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20 common problems with Windows Phone 8, and how to fix them

Windows Phone 8.1 is the follow up to Windows Phone 8, which rolled out to devices rather quickly. Some stuck with the previous iteration of the OS, but despite it’s strengths, Microsoft’s Windows Phone 8 platform is not without its flaws. In this roundup, we take a look at common WP8 issues that have been reported by users, and we try to find workarounds and solutions to quickly deal with them. If you’ve encountered any of these Windows Phone 8 problems and you know of a good solution that hasn’t been mentioned, then please post a comment and we’ll add it as soon as we can.

More: The best apps every Windows Phone user should have

Problem: Black screen during calls

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A lot of few people have encountered persistent problems with their screen going black whenever they make or receive a call on their Windows Phone 8 device. This makes it unresponsive, so it’s difficult to cancel or end the call.

Workaround:

  • If you tap the power button twice the screen should blink back to life, but you may have to act quickly to end the call.

Potential fixes:

  • This is likely to be an issue with the proximity sensor. Make sure that you don’t have a screen protector covering it. It’s located next to the front-facing camera at the top of the front face of the phone.
  • You should also make sure there’s no dirt covering it. Give it a wipe or try using compressed air on the top edge to blast any dust away.
  • Some people have reported success by pushing on the screen where the proximity sensor is located, which suggests a build issue.
  • You could ask for a replacement unit, although some people have encountered the same issue on more than one device.

Glitch: Camera not working

Some people have had problems with their camera on their Windows Phone 8 device. In some cases the camera button and camera app icon simply don’t seem to trigger anything. In other cases a message will appear about the camera failing to initialize.

Workarounds:

  • Try pressing and holding the camera button for a couple of seconds and see if that starts it.
  • Press and hold the volume down button and the power button together for 10 seconds. Your phone will restart and the camera should be working again, but the problem might reoccur.

Potential fixes:

  • Make sure that your software is up to date; check your device manufacturer’s website.
  • Back up any important files and reset your phone via Settings > About > Reset your phone.
  • If the problem persists then it’s time to talk to your retailer, carrier, or manufacturer about a replacement handset.

Problem: Duplicate songs

Nokia-Lumia-1520-screenshot-3

A lot of people have run into issues with their music collections on Windows Phone 8 devices. Sometimes songs appear twice or even three times. If you look in the folder on your phone there will only be one track, but in the music app you’ll see multiple copies. Unfortunately this can be a tricky problem to solve.

Workaround:

  • A few people have found that turning off Xbox Music cloud collection helps. Go to Start > Music + Videos > More > Settings and turn off Xbox Music cloud collection.

Potential fix:

  1. Make sure that you have a complete back up of your music collection.
  2. Now delete all of the music on your phone and on your SD card.
  3. Make sure that you back up anything precious on your phone and reset it via Settings > About > Reset your phone.
  4. Put the SD card into your PC and reformat it.
  5. Create a folder called Music on the blank card and manually drag and drop all the music you want into that folder.
  6. Now put the SD card back into your phone and wait for it to update.
  7. When you want to add new tracks take the SD card out of the phone and put it in your computer and drag and drop the new track into the folder, then put the card back in your phone.

Bug: ‘Other’ storage filling up

A lot of people suffer from a flaw in the WP8 system which caused the available storage to gradually fill up. Go into Settings > Phone storage and tap on the bar to get a breakdown of categories and see how much space your music and videos, pictures, apps, and system are taking up. There’s also an ‘other’ category which covers attachments from emails, app & game data, and other temporary files. Unfortunately, this category fills up and there is no way of clearing it out without wiping the phone. Microsoft has finally addressed the issue and there are a couple of other ways round it.

Potential solutions:

  • Microsoft’s GDR2 update addressed this bug. The “other” category will still fill up, but it should be automatically cleared out when the storage reaches capacity.
  • Nokia released a Storage Check tool which can help you gain an insight into what is eating up space and clear away temporary files.
  • There is also a free app called Shrink Storage which enables you to fill your storage and then restart your device and trigger the clear up to empty it out.

Problem: Push notifications not working

windows-phone-7-qantas-live-agent-app-notificationIt’s fairly common to encounter issues with push notifications. Sometimes updates do not come through to your device like they should. This can result in issues with apps like Facebook or WhatsApp where no notifications come through, but when you open the app there are a ton of updates queued up. Many Windows Phone 8 users have been complaining about push notifications not working properly on the platform with a number of popular apps. There are some things you can try.

Workaround:

  • Try restarting your device by holding down the Power button for 10 seconds then tapping to turn it on again.

Potential solutions:

  • Check your Wi-Fi or data connection. Poor coverage will impact on push notifications. Go to Settings > Wi-Fi > Advanced and tick the box next to Keep WiFi on when screen times out.
  • Go to Settings and make sure that Battery saver isn’t turned on as it can disconnect you in order to save power.
  • If you are using your network, then make sure that your data limit hasn’t been exceeded. You should also check your limits in the Data Sense app and make sure it isn’t restricting you.
  • Uninstall the app you are having a problem with, restart your device, then reinstall the app to see if that helps.
  • Some people reported success by turning Location and Find my phone in Settings off or on and then restarting the device.

Bug: Volume won’t change

There have been a lot of reports about people listening to music and finding that they are unable to change the volume using the volume buttons during a specific track – the volume doesn’t change until the track has ended. This bug also impacts ringtones, which no longer fade the music in and out when a call comes in. Some users also report generally low volume which they are unable to increase.

Workarounds:

  • Restart the device. Press and hold the power button for 10 seconds and then tap it to turn the phone back on. The problem should be temporarily gone.
  • Low volume that won’t change is generally associated with a specific app, use an alternative and you shouldn’t have the same problem.

Bug: Random rebooting

Toward the end of last year a number of WP8 users began to complain about random rebooting. The issue seemed to be common on the HTC 8X and Nokia Lumia 920, although it didn’t affect every handset. The smartphones would simply reboot without warning. There was also some suggestion that a syncing problem was related.

Solutions:

  • It’s always worth trying a restart. Press and hold the Power button and then slide down when you see Slide down to power off. Turn it back on again and see if the problem repeats. You could also try removing the battery and replacing it.
  • Your only other option is to try a factory reset. Make sure you backup first by going to App list > Settings > Backup and choose App list + settings and then Back up now. Then go to About > Reset your phone and tap Yes and Yes again when prompted.

Annoying: Auto-brightness bug

HTC Windows Phone 8X review top screen windows phone 8A number of WP8 users with Nokia Lumia 920 handsets reported wildly fluctuating screen brightness. It seems a bug may have been introduced that impacts on the auto-brightness and causes the screen to flicker as it struggles to find the right brightness setting.

Workarounds:

  • You could disable auto-brightness and set the phone to Medium brightness just to prevent it from changing repeatedly.
  • Some users reported success, or at least a reduced fluctuation, by turning on the phone in a completely dark environment and allowing the sensors to calibrate to the darkness.

Glitch: Screen freezing

If you find your WP8 device just freezes and the touchscreen is unresponsive then you are not alone. This issue could have various causes, but the methods to fix it are the same.

Potential solutions:

  • Press and hold the Volume down and the Power button simultaneously for 10 seconds. Your device should restart and work as normal.
  • If the problem persists, check that you have the latest updates via App list > Settings > Phone update > Check for updates.

Workaround:

  • Some people have reported that turning Wi-Fi off solves the freezing problem, but obviously it also deprives you of Wi-Fi, which is no good as a long-term fix.

Problem: Fast battery drain

Some users have complained that their WP8 device is running out of battery juice very quickly. This could be caused by poorly optimized apps, syncing problems, or something else entirely. There are a few things worth trying to see if you can solve the issue. Obviously turning off NFC, Wi-Fi, mobile data, and other phone features when they aren’t needed is a good start.

Potential solutions:

  • Try uninstalling and reinstalling the Skype and Facebook apps. Some users have reported both apps as major battery hogs, but insist that uninstalling and reinstalling results in improved performance.
  • A number of apps have been cited as potential drains including Nokia Drive Beta, various messenger and music apps, and even some games. Nokia advised people to exit apps using the back button so that they close rather than continue to run in the background. You can also go to Settings > Applications > Background tasks and block any apps you don’t want running in the background.

Problem: Sync not working, can’t send or receive emails or texts

What we want Windows Phone 8.1 Notification CenterReports of problems syncing email accounts and also sending or receiving texts or emails have cropped up. For some WP8 users this issue has also affected their contacts and other accounts on the device. It seems to have been caused by the Skype app.

Potential solutions:

  • Uninstall the Skype app and then force a sync of all problem accounts. This should resolve the issue and you should be able to reinstall the Skype app without further problems.
  • If the above method doesn’t work, try turning off Wi-Fi and mobile data, then reboot the phone and turn both settings on again.
  • If you still have problems, try unlinking your Microsoft account from your Skype account and repeat the process from the first proposed method.

Problem: PC won’t recognize phone

Some users have been unable to connect their phones to their PCs in order to sync information and move files. This problem isn’t unique to Windows Phones, and as such, the solutions to address the problem are largely the same.

Potential solutions:

  • Restart your phone and your PC, then try connecting the two again.
  • Make sure you’re using the cable that came with your phone, or a cable that has the same capabilities. Consider using a different cable from the one you normally use to see if the problem continues.
  • Clean any dirt, dust, and other debris out of the device’s respective ports, then try connecting again.
  • Check for an update for your device by going to App list > Settings > Phone update > Check for updates.
  • Go to the App list > Settings and look for a USB option. If your phone has this, enable it to allow for interactions between your phone and PC.
  • If you’re using Windows 10, make sure you’re using the Microsoft Phone Companion app. It’s one of the better ways to get information from your PC to your phone.

Issue: Unable to update phone

In some cases, you’ll be unable to update the software on your phone. Fortunately, there are tools and alternative methods to help you fix the problem and get any updates you may need.

Potential solutions:

  • Restart your phone and try updating again. If your phone froze during the process, press and hold the Volume down and Power buttons for at least 10 seconds to force a restart.
  • Make sure you don’t already have the update you’re trying to get by going to App list > Settings > Phone update > Check for updates.
  • Charge your phone before attempting any update. If the battery is below a certain percentage, the update may not finish.
  • Make sure you’re using a solid Wi-Fi connection. A poor connection can interrupt the update. If you can’t connect to Wi-Fi and want to use your cellular data instead, tap Download when prompted to download using cellular data.
  • If you’re getting error code 801881cd, you need to free up storage space to install the update. Delete apps, videos, music, and other files you no longer need, or move them to your PC.
  • Use the Windows Device Recovery Tool. This program is meant to fix a number of software problems you may run into. The tool will automatically apply any updates for your phone, but will remove your apps, games, and media.

Glitch: Phone won’t charge or doesn’t stay charged

Some people have reported being unable to charge their phones. When plugging them in, they charge as expected, but when unplugged, the battery drops to where it was before the charging began.

Potential solutions:

  • Let your phone run down its battery until completely empty and the phone turns off. Attempt to charge the phone once again to see if it keeps a charge.
  • Back up your important data, media, settings, etc, then perform a factory reset. Charge the phone again to see if it holds a charge. If it does, restore your phone to see if the problem returns.
  • If the battery or charging problem returns after trying the above, it may be a hardware issue specifically tied to your battery. Reach out to your carrier or Microsoft Support to organize a repair or a replacement device.

Annoyance: Apps constantly crashing

A few users have had the unfortunate experience of opening an app, only for it to crash immediately, or after a while of working normally. The problem isn’t specific to one app, and there doesn’t appear to be a specific cause for the crashes.

Potential solutions:

  • Restart your phone.
  • Check for an update for the app that’s crashing. Check for a software update for your phone as well.
  • Consider uninstalling and reinstalling the app and launching it again to see if the problem persists.
  • Back up your phone, then perform a factory reset. Restore your phone using the back up, and try using the app again.

Issue: Can’t download new apps

Some users are having problems with downloading and installing new apps to their devices. The app will download for a short period of time before stopping and may provide a message reading “attention required.” When attempting to resume the download, it will simply be marked as “pending” without progressing.

Potential solutions:

  • As always, restart your device, then try the download and install again.
  • You shouldn’t be able to download an app that isn’t compatible with your phone, but make sure the app is Windows Phone 8 compatible.
  • You may need to change where your apps are stored. Go to Settings > Storage > New apps will save to, then tap the drop down menu and select This Device > New downloads will save to. Restart the phone, then download the app again.

Problem: Phone won’t sync folders with OneDrive

Windows Phone 8 is capable of interacting with another Microsoft service, OneDrive, in order to sync documents, media, and other files across devices. A small handful of users have been unable to sync their phones to the cloud service, and are sometimes met with a messages that simply states “there was a problem.”

Potential solutions:

  • Restart your phone.
  • Restart your router and reconnect to your Wi-Fi connection.
  • Check for an update with the OneDrive app. On your phone, go to Store> More (three dotted icon) > Downloads. If there’s an update for OneDrive, the app will appear in the list.
  • If it’s photos that won’t sync, it could be because of the amount of RAM your phone has. You’ll be unable to upload photos automatically if your phone only has 256 MB of RAM.
  • Reset OneDrive (Note: This will cause OneDrive to re-sync all of your OneDrive files). On your PC, hit the Windows Key + R to bring up the Run window. Enter “%localappdata%MicrosoftOneDriveonedrive.exe /reset,” then click OK. Keep an eye on the notification area to see if the OneDrive icons disappears, then reappears. If it doesn’t reappear, open the Run window again and enter “%localappdata%MicrosoftOneDriveonedrive.exe.”

Problem: Can’t create or sign into Microsoft account

If you can’t make a new Microsoft account, or find yourself unable to log into your current one and are met with “Can’t connect” or “Problem signing in” messages, there are a few things you can try before giving up all hope. Fortunately, they’re relatively easy solutions.

Potential solutions:

  • Try creating an account or signing into your current one on a computer. If you’re unable to successfully do either, try the other methods below. If the problem is with your current account and you know it works, you may have been temporarily suspended.
  • Go to the Microsoft Status Page to see if the account service is running normally.
  • You may have forgotten to verify your account during set up. Go here to start the verification process.
  • Make sure you’re using the right password to sign in. This includes making sure you’re not using Caps Lock.
  • Check that your birth date information was entered correctly. If you’re under a certain age and considered a child, your account has some restrictions.
  • Check the time and date settings on your phone, and reset them if necessary. Go to Settings > Date+Time. Tap Set automatically to Off and manually set the date and time. Try signing in again.
  • Check your Wi-FI connection.
  • Check for an update for your phone and install it.
  • Perform a factory reset and try creating or signing into your account again.

Issue: Phone shuts down and won’t turn back on

Attempting to use your phone, only to discover it shuts down and won’t turn on, can be a scary situation to run into. However, there’s a straightforward solution to the problem, as well as other things you can try to get your phone running again.

Potential solutions:

  • The method people have had the most success with is simply pressing and holding the Volume Down and Power buttons for about 15 to 20 seconds. The phone should power on. Afterwards, double check for a software update and, if there is one, install it as soon as possible.
  • If that doesn’t work, then try plugging your phone into a charger for 30 minutes and then try pressing and holding the Volume Down and Power buttons for about 15 to 20 seconds to restart the phone again.
  • If the above doesn’t work, reach out to Microsoft support to get your phone repaired or replaced.

Problem: Spinning gears after factory reset

Performing a factory reset is often the last resort when dealing with the various problems a phone may have. However, even the factory reset goes wrong sometimes. In this case, the spinning gears that signify the phone is performing a function continue to spin much longer than usual (over 30 mins). If this happens, there are a few things to try to get the phone back in working condition.

Official solutions:

  • Make sure your phone is charged. Otherwise, plug it in to charge before continuing. Once plugged in, press and hold the Volume Down and Power buttons until the phone vibrates and restarts. When the reboot begins and the logo appears, press the following buttons in sequence: Volume up > Volume down > Power > Volume down. The logo should disappear, then reappear, and the spinning gears should return and be on screen for another 5-15 minutes. Afterwards, the phone will proceed to the Welcome screen.
  • If the wheels continue to spin after trying the above, press and hold the Power, Volume Down, and Camera buttons. When the phone vibrates, release the Power button, and continue to hold the other buttons for another five seconds. The spinning gears should return and spin for another 5 to 15 minutes before the phone proceeds to the Welcome screen.
  • If the above solutions don’t work, resort to the Windows Device Recovery Tool, which is meant to fix various software problems.