Many iPhone users are surprised to find that the default settings for the Do Not Disturb mode aren’t all that conducive to being undisturbed. Read on as we walk you through the configuration process and highlight why you would want to use one setting over another (and how Do Not Disturb differs from using the physical mute switch on iOS devices).

The Difference Between Do Not Disturb and Hardware Muting

There are two mechanisms for silencing your iOS device, and it helps to understand the difference between the two as well as why you would want to use one over the other. First let’s look at the physical mute switch on the iPhone and iPad known formally as the “side switch” (it’s not formally called the mute switch because you can change the switch on the iPad to function as a rotation lock switch instead of a mute switch).

This physical switch allows the user of the device to partially silence the device. When the switch is activated (as indicated by the small orange indicator visible when the switch is toggled as well as the crossed-out bell that flashes on the screen of the device) iOS will silence all incoming calls, alerts, notifications, sound effects, and game audio. It will not mute audio from any media such as music, podcasts, or videos (such as movies, TV shows, streaming video, and the like). The switch does not silence vibrations nor does it silence alarms. To that end, it’s a useful way to ensure that alerts don’t chime in the middle of a TV show you’re watching.

Do Not Disturb mode, introduced in iOS 6, is a software-based solution that also silences phone calls, alerts, and notifications. The mode is accessed in current iOS iteration via the control center (swipe up from the application dock at the bottom of the screen to access it and then click on the moon icon, as seen above, in the control center).

The difference between the two methods is that not only does Do Not Disturb silence them, but it also keeps the phone from lighting up (no risk of your phone blasting your eyes at night and waking you), but you also have more granular control over the setup. Whereas the hardware mute silences all calls, for example, the Do Not Disturb function will allow phone calls from contacts you specify. Just like with the physical mute switch, Do Not Disturb mode doesn’t silence alarms.

Configuring Do Not Disturb

The settings for Do Not Disturb mode are located in the Settings menu on your iOS device under, appropriately enough, “Do Not Disturb.”

The default configuration for iOS 8 is as laid out in the following screenshot.

Let’s break down each setting option and highlight why you may wish to enable or disable it based on your Do Not Disturb needs.

The first option “Manual” is a tad confusing at first glance. It’s a manual on-off switch for the Do Not Disturb function, not an actual settings toggle. It functions exactly the same, albeit much less conveniently, as the Do Not Disturb toggle found in the iOS Control Center we highlighted in the previous section of this article. It doesn’t change anything about manual mode, it only toggles Do Not Disturb on and off.

The second option, “Scheduled,” allows you to set a block of time that Do Not Disturb will be automatically enabled. You can only set one continuous block of time (e.g. 8PM to 8AM) unfortunately as the settings don’t allow for multiple blocks of time throughout the day (e.g. both while you’re sleeping each night plus a quiet-time during office hours).

If you select the “Allow Calls From” you can make adjustments to how Do Not Disturb handles incoming phone calls. By default only people in your “Favorites” contact list (which is empty until you populate it by flagging contact entries as “Favorites”) will set off the ringer while the phone is in Do Not Disturb. You can change the setting to everyone, no one, or you can specify a group from your contacts list as the allowed-caller list.

The final configuration option the one that leaves most people contemplating whether or not Do Not Disturb is broken. By default Do Not Disturb is active only if your device is locked. The assumption is that if your device is unlocked and you’re using it that you don’t mind being disturbed. If you activate Do Not Disturb to quiet your phone during a meeting, however, and then you open it to check something any alert that comes in while your phone is unlocked will sound off in all its glory. Most people will find it useful to toggle the setting to “Always” as seen in the screenshot above so that Do Not Disturb quiets the phone whether you have the screen open to take a peek at a text message or not.

With a better understanding of how the mute switch and the Do Not Disturb mode on your phone work you’ll never be disturbed from your meeting, Netflix marathon, or slumber again. Have a pressing iPhone question? Shoot us an email at and we’ll do our best to answer it.


Profile Photo for Jason Fitzpatrick Jason Fitzpatrick
Jason Fitzpatrick is the Senior Smart Home Editor at How-To Geek. He has over a decade of experience in publishing and has authored thousands of articles at How-To Geek, Review Geek, LifeSavvy, and Lifehacker. Jason served as Lifehacker's Weekend Editor before he joined How-To Geek.
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