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Recent Apps button is not working on Android? Top 5 solutions

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There’s hardly anything that will break the user experience easier than issues with navigation gestures or good old on-screen buttons. Some users who favor buttons over full-screen gestures reported that the Recent apps button is not working on Android. It seems that the problem mostly occurs after a major system update.

If you, too, have problems with on-screen buttons, check the steps we provided below.

How to enable the recent apps button on Android?

Firstly, restart your phone and navigate to Settings > Apps > Default apps, and set the system launcher as the default Home app (launcher). Also, disable all third-party apps with navigation gestures. Tap on the recent apps button or swipe from the bottom if you are using gestures.

If that doesn’t work, wipe the cache partition, cycle between navigation modes, or reset your Android to factory settings. These solutions mostly apply to on-screen buttons and not capacitive hardware buttons. So if the hardware Recent apps button is not working, go straight to the last step and reset your device to factory settings.

1. Restart your Android

It doesn’t matter what’s the nature of the problem — your first troubleshooting step should always be a restart. So, restart your device and check if the Recents button started working.

If the issue persists, check the navigation settings and make sure and enable/disable Buttons. This might be a temporary system bug and disabling and re-enabling on-screen buttons in Navigation settings should fix the problem.

2. Check Navigation settings

The second thing you can try is cycling between various navigation options. This solution worked for more than a few users, but it applies only to the latest few Android iterations because gestures were widely introduced with Android 9.

To tweak navigation settings, you usually need to navigate to Settings > System > Gestures, but the exact path might vary on different Android skins.

Here’s how to check navigation settings on your Android:

  1. Open Settings.
  2. Select System.
  3. Tap Gestures.
  4. Select Gestures and then select Buttons again.
  5. Test the Recents button to see if it’s working or not.

If the issue persists, continue with the troubleshooting steps below.

3. Wipe the cache partition if Recent Apps button is not working on Android

Many in-app issues can be addressed by clearing the local data they stored. This also applies to system issues and clearing of the system cache partition. The cache partition is part of the local storage that can’t be accessed through System UI. You need to use the recovery menu to wipe the cache partition.

Here’s how to wipe the cache partition on Android:

  1. Power off your device.
  2. Press and hold the Power button + Volume Up until the welcome screen appears. Let go of the Power button and keep holding the Volume Up button.
  3. Once you get into Recovery mode, use the Volume buttons to get to the Wipe Cache Partition option. Press the Power button to confirm the selection.
  4. Reboot the phone back to the system.

If the Recent apps button is still not working on your Android, continue with the steps below.

4. Test your phone in Safe mode

Rogue apps that work in the background are not as vicious as they were back in the day but it’s still something to consider. A background app might as well be the reason for issues with navigation buttons if has anything to do with navigation or has an overlay.

The best way to find out if that’s the case is to run a test without any third-party apps on your Android. And, to do that, you’ll need to boot into Safe mode.

Here’s how to enter Safe mode on your Android:

  1. Press and hold the Power button until the Power menu appears.
  2. Tap and hold on to the Power off icon until the pop-up appears. It should inform you about safe mode and offer options to enter the Safe mode or cancel the action.
  3. Tap OK to boot into the Safe mode.Recent Apps button is not working on Android
  4. Once the device boots into Safe mode on Android, you’ll see the Safe mode strip at the bottom of your screen.
  5. If the Recent apps button is working here in Safe mode, do uninstall some third-party apps that you installed recently. Focus on custom launchers and gesture apps.
  6. To leave Safe mode, just restart your device. The next time it boots, it will boot into the system.

On the other hand, if the Recent apps button is not working on your Android even in Safe mode, we can only suggest resetting your device to factory settings.

5. Reset your device to factory settings

Obviously, in the vast majority of cases, the only fix that actually makes a difference is the factory reset. It’s even advised every time you upgrade to a newer Android version. By doing so, you’ll avoid a lot of transitional issues that plague many users who decided to soft update their Androids (without formatting their devices).

We wrote about the whole procedure in this dedicated article where we also explain how to format your device from the recovery menu. The important thing is to back up everything before moving on with the factory reset since this action will delete everything.

Here’s how to reset your Android to factory settings:

  1. Back up everything first.
  2. Open Settings.
  3. Select System or General Management.
  4. Select Reset options (Reset).
  5. Tap Erase all (factory data reset).Recent Apps button is not working on Android
  6. Tap Erase all or Reset.
  7. Your device will restart, format everything, and boot into the initial setup screen (it might take a few minutes).

And, on that note, we can conclude this article. Thank you for reading and don’t forget to tell us about alternative solutions we forgot to mention. You can do that in the comments section below.

Editor’s note: This article was initially published in November 2021. We made sure to revamp it for freshness and accuracy.

Picture of Aleksandar Ognjanovic

Aleksandar Ognjanovic

Managing editor at Mobile Internist. @lemmingspain My fascination with mobile technology, particularly Android and iOS, began years ago and continues today. I'm captivated by the constant evolution in the smartphone industry and its impact on our daily lives, always anticipating the next big innovation. That’s the main reason why I found myself writing instructive content on the subject for users who are not as familiar with all the bells and whistles.
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