Mobile devices

What is an Android Factory Reset and When Should You do One?

When you turn on your Android device for the first time, it presents itself at the factory default. In other words, it runs with the basic apps, configurations, and data stored within. It’s new, it’s fresh, it runs like a champ.

Over time, you’ll start filling that device up with apps, photos, music, videos, and data. At some point you might find yourself wanting to go back to that factory fresh state. For that you’ll do a factory reset.

Just what is a factory reset and what are the situations that might lead you to need or want to take on this task? Let’s break this down.

What is a Factory Reset

When you do a factory reset on your Android device, it erases all settings, user data, third-party applications, and any application data from the internal flash storage. If your device includes external storage (such as a microSD card), the factory reset does not erase whaterver you have in there. It doesn’t erase any of your cloud data either, so all the files on your Google Drive, Google Photos, Gmail, and the like will be untouched.

In other words, this process returns the device to exactly as it was when it left the factory, ready for you to connect it to your Google account, as though it were brand new.

Factory Resets can be done from either the local device or via remote wipe. How the reset is done on the local device will be dictated by which version of Android your device uses. For example, in Android 10 the factory reset is found in Settings > System > Advanced > Reset options > Erase all data (Figure 1).

Figure 1 The reset option in Android 10.

In order to do a remote factory reset, you must go to Google’s Find My Device site, log in with your Google account (if prompted) and then click the ERASE DEVICE button.

One caveat to doing a factory reset is that any Android updates you’ve done will also be lost. In other words, if your device shipped with Android 9 and you updated it to Android 10, it will be back at iteration 9 after the reset. You can always go back through the upgrade process, it’s just yet another step to get your device back to where you want it.

In light of that, why would you want to reset your device? Let’s find out.

When Should You do a Factory Reset?

There are a few situations that might lead you to wanting/needing to do a factory reset on your Android device. The most obvious situation is when the device isn’t behaving as expected and nothing you do (even after contacting a third party, such as a software outsourcing company) solves the problem. If even after having a third-party (such as an outsourced service provider) attempt to resolve your device issue, every attempt has failed to fix a problem, a factory reset will never fail.

This should always be considered a last-ditch effort. Prior to doing a factory reset, you might first remove the application that is having problems (if applicable) or erase the system cache. Should those steps fail, then it might be time for a factory reset.

You might also find your device internal storage has become full and the daunting task of making enough space such that it’ll function properly again is too much to handle. This might sound like a solid option, but you need to first weigh how much internal storage your device has, versus how much your cloud storage will push back onto the device.

You can always select what to sync from Google Cloud (i.e. from Drive and Photos), but you must be careful that, after the factory reset, you don’t wind up syncing too much data back to the device (which will have you back where you started).

Finally, another instance that might lead you to do a factory reset is when you’re giving up the device. This could be for a trade-in, selling the phone, gifting the phone to a relative or friend, or donating the phone.

If you plan on permanently handing that device over, the last thing you want to do is give them your data and information. You might have bank account details, passwords, company secrets, family details, or more on that device. You do not want to hand that information over to another user, be they family, friend, or stranger.

Before you donate or gift that used device, do not fail to run a factory reset. If you do not do this, you are asking for trouble for which your favorite outsourcing company cannot help you.

The Saving Grace

The factory reset might sound like a frightening task. But one thing to remember is that, because Android is so seamlessly integrated with the Google ecosystem, your data is not only still there, it’s quite easy to get it back on your device.

So once the reset is finished, and you walk through the initial steps of connecting your device to your account, you will find much of your data has been restored. You can then walk through the process of restoring apps. Just remember to avoid restoring any app that might have caused you to have to do the factory reset in the first place.

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