How to factory reset your Android phone and erase all your data

We love a good Android phone at Pocket-lint, with one of the many reasons that they’re so powerful being how easy it is to manage your files and data on them.

Whether you’re looking to sell your phone and are worried about your data getting into other people’s hands, or it’s starting to feel a bit slow and sluggish, there are loads of reasons to consider a data clear-out. Perhaps it’s just behaving badly and you fancy a clean out to see if it helps.

We’re here to assist you in factory resetting your Android phone and to cover the things to think about while doing so.

Before factory resetting your device

A factory reset is a pretty drastic measure that essentially deletes the contents of your phone and puts it back to the state it was when you got it. At least at the software level anyway.

During the process anything and everything on the phone will be deleted, including all your apps, photos, videos, downloads, personal files and more.

Factory resetting your phone can be a great way to deal with any problems you might be having or to (mostly) secure it before selling it or giving it to someone else. But if you’re just trying to fix problems then you will find that you’ll have to redownload all the apps and re-add all your accounts. You’ll also need to think about how much data you’re losing.

Back up your data before factory resetting

Before you get started it’s important to back up your data and ensure anything you want to save isn’t lost while you’re resetting your phone. There are various ways to do this that are worth looking at.

  • Photos – You’ve no doubt taken a lot of photos while using your phone and you wouldn’t want to lose them. You can connect your phone to a PC or laptop and back them up that way, but you can also use various cloud options for storage as well. If you haven’t already we’d suggest looking at Google Photos or Amazon Photos for cloud backups as you can store a lot of your photos for free in the cloud this way and access them anywhere.
  • Files – For files other than images that you want to back up you can also turn to Google Drive. For a small amount of money, you can get access to various different storage plans and back up your files using Google One for safekeeping.
  • Apps – with modern versions of Android there’s no real need to do things like backup apps. When you log in to your account you’ll be prompted to download the apps you were last using. Android does this when you’re switching to a new Android phone and if it doesn’t work you can just go to your settings on Google Play and select the apps to download. You will need to log in again though.

Pixel 7 pro power buttons

Have you tried turning it off and on again?

If you’re just trying to fix problems then it’s worth trying other things before you fully invest in factory resetting and killing off all your data. One of those things is simply restarting your phone. It might sound daft, but how often do you actually do that?

We’ve written before about how to turn off and restart a Google Pixel or Samsung phone and rebooting might well help.

Another thing to do is to try clearing your cache. If one app is a problem in particular then clearing the cache on that app might free up some memory, remove corrupted files or blow out the cobwebs to help with issues.

cleaning apps on Android

Free up space first

Sometimes simply giving your phone a spring clean can help too. Rather than a full factory reset you may find that you benefit from simply cleaning out data on your phone. When a phone’s storage gets full it can cause problems and these can manifest in simple things like your phone being slow or sluggish.

We find that the Files By Google app is a really useful way to clear out nonsense that might be clogging up your device. This includes removing large files, uninstalling unused apps, removing duplicate files and cleaning junk files too.

Download the app and you can do those things with just a few clicks and you’ll soon find your phone is more responsive. We’d also recommend backing up your photos with Google Photos or Amazon Photos first and then simply deleting all the photos off your phone. You’d be surprised how much space this can free up. With that extra storage space you might find your problems are alleviated.

How to factory reset your Android phone via settings

If all avenues are exhausted and you’re determined to go ahead with the factory reset then here’s the easiest way to do it:

  1. Make sure your phone is charged up fully and/or is plugged in and won’t run out of battery.
  2. Unlock your phone and head over to phone settings.
  3. Head down to the system settings and select it.
  4. Then look for reset options and tap that.
  5. Then click to Erase all data (factory reset).
  6. Follow on-screen instructions and wait.

How to reset if your device won’t boot up

If you can’t access your phone’s settings for some reason and it’s just stuck then don’t worry you can still factory reset in another way.

First of all, turn your phone off and then you’ll need to turn it back on again but while holding down either the volume up or volume down button at the same time as the power button. This varies from phone to phone.

Second, you’ll then find yourself in recovery mode. This is a screen with just text that allows you to select various options using the volume up and down and power buttons. Go through the options and select wipe data/factory reset to start the reset.

reset your phone remotely

How to reset your phone remotely

If you’ve lost your phone then you might be worried about the data that’s on it. Especially if there’s no hope of getting it back. Luckily Google has a solution for this as well because it’s possible to remotely wipe your phone with ease.

There’s an app and website called Find My Device which works via your Android account to find your phone remotely.

Head over to the site and log in and then look for the option on the left-hand side to “erase device”. This isn’t a perfect system as it might not work if the phone is off or the battery is dead but it’s worth trying.

Is a factory reset safe?

In theory, a factory reset should be enough for most people to get rid of what’s on their phone. But a factory reset is not a 100 per cent perfect way to clear your data securely. In some instances, it’s still possible to recover deleted data from your phone, even after a factory reset.

So if you’re super worried about your personal data then you might want to consider something more drastic.

If you’re just resetting your phone to make it faster or to fix problems though, then there’s no need to worry and it should really help.

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