How and When You Should Perform a Hard Reset on Your Stereo System

If Your Stereo System Is Misbehaving, It Might Be Time for a Reboot

Most people intuitively understand the value of restarting computers or smartphones, but rebooting stereo systems is a less understood approach to solving audio-related problems.

Before you decide to send your stereo in for repair, or sell it or buy a new one, a simple restart might be all it needs. Rebooting a stereo system is really easy and can be performed by anyone, even if you don't have any experience working with electronics or stereos specifically.

Please know that reboot and reset do not mean the same. With most electronics, rebooting involves shutting down power, while resetting is erasing the software and starting again from scratch.

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Know What to Look For

A DVD stuck in an open DVD player tray
A stuck and unresponsive DVD tray can happen with a frozen device. George Diebold/Getty Images

If a product is entertainment-oriented and requires power to operate, it's a pretty safe bet that it contains the kind of electronics that can freeze to the point where no amount of user input generates a response.

Maybe the component is turned on with the front panel lit up, but buttons, dials, or switches fail to perform as intended. Or, it could be that the drawer on a disc player won't open or it won't play a loaded disc. Products can even fail to listen to a wireless/IR remote control in addition to the front panel user interface. 

Receivers, amplifiers, digital-to-analog converters, CD/DVD/Blu-ray players, and digital media devices contain the types of circuitry and microprocessor hardware that you might find in smartphones, tablets, laptops, or computers. As well-designed a piece of modern equipment can be, sometimes it needs a little help from us through the occasional power cycle or reboot.

There are two ways to perform such resets on audio components, both of which take less than a minute to complete.

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Unplug the Component

A hand unplugging an electrical cord from a wall outlet
Unplugging a device is often the easy fix for an unresponsive system. PM Images/Getty Images

You may already be familiar with the technique of merely unplugging the device. The easiest way to reset an audio component is to disconnect it from the power source, wait 30 seconds, and then plug it back in and try again.

The waiting part is important because most electronic technology contains capacitors. Capacitors hold a reserve of energy while the unit is plugged in — it takes a little bit of time for them to discharge after they're disconnected from power.

You might notice how the power-indicator LED on the front panel of a component can take up to ten seconds to fade away. If you don't wait long enough, the device will never be truly powered down to correct the problem.

If you follow the procedure correctly, and there's not a more serious problem you need to address, you can expect everything to work normally after you plug it back in.

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Perform a Hard/Factory Reset

A finger pressing a bright red reset button
If unplugging doesn't work, a hard/factory reset might be in order. FotografiaBasica/Getty Images

If disconnecting and reconnecting the power doesn't help, many component models offer a dedicated reset button or some procedure to effect a return to factory-default settings. In both instances, it's best to consult with the product manual or contact the manufacturer directly to understand the steps involved.

A reset button usually must be pressed for a certain amount of time, but sometimes while also holding down another button. The instructions to perform a hard reset tend to involve simultaneously pressing several buttons on the front panel, which can differ depending on the brand and model.

For example, Sony Hi-Fi stereo systems can be reset to factory default settings with one or more buttons such as ENTER, STOP, FUNCTION, DJ OFF, or PUSH ENTER.

These kinds of stereo resets will erase the memory and most — if not all — settings you may have entered (e.g., custom settings, network/hub profiles, radio presets) since taking the product out of the box for the very first time. So if you had specific volume or equalizer levels for each of the channels of your receiver, you can expect to have to set them that way all over again. Favorite channels or radio stations? You might want to write them down first unless you have a sharp memory.

If resetting a component back to the factory default doesn't work, it's possible that the unit is defective and may need repair. Contact the manufacturer for advice or the next steps to take. You may end up shopping for a new replacement component if the cost of repairing the old one is prohibitively expensive.