No matter what device you have, over time your Android operating system may start to do things you don’t want – like crashing, running slower than you’d like or killing your pets. We can’t do much about that last one, but for everything else a factory reset might do the trick. Here’s how to factory reset Android.
How to factory reset Android: the obligatory warning about backups and stuff
A factory reset is designed to return your device to factory fresh condition (with a few exceptions: if you’ve upgraded Android itself you won’t travel back in time to the version your device shipped with), and that means without apps, data or your settings.
Your Google, Samsung or other account should enable you to get all your stuff back after a factory reset with the minimum of fuss, but from time to time things can go wrong. If anything is important, make sure you have a backup you can rely on, and if it’s really important, make sure you have more than one backup. There’s no sadder sound than the howl of someone who now has a device that's shiny and new but none of their data.
How to factory reset Android: the quick and easy way
In the majority of cases you’ll be able to perform a factory reset on your Android device through the Settings menu, and that’s far and away the easiest way to do it. The actual design of the screens may vary a little bit from device to device, especially when manufacturers have put their mucky fingers on stock Android to add their own artistic interpretations, but the basic procedure is the same. Here’s how to do it:
Go into Settings
Go into Personal > Backup and Reset
Enter your password or PIN if requested
Make sure Automatic Restore is checked
Tap on Factory Reset Data > Reset Phone
Again, you might be prompted for your password or PIN here
Tap Delete Everything
And that’s it. Your phone should now reboot in sparkly new condition. You can now use your Google account (or Samsung account, or other manufacturer-specific account) to get your apps, data and settings restored.
How to factory reset Android when you can’t get into the Settings screen
Resetting your device via the Settings screen is all well and good if you can access it, but if the device has frozen solid or the touchscreen refuses to accept your taps, it’s time for plan B. The good news is that Plan B isn’t much more complicated than Plan A. It just involves a little bit of fiddling with the device’s buttons.
To do it:
Turn off your device
Press and hold Volume Down and Power while the device turns itself on
When you see the options screen, use Volume Down to move down and highlight Recovery Mode
Press the Power button to confirm your selection
Wait for the image of the sad Android, then hold down Power. Keep it held and press and release the Volume Up button.
Once again, use the Volume Down button to navigate. This time you want Wipe Data / Factory Reset. Use Power to confirm the selection.
Use Volume Down to highlight the Yes -- Delete All User Data option. Use Power to confirm.
Wait a bit for the reset to do its stuff and then choose Reboot to restart your device.
Once again, the next step is to use the appropriate cloud account to restore your information.
What does the Android backup service back up and restore?
If you used the Android Backup Service to backup your device, it can restore some settings and data for you automatically after you’ve reset your device. It can backup and restore:
Google Calendar settings
Stored Wi-Fi networks and passwords
Apps you’ve installed via Google Play and backed up on the Play Store app
Display brightness and sleep settings
Language and input settings
Date and time
Some third-party app settings and data
The reason we’ve said 'some' third party apps is because the Android Backup Service can only back up apps that actually use it, and it’s up to the app developer(s) whether a particular app uses it and, if it does, what settings and data are actually backed up.
When it comes to backing up important data, documents, files or settings it’s always a good idea to assume the worst and ensure you have a backup copy of absolutely everything. Don’t assume that your favorite app uses the Backup Service and then discover the hard way that it doesn’t!
Have you had happy or unhappy factory reset issues? Does it cure all known ills, or did you find problems started to come back again? Let us know in the comments!