How to Fix iPad Ghost Typing and False Touch

Does your iPad type on its own or randomly launch apps? It's no ghost

Perhaps the most bizarre problem you can encounter on an iPad is the device typing or randomly launching apps without any input from you. This phenomenon is often referred to as ghost typing, or false touch. But don't worry, your iPad is probably not possessed by a poltergeist and the problem is easily exorcised with a few quick troubleshooting steps in most cases.

This guide applies to iOS 12, iOS13, and iPadOS 13.

Is Your iPad Hacked?

The first thing many people think when their iPad begins typing on its own or interacting with an app by itself is that someone has somehow taken control of the device. It's extremely rare for something like that to happen, especially if the iPad isn't jailbroken. Apple checks all apps submitted to the App Store for malware, and while it is possible for one to slip past, it's rare.

Power Down and Clean the Erratically-Behaving iPad

The first step in troubleshooting almost any problem is to reboot the device. This works with anything suffering from ghost typing. But, once it's powered down, don't immediately boot it back up. Instead, take this opportunity to clean the screen. It's possible there's something on it that's triggering the iPad's touch sensors. The display is designed to ignore certain touches it detects aren't human, which is why your nails don't register, but its possible something that does register is on the display.

  1. Turn off the iPad by holding down the Sleep/Wake button until your iPad prompts you to slide a button to power it down.

    Illustration of power button and slide to power off screen on iPad
  2. Rub a cloth gently over the entire display using left-to-right and right-to-left motions, starting at the top of the display and working to the bottom of the screen.

    It's best to use the same type of microfiber cloth that you would use to clean glasses, but any lint-free cloth will do just fine. Dampen the cloth, but don't make it "wet." Also, don't spray anything directly onto the iPad's screen. A slightly damp, nonabrasive cloth is all you need.

  3. Power the iPad back on by holding down the Sleep/Wake button until you see the Apple logo appear on the screen.

If the Problem Persists, Try a Factory Reset

For most people, simply rebooting the iPad and cleaning the screen will do the trick. But, if you're one of the unlucky few still experiencing ghost touch after a reboot, you can try restoring the iPad to factory default settings.

This isn't quite as scary as it sounds, but it does mean you will need to wipe all of the data and apps from the iPad. Before you do that, however, you should back up your iPad to ensure you can restore all of your data.

How to Backup Your iPad Data

If your iPad is set up to automatically backup data, it will do so when the device is connected to power, locked, and on Wi-Fi. But, if it's been a while since you've plugged it in, you can perform a manual backup. Go to the iPad Settings app and tap on your Account Name (Ex: John Smith) > Your iPad's Name (Ex: John's iPad) > iCloud Backup > Back Up Now. The process will start automatically as long as you're connected to the internet.

Screenshot of the Back Up Now button in iOS 12

How to Perform a Factory Reset

Once your data is backed up, you need to reset the iPad to its factory default status. When the iPad is done with the reset, it will be in a 'like-new' state.

  1. Open the iPad Settings app. If you're still in the backup settings, you can return to the main menu by tapping the "<" icon at the top-left corner of the screen until you are at the main Settings menu.

  2. Choose General > Reset > Erase All Content and Settings.

    Screenshot of Reset page in iOS Settings app on iPad
  3. Enter your Passcode, if prompted, to continue.

It may take several minutes to complete the reset process. Once finished, you can go through the steps for setting it up, which should be the same as when you first opened the iPad. One of these steps allows you to restore the iPad from the backup you created.

Still Having Problems?

Resetting the iPad to its factory default can solve most software issues, but if that doesn't work, you may have a faulty touch display or faulty sensors on the iPad. You can contact Apple Support or take the iPad to the nearest Apple Store for further assistance.