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How-To Geek

How to Power Cycle Your Gadgets To Fix Freezes and Other Problems

frozen-laptop-and-snow

Have you ever had a smartphone, laptop, tablet, or any other electronic gadget become unresponsive? The surefire way to recover from the freeze – assuming it’s not a hardware problem – is by power-cycling the gadget.

Most geeks know that pulling and reinserting a device’s battery will force it to recover from a freeze and boot right back up, but what if the device doesn’t have a removable battery?

Image Credit: Alan Levine on Flickr

Remove the Battery

If you have a device that appears frozen and won’t power on at all, pulling the battery is a good place to start. This applies to smartphones, laptops, digital cameras, and everything else with a removable battery.

Before removing the battery, ensure the device is unplugged – we want to ensure it isn’t receiving any power at all. Locate the removable battery, which will be in a different place depending on your device – you may have to pop the back off a smartphone, look at the underside of a laptop, or slide open a panel on a digital camera. Remove the battery, wait several seconds, and then reinsert the battery. Try turning it back on — your hardware will often come right back to life.

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Long-Press the Power Button

Many new devices are coming without user-removable batteries, but users still need the ability to power cycle the gadget. If you have a device without a user-removable battery, there’s often a way to power cycle your device by long-pressing a button or two.

On a Nexus 7 or Kindle, long-pressing the power button for an entire 30 seconds will power cycle the device and force it to restart. This may also apply to other tablets and smartphones.

On an iPhone, you have to press and hold both the power and home buttons at the same time for at least 10 seconds.

You may have to look up the exact buttons required for your device, but this sort of trick works on all sorts of hardware. For example, on a Turtle Beach wireless headset, you can press and hold the mute button for 15 seconds to power cycle the headset.

kindle-touch-buttons

Image Credit: bfishadow on Flickr

Unplug the Power Cable

If you have a device with neither a battery nor a power button – such as a router or modem – you can power-cycle the device by pulling its power cord and plugging it back in. However, you should wait several seconds – at least 10 seconds, to be safe – before plugging the device back in. If you plug it back in too soon, it may not lose power entirely.

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Image Credit: Chris Phan on Flickr

Use Reset Pinholes

Some devices have built-in batteries and won’t respond to long-pressing any buttons. These devices often have small, hidden buttons that you can press to power cycle them. These small buttons are referred to as pinholes because they’re located inside tiny holes in the device. You’ll need a bent paperclip or another long, narrow object to press these buttons and power-cycle the device.

You’ll generally find the location of a device’s pinhole in its manual. This applies to all sorts of devices – from wireless headsets to laptops such as the Lenovo X1 Carbon.

Be aware that reset pinholes sometimes do more than simply resetting the device. For example, the reset pinholes on consumer routers generally reset the router to its factory default settings. To power-cycle the router without losing your settings, just unplug it and plug it back in.

router-reset-pinhole

Image Credit: DeclanTM on Flickr


If this didn’t solve your problem and your device still seems frozen (or dead), be sure that you’re following the correct procedure for your specific device – you may need to use a pinhole or combination of buttons mentioned in the device’s manual. If following that process didn’t help, it’s possible that your hardware is dead and the device needs to be serviced or replaced.

Chris Hoffman is a technology writer and all-around computer geek. He's as at home using the Linux terminal as he is digging into the Windows registry. Connect with him on Google+.

  • Published 12/18/12

Comments (9)

  1. Billy

    Pretty basic stuff, but worth repeating for newbies – or even some not so newbies!

  2. truckdriverfritz

    found out after the fact that you can remove the battery from a Razr, had to wait a day for it to drain down by itself, next time will try the tips, before removing said battery, if there is a next time…. thanks

  3. surgec411

    I used to think SSH was the only way to fix my alwas freezing iPod. Until I found out that you can simply reset it by holding two buttons!

  4. Chemical

    I always do 30/30/30 reset when flashing a router to clear out the NVRAM and minimize the chance of bricking the device (especially with custom firmware).

    Depress reset button for 30 seconds, unplug device while still holding reset, wait 30 seconds, plug and power up device while still holding reset for 30 seconds. Memory cleared, ready to rock.

  5. Vince Rosati

    The “Power-Down” approach works for more tha portable, battery-powered devices.

    We have a Kitchen Aid “Dishwasher from Hell” that needed eight service calls in five years. The control panel was replaced four times. Finally, after one more failure when we were ready to toss the infernal machine, I tripped the breaker for the DW circuit, left it off for five minutes, and flipped it back on. The DW worked! I have repeated this abour four times.

    I had one similar experience with our GE kitchen range. None of the digital controls worked, even to inability to set the clock. The breaker trick worked.

    Vince

  6. jthelw

    This is the one and only thing I ever learned from offshore tech support.

  7. nickallison

    Had a Lumia 920 that froze on me couple of days ago. Soft Reset (Power Button + Vol Up for 30 secs) was totally unresponsive.
    The screen was displaying with back light however, so left to drain the battery over night. Plugged the charger back in while holding the Soft Reset buttons and it fired back up.

  8. Ian

    The I.T.Crowd covered this a long time ago, “have you tried turning it off and back on again”

  9. Ash

    I have another to add: With laptops and even desktops it can sometimes help to unplug (along with removing the battery from a laptop) so that the device is receiving no power. Then hold the power button for 10-30 seconds. This can clear out all sorts of booting problems in my experience.

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