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How to disable background apps for the Lumia 950 and Windows 10 Mobile

When it comes to mobile phones, there is rarely a device that always has perfect battery life. Whether it is the iPhone, Android, or even Windows Phones, they can all vary depending on how often you check your email, how often you turn on the display and how many apps are fetching data in the background.

Windows Phone is mostly pretty good at not hammering the battery but once you start installing third-party apps and services, anything can happen. One easy way to get some control over these runaway apps is to turn off some apps running in the background.

Like Windows Phone 8.1 in Windows 10 Mobile users have access to the Battery Saver feature. The core feature of Battery Saver – turning off non-essential apps when your battery hits a threshold – is off by default and we already covered how to enable it.

Today, we will show you how to manage individual apps on the Lumia 950 and Lumia 950 XL. Of course, this feature is a universal one for Windows 10 Mobile, so for those upgrading you can also benefit from this how-to.

How to disable background apps

1. Settings

Head to Settings > System > Battery saver

2. Usage

In what I think is a poor UI design Microsoft lets you dive deeper into your battery usage. To do so you need to tap the text that matches your system accent color and read Battery use. What bothers me about this is it is not a clear "button" to push so I think many users do not know about it.

Note: It will take a few seconds for the OS to collect data and respond with the results, this is normal.

3. Data

Scrolling down the list you can see some interesting information including which apps are using the most amount of power. You can also see it separated by In use versus Background, which is important.

Tapping an individual app will surface a Details option where you can go even deeper into that app's usage. Here you can also enable or disable background usage through the Allow this app to run in the background option.

4. Background app settings

Going back to the main Battery Use page you can see a Change battery saver settings listing under the graph. Tap this to go into a master list of apps and their toggles to let them run in the background (or not).

Go through and if you see any apps that you do not need running the background feel free to disable them. Some things like Facebook, Messenger, and system files like Gestures & Touch you probably want to leave enabled.

Small warning

Although disabling apps from running in the background will not have any catastrophic effects on your phone, you may notice some odd changes within the apps you have disabled. Just make a mental note of the changes you made so the next time you use an app something is not working as expected it may be because you disabled it. For instance, if you disabled MSN Weather do not be shocked when the Live Tile stops updating. Most of this is obvious, but some of it may not be.

Microsoft Edge?

In an odd finding, we noticed that the Microsoft Edge browser does not always appear under Background app settings. It seems that an app needs to trigger the background process before it gets listed in this section, which makes sense. So as demonstrated in our video and screenshots we can disable Microsoft Edge, you may not see it.

Presumably, you need to visit a site that auto-refreshes or does something in the background so your experience may vary. Disabling it should not have any consequence. However, your expectations for browser behavior may differ so just be aware if you do turn it off.

Pin to Start (Bonus)

Another somewhat hidden feature is you can long-press and hold on many menu items under Settings e.g. Battery Saver that lets you pin the item to your Start screen as a Tile.

Unfortunately, Battery Saver does not reveal the battery percentage like it did on Windows Phone 8.1. Hopefully, that will be added in the future.

Battery app

A well-reviewed third-party battery app is one called simply Battery and is the one we used in this how-to video. It is a free app with a $1.29 optional donation. You can read our review or download the app below.

Download Battery for Windows Phone 8.1 and 10

QR: battery

Wrap up

Overall, Windows Phone is one of the better mobile operating systems for maintaining battery life. Still, there is never such thing as too much standby time. Therefore, being able to fine tune things may let you eek out some extra battery life here and there, although we would be surprised if you witness something dramatic.

Everyone's phone is configured differently, however, so let us know what you find!

Daniel Rubino
Executive Editor

Daniel Rubino is the Executive Editor of Windows Central, head reviewer, podcast co-host, and analyst. He has been covering Microsoft here since 2007, back when this site was called WMExperts (and later Windows Phone Central). His interests include Windows, Microsoft Surface, laptops, next-gen computing, and arguing with people on the internet.

47 Comments
  • Does disabling background for edge stop a download if your switch out of edge to another app
  • I'm going to go with 'yes', although I have not tried as that is a scenario I rarely experience.
  • The one time I did this it didn't work, but I'm also having several other bugs so I don't know if that is "Officially" what happens when you have edge blocked.
  • That has to be added in a update they said they are working on that
  • Yes Posted via the Windows Central App for Android
  • Microsoft should bring it's battery live tile back like in 8.1. The third party battery app only refreshes live tile every 30 minutes like it says in the description.
  • Sucks that they haven't implemented the feature yet!
  • Does anyone have the same app appearing multiple times in the list of apps running im background? I have Whatsapp 5 times, MyFitnessPal and others at least 3 times each.
  • Yes. Instagram, for example, shows up 4 times.
  • Yea, I have this issue with several apps, as well. Quite a few people have submitted this in the Feedback app. 
  • Yes, it's probably just a visual glitch but I really hope they fix it soon
  • My 950 has the worst battery life of any windows phone I've owned. End of a workday and it's at 11%. My 1520 in comparison (I know, larger battery) had me at 55-60% end of work day. I hope an update can improve this I'll use Dan's suggestion in this article to Investigate the issue
  • This is why I'm opting for the XL as my next phone, I still don't expect it to match the 1520, but hopefully it comes closer.
  • Same here. Worst battery life ever. I hope Microsoft fixes whatever it is, sort of like the runaway Cortana background process the affected insider builds up until recently. If it wasn't for the ridiculously quick charging, I'd be completely disgusted. I just charged from 39% to 80% in roughly 30 minutes. Either way, none of my other phones would be down to 39% at this time of the day. I turned Hey Cortana off today but I shouldn't have to turn off features. I see that some users are getting excellent battery life though.  
  • It's probably Windows 10 Mobile. My Lumia 822 battery life drains so quickly even when you're not using it.
  • 10586.11 on 920: I noticed after some days, enabling Message + Skype in the background drains 10% an hour even if you're not using it. Disabling it save the battery but you won't get notification when there is a new SMS or skype message. Need a fix.
  • Sounds like it is almost constantly syncing..
  • As an additional tip, you can also long-press the "Battery Saver" action in the action center to jump straight to the "System>Battery Saver" section in the settings app. Seems more convenient to me than pinning it as a tile.
  • Correct me if I'm wrong, but hasn't this been a part of Windows 8.1 since, well, forever? And Windows 10 as well. I'm confused by the fact that all those articles are titled 'How to do stuff on Lumia 950/XL' instead of 'How to do stuff on Windows 10'.
  • What's confusing is expecting someone who just picked up a Lumia 950 and is first-time Windows phone user to know what you just wrote. I'm not interested in what the regulars around here know. I'm interested in the people who don't know. If you just picked up a new Galaxy Edge would you know when unified email accounts came to the platform? Would you care when or would you rather know how to just do it? Also, what do you mean by "instead of" as we clearly wrote "...and Windows 10 Mobile". As to why the 950, well, there is no one buying a Lumia 1520 or 830 anymore.
  • To answer your "How to do stuff in 950/xl"... I just found something different... I was notified of a text and in the notification as I pull down slightly, the notification it lets your reply and send right there.. that's pretty cool
  • ,I find that pretty cool too, with my 930 with w10
  • I find it cool that you can clear individual notifications by swiping them to the right too
  • I think the battery life issues are driver related, disabling background services does not change my 8 hour battery life one bit. Used to get 36 hours. I'm sure by the time carriers approve the update the drivers will be updated and things will run great. (before anyone comments about the bypassing carriers with windows 10, remember that the initial update to 10 is technically an update to 8.1, therefore, it requires carrier approval.)
  • Continuum is using 94.2% under Display.....the struggle is real. Microsoft should allow Continuum to run under the lockscreen as users may not need the touchpad to be on 100% of the time, especially when listening to music or watching videos/movies. Not only is it a strain on the battery by having the screen on 100% of the time, I am afraid it will cause severe burn in after many months to years due to the touch pad being static. My 1020 has AMOLED burn in.  Also...the screen times out after about 5 minutes...I am guessing to save on screen burnout....but that disconnects Continuum since currently, Continuum cannot run under the lockscreen. Either way, the future looks bright. Personally, I am a little disappointed in the battery life of my Lumia 950, maybe I use the device too much compared to my other Windows phones.       
  • @Daniel...why does it seem that you're constantly grumbling about Windows 10 Mobile? *Talking about ur tone in the article...especially about the interface at some points...
  • Funny, I'm usually called a 'fanboi' and 'shill' by others, now I'm "constantly grumbling". Woe is I.
  • Do you know why we got the same app twice and sometimes more listed there?
  • Probably a bug. Upvote here Windows-Feedback:?contextid=336&feedbackid=b8018d09-d870-4759-87ac-fecb511209aa&form=2&src=2
  • Tip: if you want to pin the Background Apps settings directly to Start locate it under Settings > Privacy. The entry for it there is pinnable.
  • The forum is alight with battery comments. My experience of battery life on W10 on my 920 is broadly similar to 8.1, but at times it is crazy bad. Like 4 hours. Worryingly, I cannot see a pattern. Looking forward to the XL review. Can you also explain the Here Drive status. Do we still get it? Because Maps on 10 isn't as good. Seen mixed things about the screen and the red tint.
  • If I were new to Windows mobile or smartphones I'd have a hard time finding background apps toggles. Managing Background apps was so much easier in WP8 with a quick pivot in settings. Clicking tiny, colored text phrases multiple times through Battery Saver to access Background apps is inferior to concise, outlined buttons.
  • Good one!
    P.S : 'Tweetium'. Lol.
  • when is give away of Microsoft lumia 950XL by windows central?
  • Same day the new Universal Windows Central app comes out. Aka Soon!!
  • Allowing background refreshes has always been a feature where I've questioned myself with: "am I doing this right?" I've always used my own rule of leaving it on if I have a live tile I want to see info updated on, otherwise, I'd turn it off. Is there logic to this approach or have I missed something?
  • Microsoft Edge is using a significant portion of my battery in the background according to this, but still doesn't show up to be disabled. Funny thing is, it also doesn't show the "Allowed" tag that a lot of the other apps do.
  • Hey Dan.. Sorry for this question here. Does Windows 10 mobile has privacy lock for accessing the application? Say, I want my contacts to be secured with a password?
  • Best use the Forums, that's what they are there for.
  • I discovered something while looking at this. Anyone having issues with some apps not updating such as, motion sensor, glance screen, or other MS apps, make sure they are installed on the device, not the MicroSD. If they are, move them to device and try updating again. They should update, at this point. Worked for me.
  • Since I just finally updated my L830 daily driver to W10 last night this really helps so thanks! I knew about most of this but somehow missed the new Change background app settings page. It's nice to see a complete list of apps that are still running. Turns out I missed a few. And should be noted that some apps (Tweetium) once updated in the store tend to start running in the background again after an update. Some might not know this. You gotta keep an eye on all of them!
  • Good info :).
  • This also happens to me in WP 8.1 with the news app, sometimes afer a update, it's background process have been re-enabled.
  • In Windows 10 pc and mobile only one true background download manager available that's is " Loadkit download manager" try it guys . App can download any file even after close the app .
  • What is the next firmware name after Lumia denim from Microsoft mobile division??
  • Does anyone know why we cant no longer put the battery level in the start menu??
    I mean there are now 3r party apps but thats not my point, the one from Microsoft was really good
  • Oh yea I forgot since you guys have a Microsoft Lumia 95 XL for review, ya gotta write articles on it , but I think you should write something that's specific to the 95 XL. Because Windows 10 mObile is the same on every phone minor certain features.