How to Factory Reset Your Cell Phone

Michael Kwan
Factory data reset on Android smartphone

There are any number of reasons why you may want to perform a full factory reset on your cell phone. Perhaps you plan on selling your used phone on Craigslist, you're thinking of sending your old phone in for recycling, or you want to start again from a clean slate to overcome some performance issues. Whatever your motivation, performing a factory reset is very easy to do and only takes a few moments of your time.

Step-by-Step Instructions to Factory Reset a Cell Phone

The procedure for performing a factory reset varies from platform to platform.

Google Android Factory Reset

The individual UI skins and customizations placed on top of Android by manufacturers and carriers can create some variation. Samsung has TouchWiz UI, HTC has Sense UI and so on. However, most smartphones powered by Google Android can be reset in a very similar manner, regardless of whether the phone is made by LG, Samsung, Motorola, Sony, or any number of other companies. The core instructions remain the same, even if the wording and layout may vary slightly.

Resetting from an Android Phone

  1. Plug your phone into its charging cable or dock.
  2. Open the Settings app.
  3. Scroll between the different sections or tabs until you find "Backup & reset" or something similar and tap that.
  4. Look for "Factory data reset" or similar and tap that.
  5. The resulting screen will outline what will happen with a factory reset.
  6. Some Android phones provide additional options on this screen, like deleting photos and other media files or erasing the microSD memory card inserted inside the device. Optionally tick these boxes if you desire.
  7. Press the "Reset device" or "Reset phone" button.
  8. Wait for the phone to complete the deletion process. The phone will reboot when it is complete.

Resetting Using Android Device Manager

If your smartphone is lost or stolen, you can erase it remotely using Android Device Manager if you properly configure it ahead of time.

  1. Open a web browser on your computer.
  2. Log into your Google account at any of Google's websites, like YouTube, Gmail or Google Calendar.
  3. Go to the Android Device Manager website.
  4. Select your target smartphone from your list of devices. If you only have one registered Android device, it will appear by default.
  5. Click on the "Erase" button that appears below your phone.
  6. Confirm that you would like to erase the selected device and return it to its original factory state.

Apple iPhone Factory Reset

It is possible to complete a factory reset on an iPhone either on the device itself or while connected to your computer through the iTunes program.

Resetting from an iPhone

  1. Open your iPhone's Settings app.
  2. Choose General from the Settings main menu.
  3. Tap the Reset button near the bottom of the screen.
  4. For a full factory reset, select "Erase All Content and Settings" from the list of options.
  5. Confirm that you would like to "Erase iPhone" on the resulting pop-up window.
  6. Wait for the erasure process to finish.
  7. When your phone shows the iOS Setup Assistant upon booting up, the factory reset is complete.

Erasing iPhone with iTunes

  1. Open iTunes.
  2. Click on the iTunes main menu and select "Check for Updates" to ensure you have the newest version.
  3. Connect your iPhone to your computer using the provided USB cable.

  4. Open the Summary tab for your iPhone as it appears in iTunes.

  5. Click the "Restore iPhone" button.

  6. Confirm that you would like to restore your iPhone to its original factory settings. Click "Agree" if prompted.

  7. Wait for the restoration process to complete. This can take a few minutes.

  8. If your iPhone displays the iOS Setup Assistant when turned on, it has been restored to the factory default.

Windows Phone Factory Reset

As with both the Apple iPhone and Google Android, devices running on Windows Phone can also be reset to their original factory state either on the actual smartphone itself or remotely via a web-based interface.

Resetting from a Windows Phone

  1. Swipe from the right to left on the home screen to reveal your list of apps.
  2. Open the Settings app.
  3. Tap on "About."
  4. Select "Reset your phone."
  5. Confirm that you would like to restore your Windows Phone to its factory settings. There are two confirmation screens.
  6. Wait for the process to complete.

Remotely Erasing a Windows Phone

  1. If your Windows Phone is lost or stolen, it can be erased and reset to factory settings from your computer.
  2. Open windowsphone.com in a web browser on your computer.
  3. Log into your Microsoft account if needed.
  4. Hover the mouse pointer over the phone icon in the top-right corner of the webpage.
  5. Click "Find My Phone" from the resulting menu.
  6. Choose "Erase."
  7. Check the box marked "I'm sure! Please erase my phone now."
  8. Click on "Erase."

What to Expect With a Cell Phone Factory Reset

By definition, a factory reset restores a cell phone back to its original factory settings. This brings the phone back to the same state that it was when it was turned on for the very first time, wiping the device clean of any and all personal settings and data.

Examples of data that is erased include:

  • All downloaded apps and games
  • Any Wi-Fi, Bluetooth or other settings
  • Connections to personal accounts, like e-mail and social media
  • Pictures, videos, music and other files stored on the phone
  • Custom wallpapers and ringtones
  • Text message and call history
  • App settings and game save files

While some professional services like those offered by Core Data Recovery and Ace Data Recovery may be able to recover some of this deleted data, for all intents and purposes, this data is erased forever following a full factory reset.

Remember to Back Up Your Data

A factory reset will not only restore a phone back to its original settings, but it will also erase all of your personal data from your phone. This includes any photos and videos that you may have stored, as well as your contact list, calendar of appointments and other information.

Before performing a factory reset, it is advisable to back up as much of your data as possible. Some data may already be synchronized, like a Google account on an Android phone or iCloud on an iPhone, but it is a good idea to double-check. The variety of cloud storage services offer a wealth of options for backing up your pictures and videos too.

How to Factory Reset Your Cell Phone