if something is broken internally, you’ll need to take the device to a professional.

When a touch screen stops working after a phone is dropped it’s sometimes due to the digitizer connection coming loose internally. In that case, gently tapping on each corner of the phone may cause it to reconnect.

If that doesn’t work, fixing the digitizer requires taking the phone apart.

Touch screens can also stop working, become unresponsive, or work erratically if a phone gets wet. In that case, drying the phone out thoroughly sometimes fixes the problem. Basic steps for drying out a phone include:

  1. Turn the phone off and remove the battery if possible.

  2. Wash off any saltwater, food, or filth with clean water.

  3. Keep the phone as still as possible.

  4. Pat the phone dry and surround it with a drying agent.

    • Rice is not a drying agent.

    • Use silica gel or a desiccant product designed for this purpose.

  5. Leave the phone alone for no less than 48 hours.

Remove the SIM Card, Memory Cards, and Peripherals
While it is less common, problems with SIM cards, memory cards, and peripherals can sometimes cause touch screen problems in Android and Windows devices.

  1. Fully power down and unplug your device.

  2. Remove the SIM card and any memory cards if your device is a phone.

  3. Unplug peripherals like USB devices if your device is a laptop or tablet.

  4. Reboot your device and test the operation of the touch screen.

  5. If the touch screen works, try replacing each thing you removed one at a time until you identify the cause of the problem.

Advanced Fixes for an Unresponsive Touch Screen

  1. Put the device in safe mode.

  2. Use the device’s calibration tool or sensitivity setting.

  3. Update or reinstall your drivers.

There are a lot of other reasons for a touch screen to stop working, and most of them can be pretty tough to figure out.

Since touch screen problems can also be caused by files or programs that you download, the next step is to start up your phone, tablet or laptop in safe mode. This is basically just a bare bones mode that doesn't load extra programs, but it can be pretty complicated to get it going.

Another potential fix is to reconfigure the touch screen and reinstall drivers. This is even more advanced, but it does sometimes do the trick.

Put Your Android Phone or Windows Device in Safe Mode
In some cases, a problem with an app or program that you have downloaded can cause the touch screen to become unresponsive. The key to figuring this out is to restart in safe mode, since these apps and programs don’t load in safe mode.

For Android phones and tablets:

  1. Power off your device completely.

  2. Push and hold the power button.

  3. Release the power button and hold the volume down button when you see the phone brand logo appear.

  4. Release the volume down button when the home screen appears with Safe Mode in the bottom left corner.

For information on entering safe mode with a Windows device, please see our Windows safe mode walkthrough.

If you find that the touch screen starts working when you enter safe mode, then there is a problem with some app or program that you downloaded. Start with recently downloaded apps and go from there.

Adjust iPhone Touch Screen Sensitivity Settings
If you’re experiencing an unresponsive or inaccurate touch screen on your iPhone 6s or later, it may be a 3D Touch sensitivity issue. In that case, assuming the touch screen works at all, you’ll need to adjust that setting.

  1. Navigate to Access Settings > General > Accessibility > 3D Touch

  2. Adjust the slider between light and firm.

  3. Try turning off 3D Touch if the screen is still inaccurate or unresponsive.

Use Windows Touch Screen Calibration Tool
For Windows 8 and 8.1:

  1. Access the Search Charm.

  2. Type calibrate.

  3. Choose the option to calibrate the screen for pen or touch input.

  4. Click the reset option if it is available.

  5. Click the calibrate option if the reset option isn’t available.

  6. Follow the on-screen instructions.

For Windows 10:

  1. Press the Windows logo key if you have a keyboard attached, or click the Windows logo button on the taskbar if you don’t.

  2. Type calibrate.

  3. Select the option to calibrate the screen for pen or touch input.

  4. Press the tab key until the reset button is selected and then press enter, or click the reset button.

  5. Press the tab key until the Yes button is selected and then press enter, or click the Yes button.

  6. Follow the on-screen instructions.

Updating Touch Screen Drivers and Reinstalling the Touch Screen
If you have a Windows device with a malfunctioning touch screen, then disabling and reenabling the driver may fix the problem. Reinstalling the driver may also do the trick if simply disabling and reenabling it doesn’t.

In both cases, you’ll need to connect a keyboard and mouse or touchpad to your device first.

  1. Disable and enable the windows touch screen driver.

    1. Press the Windows logo key and type device manager.

    2. Select device manager from the results.

    3. Click the arrow that is on the same line as Human Interface Devices.

    4. Right-click on HID-compliant touch screen.

    5. Click on disable.

    6. Right-click on HID-compliant touch screen.

    7. Click on enable.

    8. Test the touch screen to see if it works.

  2. Reinstall the touch screen driver.

    1. Press the Windows logo key and type device manager.

    2. Select device manager from the results.

    3. Click the arrow that is on the same line as Human Interface Devices.

    4. Right-click on HID-compliant touch screen.

    5. Click on uninstall.

    6. Restart your device.

    7. After the device automatically reinstalls the touch screen, test to see if it works.

If your  touch screen still doesn’t work after following all of these steps, then it will probably require professional repairs.