What to Do When Your iPad Won't Rotate

Man with head down on iPad that won't rotate

 Getty Images

One of the neat features of the iPad is the ability for the screen to rotate as you turn the device. This allows you to seamlessly go from browsing the web in portrait mode to watching a movie in landscape mode. So when this auto-rotate feature stops working, it can be frustrating. But don't worry, this is an easy issue to fix.

First, not all iPad apps have the ability to rotate the screen, so from inside an app, click the iPad's Home Button to reach the main screen and then try rotating the device. If it rotates, you know it was the app, not the iPad.

If your iPad still isn't rotating, it may be locked on its current orientation. We can fix this by going into the iPad's Control Center.

  1. For iOS 12 and later, swipe your finger down from the upper right corner of the iPad screen (in any rotation).

    For older versions of iOS: Swipe your finger from the very bottom edge of the iPad towards the top of the iPad. Your finger must start where the screen meets the bezel, just above the Home Button. You should see the control panel appear well before you reach the halfway mark.

    iPad with Control Center activated, highlighting Rotation Lock button toggled OFF
    Rotation Lock Inactive.
  2. In the Control Center, locate the Lock Rotation button. It should be the last icon in the row of circular buttons that begin with an airplane icon. The lock rotation icon has a circular arrow around a lock. If this button is highlighted, tap it to toggle the rotation lock off

    iPad with Control Center activated, highlighting Rotation Lock button toggled ON
    Rotation Lock Active.
  3. You should be able to rotate the iPad now, but you can't rotate it with the control panel open. You can close the control panel by either (1) sliding a finger down starting from the top of the control panel or (2) press the iPad's Home Button.

Are You Having a Hard Time Getting the Control Panel to Appear?

If you have an older iPad, you may not have updated the operating system to the newest version. You can make sure you are on the most current version of the iOS operating system by following these directions to update your iPad.

If you own the original iPad, you won't be able to update to the newest version of the operating system. The first iPad simply isn't powerful enough to run the newer versions of the iPad's iOS operating system. But there are a few things we can try to get the rotation working again.

  1. First, locate the volume buttons on the side of the iPad. Next to these buttons is a switch that can lock the position of the screen. Once you flip this switch, you should be able to rotate the iPad. (An arrow pointed in a circle will appear on the screen when you flip the switch.)

  2. If this doesn't work, the side switch may be set to mute the device rather than lock the rotation of the screen. You'll know this because a speaker icon with a line running through it may have appeared when you flipped the switch. If this happened, flip the switch again to un-mute your iPad.

  3. We'll need to change the side switch behavior, so let's go into the iPad's settings. This is the icon with the gears turning. (Get help opening the iPad settings.)

  4. On the left side of the screen is a list of setting categories. Touch General.

  5. On the right side of the screen is a setting labeled Use Side Switch to; Change the setting to Lock Rotation. (Get Help Changing the Side Switch's Behavior.)

  6. Exit Settings by pressing the Home Button.

  7. Flip the side switch again. Your iPad should start rotating.

Are You Still Having Problems With Your iPad Not Rotating?

The next two steps to fix the problem are to reboot the iPad, which usually fixes most problems, and if that doesn't work, you would need to reset the iPad back to its factory default setting. This erases the data on the iPad, so you want to make sure you have a backup before trying it. You may not feel it is worth it to go through such a drastic measure just to get the orientation unlocked.