Skip to main content

Fixing problems with Background Tasks in Windows Phone

Recently here at Windows Phone Central we've received a few help requests through our app from users whose live tiles all appear to have stopped updating, including our own. Previously there have been bugs in our app that would cause its tile to fail, but when all live tiles on a device that rely on Background tasks get stuck, there's a bigger problem.

Up until this point I have been unable to reproduce the issue myself so I've been struggling to assist those of you asking us for a solution. In a stroke of luck though my Lumia 800's tiles recently stopped updating at all (excluding those updated through push notifications), and after a simple restart of the phone didn't help I have a solution to share with you all.

It seems there is a bug in Windows Phone which silently disables all of your background tasks, leaving them in a state where the phone's settings screen believes they're all still active. This wouldn't normally be a problem as most developers have figured out that the safest bet is to re-register any background tasks each time an app is started to work around the rather temperamental task scheduler on the operating system. However, with this bug the phone appears to accept re-registration from an app, but actually completely ignores the request.

Luckily, whilst the fix is a bit of a pain, it is simple to perform.

  • Open your phone's setting screen and chose "background tasks"
  • Tap on each of the apps which report that tasks are "on", and tap the "turn off" button
  • You should have all of the apps on your phone now with background tasks off
  • Edit: Restart your phone! I've had this issue now with WP8 and a restart at this point was needed
  • Now tap through each one that you want enabled, and tap the checkbox allowing them to be re-enabled
  • Go back to start and launch each of the apps, allowing a couple of seconds for them to register their tasks

For those of you who prefer information at a glance, I've visualized the steps below.

These steps appear to fix the problem, although I cannot guarantee for how long. I've confirmed that this affects multiple apps (the excellent BBC News Mobile and Weather Flow to name just two high quality apps) so I hope that someone in Microsoft is aware of the issue and will ensure this will be fixed in a future update.

In the meantime if you've got your own solution, or find that these steps don't work for you, let us know in the comments! We have a superb community here who may have a solution for you.

  • Thanks for writing this up, Jay. Nice work.
  • I've read about another bug (or feature) that if you have 22 or more background tasks in the list all 3'rd party live tiles will stop updating excluding the built in ones.
    Wether or not this is a bug or a juice saver I do not know.
  • That's interesting you should mention 'juice saver'. I couldn't figure out why all of a sudden I couldn't download ringtones & received the "unable to transfer background tasks" message.
    Your comment reminded me that I had very recently changed my settings to battery saver mode.
    I unchecked that, also turned off the background tasks and rechecked them to turn on next time they're opened (just figured that might help).  I also shut my phone down all the way and turned it back on. Voilá! All good now.
    Thanks so much for bringing that up!
  • This bug is still present in my Windows Phone 8 (Lumia 920)!
  • I thought it was a built in battery saving feature. I noticed if I hadn't launched an app in some time, the live tile would stop updating.
  • That is a feature, if you don't launch an app in 2 weeks (if I recall) it disables the task. The issue in this article is unrelated to that unfortunately
  • +42
  • This is an annoying feature to me. Some apps I might not open for a while, but I still want the tile to update. The perfect example of this for me is GroupMe. My friends and I use this quite a bit, and I love it, but once we went a couple weeks without a group and then I missed out on a conversation, and everyone was asking why I didn't respond. I hope they handle this differently in WP8.
  • This is strange because I have never had this problem!
  • Yes it definitely doesn't affect everyone lesnjoro, but for those it does it's extremely frustrating. I'd say I receive about 2 reports of this problem per week at most
  • I definetly had this problem too.
    I am not really paying attention to the tile info on the back of the tile but I like the update counter that indicates when there are new articles available.
    But it always stops working after some time. Resetting the in-app live tile settings did not help so I helped myself by reinstalling the app which fixes this for some time.
    I always thought this is app-related because I have an app programmed myself with live tile integration and by chance I have placed this right next to the WPCentral tile. And my app's backrground task has never stopped working. But maybe this is another issue that is limited to my Lumia
  • Holy, the issue can also be fixed by uninstalling/re-installing apps, which you may have done at some point by deploying out your own app over USB cable (I know I end up doing this frequently!)
  • I am not 100% sure what you mean. My current app is a clean marketplace install.
    Do you suggest it may have something to do with the fact that I obviously did use USB deployment with my dev unlocked phone at some point?
  • Nice one.. Headed over to background tasks.. Thank you
  • thanks for this
    anyone else been having a battery drain problem recently?  Seems like it may have been since the latest skype update...
  • I've only experienced this issue with the WPCentral app on my HD7. Uninstall/reinstalled four times in the past. Each time it would cure the problem for a week or so, then the tile would be stale again. The good news is... for reasons unknown, this time around it seems to be okay - after a couple of weeks. The only difference this time around is that I've enabled the updated time on the rear of the tile.    
  • I've experienced that with my WPCentral live tile a few times and l always disabled then re-enabled the live tile to fix it. I don't know if it has happened to any other of my live tiles and it hasn't happened to WPC for a couple of months but I'll follow these steps if I ever see it again. Thanks.
  • Thanks jay, the fix you emailed me and posted here does seem to have done the trick, so far so good and thanks again for getting back to me and remembering who I was weeks later. Kevi
  • Why live tiles works fine
  • I have noticed that if battery save kicks in, BT's tend to struggle recovering.
  • I try to stick to just six applications running in the background and have the rest turned off (although having installed Yammer today I have seven). However, if you go to the bottom of that list and click on Advanced you see this text:
    "This list contains all of the applications on your phonethat can run in the background, including ones that you can't turn off manually."
    That worries me as it implies that some apps are running in the background and there isn't anything I can do about it. And the annoying thing is that some of them really don't need to run in the background... like IMDb, PhotoFunia, RedLaser, YouTube Pro and Consequently I've removed any apps that appear in that list that I really don't need.
    The foursquare app used to update a live tile showing people in my network, but it stopped about a month ago. Strangely it doesn't appear under the list of apps that run in the background.
  • Darren, it's a little misleading that text. Apps that do things in the background that you can't turn off are using APIs that aren't the generic background tasks (for example background audio streaming in our app). These are usually initiated by the user in the app somehow, rather than occurring periodically. You shouldn't have anything to be concerned about
  • Apostrophe use is really quite simple:
    "it's" is "it is", NOT possessive.
  • I appreciate the feedback (although not the tone) and have fixed the article, we'll call this a lesson learned for me
  • Can anyone confirm for me if their USA today live tile is frozen? I think it's not the background tasks but the web service on USA today's end that's down.
    Jay, is there any official MS forum where we can go to post problems with WP? (kind of like we do for Nokia phones)
  • The USA Today tile has been buggy for a while.  It will do the opposite of what it's told in the settings at times.  I have mine set to on, but no weather flip, and it will just do the flip anyway, but then after launching it a couple times and closing, it will stop, but every once in a while it still does the flip.
  • I occasionally have the WPCentral app wipe all of its settings. It's kinda odd, and I can't log the event because it is so random... Anyone else see that happen?
  • Never had it happen with WPCentral, but it happens with Nexgen Reader and Weather View. I don't have WPCentral pinned, but the other two are, so it probably could be background task related.
  • Didn't work for me. Two things do however:
    1) Hard Reset
    2) Upgrading to Tango (so I've heard)
  • Non-US customers have been complaining about this since day one, glad to see it's started to get acknowledged.
  • I have been using Weather Flow since about 4 months now, never has it stopped. Live tiles have been live, always.
  • Thank you for this information... I haven't had this problem since I performed a reset on my phone to test the ICS WiFi data problems, but if the Live tile problem occurs again this will hopefully resolve the issue.
  • I thought it was standard knowledge that live tile background tasks disable after 20 days (IIRC). If you open the app in the meantime it resets the counter.
  • I believe this may be a different issue, but I'm not sure.
  • Actually, I believe it's 14 days per several developers I have asked. That info is actually printed in the CleverToDo app setting.
  • Yeah, that sounds more accurate :)
  • Hasn't happen to me yet. But these push notifications are really late on notifying me..
  • Do an article about the Facebook mobile problems! Apparently its just with Windows Phones.
  • I always had this problem on my Focus. I have to restart my phone to get it working again.
  • What seems to work for me is, if my background tasks stop updating, I'll disable all of them, then turn 1 on every 5-10 minutes or so, to kind of stagger the initial round of background updates. Whether this ACTUALLY does anything or not, I can't attest, but it seems to work for me. Also, some apps seem to never re-register their task, and reinstalling a couple of apps in conjunction with this seems to help.
  • Thanks for the information. I'll have to give that a shot the next time my Titan resides to stop updating.
  • Works! Thanks Jay
  • Yes I think it has to do with a combination of things such as what type of phone you have how long you've been with out opening the app and the battery saver feature because I forgot that I had that problem on my focus as well as my lumia 710 , but not so on my anyone having those issues on a titan.
  • I have notice thesend keys disappear while I'm writing in the WP app ....any one else having that issue......i turn the phone side ways and the send refresh keys comes back
  • I have noticed on my lumia 900 when I add a certain amount of live tiles...background tasks or not...all 3rd party tiles stop updating. I have to eliminate tiles until they start updating again. It is an annoying aspect...being limited to the number of live tiles you can have...but I don't really mind as I am not a true "power user" I would say \!
  • Nice article thanks Jay
  • I figured this out months ago... Should have written in.
  • This has happened to me and I had to hard reset, will try this if I run into the issue again. I tried restarting, turning background task on/off and nothing working, hopefully won't run into this again.
  • Good information Jay. I have had 8 Background Tasks enabled on my L900 since I set it up, and all my Tiles, including a few other "push" tiles update without any problems. Btw, I have 23 apps in the BRT Advanced List.
    Occasionally, Urban Dictionary will stop updating, although turned on, but I now know (after several support email exchanges) that's a server side issue. And Fox News will disable often, within a day or two of opening, but my guess is that's an app issue.
    A few apps like IMDB don't play nice though. Even though nothing is activated in the app, and I have turned off the Background Task more than once, I was using it last night and just noticed that it reenabled itself again. That's bad programming, and with only 9 available BRTs, it means another BRT can get bumped if I open an app that uses a task temporarily.
  • Jay-  THANK YOU! I've noticed this before and always thought it strange that the killer "live tile" feature on WP was susceptible to bugs like this. While it doesn't prevent the problem at least we have a short term work-around.
    Have you reached out to MS to get them to fix this once and for all? 
  • Tried all these suggestions and none seem to work on my HTC Trophy... :-(
  • For me the rear tile always works, its the front count that never appears, I've tried all of the above to no avail.
  • What beebl3brox said is a better way to explain what im seeing.
  • I've got a brand-new-out-of-the-box Lumia 710 that I had unlocked by the carrier.  It's the white 710 from Rogers and came loaded with 8773.12120.  I'm new to WP, but was really looking forward to the live tiles.  As best I can tell, none of them are updating with any kind of information.
    The following are "animated"
    Xbox Live
    I expected the following tiles to be "Live", but they're completely static
    Weather Flow
    I followed Jay's instructions through twice, and no change.
    Any suggestions?
  • I need to soft reset my Lumia 900 before I can get my tiles to work. It is only the 3rd party apps where I have a problem. I need to soft reset approx once a week. Happened with my 800, old 900 and new 900. Oddly not my Mozart.
  • Is there a "soft" reset for HTC phones...I only know of pulling battery and the "reset" in the settings > about menu. someone told me if I reset that way, you lose all your apps and have to reinstall...
  • I had the same problem on my Nokia Lumia 900.   It would work for a while but once it stopped, no amount of resetting, un-pinning and re-pinning or turning off the background updates (per this article) would get the third-party Live Tiles to work again.
    I've read a few articles that point to deleting some registry keys (which would probably work), but there is no registry editor (that I know of) for the Lumia 900 on AT&T (only Dev-unlocked).  Nokia support was no help and I was about to hard reset, dreading the installing and reconfiguring of all the applications (man, do we need a full application backup feature in WP8), when I tried one last thing...Uninstalling all the applications (I had 23) in the list.
    I should note at this point that I had gone through and turned off all the apps in the background task list and soft-reset the phone.
    Then I made a quick local list of all the applications in the Background Task list and one by one uninstalled them all.
    I then soft-reset the phone again.
    I then installed the WPCentral app again and pinned the Live Tile app to the start screen fully expected nothing to happen, but imagine my surprise when the big number "2" appeared on the Live Tile. 
    I then went back and installed all but two of the applications (ones I didn't use currently) keeping in mind something about a 22 app limit I read in one of the articles.  
    5 days later and all the Live Tiles are still working and I'm very happy again.
  • i m facing problem with whats app. getting msgs after long time......any help??
  • The actual problem is that only a set number of Background processes can run simultaneously. If I remember correctly the number is 6 with Mango and 8 with Tango. Also, any app that has not been accessed within a 2 week period will have its background tasks disabled. The instructions are correct; disable those you don't want to use, and make sure you launch any others beyond the threshold at least once every 2 weeks.
  • Hello, I have the sale problem on Windows Phone 8 since a few days. My 3rd apps live files and lockscreen info stopped updating on my HTC 8X. i tried uninstall apps/reinstall, reboot, disable/enable backgrounds tasks... i think i'll have to go through a hard reset... No support at all from MS, it sucks (as i surfer also from Skype call notifications which don't occurs, other storage area which Is near to 6 Gb, etc)
  • I too have the problem with the USA Today app.  I have the 'Turn background tasks back on for the this app the next time I open it' checked and I open the app and it still does not work.  I even tried to delete the app and add it back and no go.  I am on the Lumina 920 on 1308 firmware.
  • Nevermind.  I was able to get it to work after I enabled the live tiles for the flip weather option in USA Today.  I don't really want to show the weather because it incorrectly shows my location.  But that's a problem with the app.
  • Im not able to view or download videos on Tube Pro app.. It is showing " Unable to Add Background Transer Request" . What should I Do now? Above Solution is not working for me :( Help Me