How to stop Android apps running in the background

by: John DyeDecember 29, 2015


Feel like your smartphone or tablet just isn’t getting the same mileage that it used to? Is your battery conking out by 3pm when it once lasted all the way to bedtime? Is it sluggish and less responsive than in the past? You may have some rogue apps sucking your system’s resources in the background.

Never fear! In all but the most dire cases, shutting down Android apps running in the background is a fairly easy process. To long-time Android users, this walkthrough might be a bit remedial, but we’re going to move through this slowly to make sure to keep even the newbiest of newbies on the same page.

Identify the culprits

The first step to shutting down renegade applications is to know thine enemy. A surgeon doesn’t just cut into a patient willy nilly! He has to know whether it’s the appendix or the spleen that’s acting up before he ever picks up a scalpel. These are your diagnostic tools:

Check battery use

The most common symptom of background apps run amok is a hit in battery life. To see which apps are hogging juice, go to Settings > Battery to get an overview of what apps have been draining your battery the most since your last full charge.

Battery screen


Check process stats

If you’re looking for a bit more information than just battery use, you can get a log of how much processing power each app has a tendency to use. But first, you’re going to have to get Developer Access.

Becoming a Developer is kind of a hidden option. You won’t find “Unlock Developer options” anywhere in your Settings menu. What you’ll need to do is go to Settings > About Device and scroll down to Build number. Tap Build number a few times. You won’t get any response, but if you tap enough times, you’ll get a notification congratulating you on your promotion to Developer.

Enable Developer mode.

Now head back to your Settings menu and you’ll see a new selection is available: Developer options! Access Developer options to see a whole slew of new toys to play with (but be careful messing around with these settings unless you know what you’re doing).

Developer options

The option you’re looking for is Process stats. Tap that to see how much RAM your apps are using. Choosing a specific app will let you screw down on it and get a lot more technical information, if you’re interested.

Android Settings Developer Options Process Stats apps


Choose your targets

So now you’re equipped with your diagnostic tools, but how do you know which ones to shut down? Not all background applications deserve to die – many of them are important for your device’s everyday functionality. For instance, if you’re thinking about shutting down Google Play services, Google Search, Google Keyboard, the Google Play Store… hell, basically anything with “Google” in the name, you’re probably barking up the wrong tree. Leave those guys alone: it’s healthy for them to keep doing their thing in the background.

The real villains you’re looking for are usually games or music players that you’re not actively using. You might also have some other app that’s sucking a lot of RAM or battery and you can’t think of a reason why it should. Some apps need to be constantly sending and receiving packets of information to perform their intended function, but if that Spot the Difference game you haven’t played for weeks is showing up on your battery list, it’s time to put that sucker down.

samsung galaxy note 5 vs lg g4 quick look aa (3 of 10)See also: How black wallpaper can save your Android battery40

Kill the traitors

The quickest way to stop a runaway app in its tracks is just to kill it. If you’re running Lollipop or greater, then the fastest way to kill an app is to tap the Recent Apps button (that little square on the bottom right) and find the app in the stack of ‘cards.’ Swiping the card left or right will kill it dead.

Alternatively, you can always Force Stop an app. Go to Settings > Apps and then tap the app you want to murder. Once in the menu, tap Force Stop to continue the execution. You may get a warning that doing this may make the app misbehave, but if it’s sucking resources in the background, it’s already misbehaving.

Unfortunately, death isn’t permanent in the Android universe. These apps will spring back to life the next time they are launched. If you have a repeat offender, you may have to take more drastic measures.

Shun the non-believers

If an app has proven itself to be wholly untrustworthy, the best step is to just delete it from your device. Go to Settings > Apps and tap the one you want to get rid of. Say goodbye and then tap uninstall.


However, many of the apps most likely to hog background resources are the bloatware apps that came preinstalled on your device. Without rooting, you can’t actually uninstall these. You can, however, disable them. Settings > Apps, choose the bloatware you despise, then tap Disable. The app will stay on your phone or tablet, but it won’t be able to misbehave any more.

Conscript outside help

If all this seems a bit tedious to you, you can always do the equivalent of hiring a digital maid service to keep your device’s background neat and tidy for you. For this, we recommend Greenify.

Greenify is a lightweight little app that automatically force-closes apps whenever you’re not using them. The language Greenify uses is ‘hibernating,’ but it effectively just kills background apps so you don’t have to bother with it. Do note that a lot of these solutions, including Greenify, may require root to use.

03 Greenify - Best Root Apps

If you really want to take full control of your device, however, the best solution is to root it. Root users will be able to unlock Greenify’s full automation capabilities and get rid of bloatware for good.

Get it in the Play Store


If you’re a new Android user frustrated with resource-draining apps running wild in the background, hopefully we’ve given you the tools you need to eradicate the varmints. If you’re a long-time Android user, what kind of advice do you have for people struggling with recurring background app problems? Let us know in the comments!

Next: Rooting your phone? A few things to think about

  • Recommending Greenify to hibernate app to avoid app respawn is like fighting ants with sugar. Greenify stresses too much the I/O causing instability, decrease in speed + eMMC lifespan and system errors.

    • BJ Mendez

      I’ve been using using greenify since my first android running jb 4.1 rooted 4yrs ago. And it’s still alive today. I think there’s no proof to your argument.

      • If you don’t know what is a logcat or what is swapping it’s your fault.

        • lunawolve

          dont bother. they dont even know what an OS is

    • Sherpa

      Greenify made no difference on my Note 4’s battery life. I ended up uninstalling it a long time ago.

      • Saurabh Sahu

        were you rooted? It helps only if you are rooted.

      • TyH

        Same here on note 3 rooted.

    • Jason C

      If you know what to hibernate in Greenify and what you not suppose to, you will find it quite useful and nicelittle tool and also uses minimum resources.

    • Jugo

      Clean Master is my go-to solution.

      • Dimas Cociu

        Clean Master still doen’t do it, Apps like Facebook and FB Messenger keep restarting, Even when rooted, which cause you device to stress alot.

        • Jugo

          I see. Haven’t used any FB apps(except WhatsApp) in months.

      • Clean Master is a malware.

        • Rafhael Almeida

          jeje nice!

  • T4rd

    Ok, how do I uninstall “Android system”, “Android OS”, and “Google Play Services”. =p

    Seriously, Play Services goes full retard sometimes and keeps my phone awake for hours, murdering the battery while the screen is off.

    • Saurabh Sahu

      Play Services is a battery hog. and with my observation, it is quite aggressive when location is on. Turn it off and voila !!

    • TrueWords

      Incase, you are using CyanogenMod, privacy guard is the saviour. You can turn off ‘keep awake’, ‘wake up’, ‘Auto start’, ‘Location’, etc. of most apps which will ultimately save battery. Still Google Play services runs in the background to some extent.

    • sjesudasan

      I enabled “restrict background data” for Google play services alone and it helped my battery life a lot. After 9hrs and one hour screen on time and 20mins of call my G3 is at 76%. With 60% screen brightness.

    • Reap

      Agreed! Play Services has been sucking up my S5 battery ever since I got my Android Wear watch. Everybody was talking about battery time on the watch, when actually they should have warned me about battery time on my phone after connecting my watch…
      And off topic: The Android Wear app has become complete rubbish. It crashes constantly and my phone actually tells me to uninstall it because it has crashed “more than ten times in a week”. I’ve tried everything (full uninstall and recalibration of both phone and watch). I see a lot of people complaining to Google about the same thing, but no update in a long time. It’s a shame cause I love(d) my watch (LG G Watch R), but the Android Wear app is ruining both my watch and my phone.

  • basejumpbr

    If you wan t save battery. .unable Airplane mode when you not using the Smartphone

    • Andrew Singleton

      or just dont have a smartphone.

    • lunawolve

      or buy a bicycle and run it to power the phone

  • Karly Johnston

    Flash MIUI, that wil kill all background processes whether you want it to or not.


    “Shun the non-believers”

    LMFAO! Thanks Johnny!

  • alanw

    You can’t.
    Allowing apps running in background freely is one of Android ‘feature’ that separate it from iOS & WP.

    iOS 7 has Background App Refresh.
    Windows Phone 7 has Background tasks.
    WP 8.1 has Battery Saver.
    Windows 10 Mobile has Background App settings.
    All those built-in settings allow user turn on/off app from running in background.

    Android? No built-in solutions.
    Just 3rd party Task Killer and such, even since Eclair to latest Marshmallow, wow!

    • Saurabh Sahu

      it does. Android automatically moves process out of RAM when it is no longer needed. Just because a process is running in background does not mean its eating your battery. It’s app/process who misbehaves are the real culprit. An app may be running for 10 hours, but if it has CPU time of 2 min, it was used only for 2min.

  • thestig

    I’m using Doze app, its working great .. with moderate use I am able to get 2 days from my HTC one M7

  • Why not simply install Greenify and stop manual work? :D

    • lunawolve

      or simply purchase an old phone with which you can only have one app open at any time. you save money and brains.

  • StW

    Process stats? Are you still on Lollypop?

  • Total_telecom

    Thanks for posting this, it should help some utilize some basics to get their device under control.

  • Suzanne

    I love the way use your words…quite effective and down right funny. I have indeed enjoyed this learning experience!! Peace..

  • Erhm

    …Swiping the card left or right will kill it dead

    NO! It most certainly will NOT do so on 6.0….
    It will disappear from the list, sure, but it won’t normally stop the app (or even inactivate it). You are thinking of the behaviour from earlier Android versions I’m afraid….

    Try swipping an app, and then go to the app list, and see if “Force Stop” is greyed out – it usually wont be….

    Even if you check at the milder “Inactive apps” (under developer options), the app usually will still be marked “Active”…

    In 6.0 even disabling an app does not stop it(!) – even after a reboot. Now you need to BOTH disable AND stop the bloatware…