How to Use Guided Access on iPhone or iPad

Keep your current app up so others can't go wandering on your device

A close up of three people looking closely at their iPhones

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It's easy to switch between apps on your iPhone and iPad, but what if you don't want someone looking further than one screen on your iPhone? Guided Access locks your screen to one specific app so you don't have to worry any more. Here's how to set it up, and why it's useful. 

Guided Access requires iOS 11 so you need to have an iPhone 5s or newer to be able to use it.

What Is Guided Access?

Guided Access limits users to one specific app so they can't switch to another app or return to the iPhone's home screen. It's useful if you use your iPhone as a display in a business context or simply when your child is using your iPhone, and you don't want them to have too much power. 

Various settings mean you can stop users from accessing certain areas of the screen, impose time limits, and even limit their ability to turn the volume up or down. Guided Access is a powerful feature, provided you know how to use it to its full potential. Here's how to get started. 

How to Set up Guided Access on iPhone and iPad

  1. Tap Settings > General > Accessibility.

  2. Scroll down the list to the bottom and tap Guided Access.

    The process for getting from iPhone Settings screen to Accessibility options.
  3. Tap the toggle to switch Guided Access on.

  4. Tap Passcode Settings, then tap Set Guided Access Passcode.

    The iPhone's Guided Access screen set up process.

    You can set up a passcode later in the process but doing it early on is more efficient and easier for you.

  5. Enter a passcode, then reenter it to confirm it.

    You can also turn on Face ID or Touch ID. This is particularly useful if you know the person using your iPhone is likely to guess your passcode. 

  6. Guided Access is now set up and ready to use!

How to Start and End a Guided Access Session

You can use Guided Access with any app on your iPhone or iPad. It just takes a few simple steps to start up, and your iPhone will remember your favorite settings so you don't have to redo it later.

It's not possible to take screenshots while using Guided Access, due to it being such a locked down mode.

  1. Open the app you want, then triple-press the Home button.

    If you have an iPhone X, iPhone XS, or iPhone XR, triple-press the side button instead. 

  2. If you want to limit what areas of the screen respond to touch, use one finger to draw a circle around those areas. 

    You can move the circle around by dragging it with your finger. You can also extend the size of it by holding down on it and dragging it outwards.

  3. When you've finished creating untouchable areas, tap Start

  4. The Guided Access Session has now started and users can't switch apps until the session is ended.

  5. To end a Guided Access session, either triple-press the Home button or triple-press the side button, then tap End. Enter your passcode when prompted.

How to Control Which Features Are Available

Guided Access doesn't just limit which parts of the screen one can tap on. It also has far more powerful options, including a time limit facility. 

To turn the features on or set a time limit, triple-press the Home or side button, then tap Options.

If you don't see Options, triple-press the Home or side button again and enter your passcode.

Toggle the options you want to apply. You can tweak the following:

  • Turn off the Sleep/Wake button.
  • Disable the volume buttons.
  • Switch off motion so the iPhone doesn't respond to being shaken or physically rotated.
  • Turn off the keyboard so it never appears.
  • Disable all touch commands so the device becomes solely a display rather than interactive.
  • Implement a Time Limit for users.