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How to factory reset Android in a few simple steps

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There’s a good chance that you were put into a situation where your device doesn’t work as it used to. Or you have an overlying issue with one of many features and need to put an end to it. That’s where the factory reset comes into play. So, here’s how to perform a factory reset on Android and what it does.

Does a factory reset delete everything?

The answer is yes, it does. This procedure will erase not only all app data and settings but completely formats internal storage, too. That’s why so many users are, at first, reluctant to perform a factory reset. However, it’s advised to perform a factory reset after a major Android update (e.g. from Android 12 to Android 13).

Now, Google Backup will sync a lot of settings (contacts, messages, and call logs, too), making the restoration process less cumbersome. It saves your Wi-Fi SSIDs and passwords, along with a list of all installed apps. That way, if the data cap isn’t a problem for you, it will automatically redownload all the apps from the Play Store.

For those who have a lot of installed apps, this is more than welcome. What it doesn’t save are the app data, login information, and credentials. So, once the restoration process is complete, you’ll need to sign in to every app that uses credentials and modify in-app settings to fit your previous setup.

Of course, you can also use proprietary OEM services like Samsung Cloud, Xiaomi’s Mi Cloud, or Huawei Cloud. Either those or Google Backup — the choice is yours. Just have in mind that you need to sign in with your Samsung (Huawei, Xiaomi, etc.) ID to access the service and back up everything.

You can also use third-party backup apps but, due to a lack of access permissions, they won’t work fully without root which isn’t something regular users will try.

For the media files (music, video and voice recordings, and photos), you can use an SD card, if your device supports it. Just move everything to the SD card which, of course, isn’t affected by the reset and its content won’t be erased. The best option is cloud backup like Google Photos. Learn how to back up your photos and videos to Google Photos.

If you don’t have a device that features an SD card option, you can always back up all media files to your PC or use USB OTG to save your files to a flash drive.

Factory reset through system settings

Now, let’s move to the procedure itself. Once you back up everything as explained above, you can move to the reset and restoration processes on your Pixel, Samsung, Motorola, or any other Android phone. This is an intuitive and simple process, considering how critical it is.

Here’s how to perform a factory reset on Android:

  1. Open Settings.
  2. Choose System.
  3. Select Reset options.
  4. Tap Erase all (factory reset).
  5. Tap Erase all.
  6. Your device will restart and you’ll get to the initial setup screen.
  7. From there, sign in to Google and/or to OEMs account and restore everything that’s backed up.

The procedure is fairly similar on all Android devices although it might vary. For example, you’ll need to access Settings > Device > Reset on Xiaomi devices to get to the factory reset option.

Once you restore all that and set up everything back to its pre-reset state, you can restore media files from the external source (e.g. your PC) or SD card.

Reset everything from the recovery

There are times when your device is completely out and it won’t boot at all. That’s when everyone wishes that they backed up everything regularly. Either way, the fact that you can’t boot into the system makes the list of viable options rather short.

What you can try is resetting the factory settings from the recovery. Recovery mode is the set of options that function on a separate partition, similar to the BIOS menu on PCs. So if the system won’t boot, recovery usually will.

Once there, you have the option to reset factory settings or wipe the cache partition. This emulates the factory reset accessed from System UI. Some devices, like Samsung Galaxy phones, require your smartphone to be connected to your PC via a USB in order to access the recovery menu.

Here’s how to access the recovery mode and reset your device to factory settings:

  1. Power off your device.
  2. Press and hold the power button and the volume up key simultaneously to enter the Recovery menu.
  3. By using the volume keys for navigation, stop on Wipe data/factory reset.
  4. Press the Power button to select it and to confirm.
  5. Wait until the procedure is complete and, hopefully, the next thing you see is the splash screen and the initial setup.

And, that should conclude it. Thank you for reading.

Editor’s note: This article was initially published in December 2020. We made sure to revamp it for freshness and accuracy.

Picture of Aleksandar Ognjanovic

Aleksandar Ognjanovic

Managing editor at Mobile Internist. @lemmingspain My fascination with mobile technology, particularly Android and iOS, began years ago and continues today. I'm captivated by the constant evolution in the smartphone industry and its impact on our daily lives, always anticipating the next big innovation. That’s the main reason why I found myself writing instructive content on the subject for users who are not as familiar with all the bells and whistles.
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