How to Reset an Android Phone or Tablet and Wipe All Data

Need to factory reset your Android? We'll show you how in 4 easy steps

Factory data reset Android tablet
Wikimedia Commons / GalaxyOptimus

A factory reset is a process that erases the data on a tablet or smartphone and restores it to mostly the same condition as when it was first purchased. The only thing that survives this process are operating system updates, so if you reset your Android device back to “factory default,” you will not need to go through all of the updates again.

So why would anyone go through a factory reset with their Android smartphone or tablet? In many ways, the reset process is like getting your teeth cleaned by a dentist. All of the gunk is removed, leaving you fresh and clean. This makes it an invaluable troubleshooting tool, but there are a few other reasons to reset your device.

Three Reasons to Reset Your Android Device to Factory Default

  • Fix Problems: The biggest reason to reset your device is to correct problems you are having with your tablet or smartphone that you can’t seem to correct any other way. This could be anything from constant freezing to default apps like the Chrome browser no longer working to the device becoming unbearably slow. Before erasing the device, you should first try rebooting it, checking your Internet speed and any other troubleshooting steps for the problem you are having. Resetting the device is the option you turn to when everything else has failed. 
  • Selling It: Another common reason to reset your device is when selling it. You don’t want to hand over your smartphone or tablet without erasing all of the data on it, and resetting it to factory default is the best process to erase your data.
  • Setting Up a Pre-Owned Device: You should also perform a reset when buying a used smartphone or tablet if the device has already been set up and is ready for use. Unless you are receiving the device from a close friend or family member (and perhaps even then), you shouldn’t trust that the operating system is in a perfectly clean state. This is a device you may be entering credit card and bank information into at some point in the future.

    How to Do a Factory Reset: Android

    Remember, this process will erase all of the data on your smartphone or tablet. This makes it very important to first backup the device. Starting with Android Marshmallow (6.x), your device should be set up to automatically back itself up to Google Drive. You can also download an app like Ultimate Backup to backup your device manually.

    1. Scroll down and tap on Backup & reset in the Personal section of settings.

    2. The top Back up my data option should be set to On. If it is set to Off, tap through and choose On. You will need to plug your device into a power source and make sure it is on Wi-Fi for it to back up. It is best to leave it overnight, but at the very least, leave the device charging for a few hours.

    3. Tap Factory data reset at the bottom of the screen to erase all of the data and put the device in a “like new” state. You will need to verify your choice on the next screen.

    Your tablet or smartphone should reboot and may show a progress screen indicating that it is erasing the data. After it finishes deleting the data on the device, the operating system will restart again and will arrive at a screen similar to the one when you first unpacked it from the box. The whole process should only take a few minutes.

    When Your Android Device Freezes or Won't Boot Up On Properly

    This is where it gets a little tricky. It is possible to do a hardware reset by going into Android's recovery mode, but unfortunately, how to actually get into recovery mode depends on your device. This usually involves holding down a set of keys on the device. Most devices require you to hold down the volume down button and the power button, though some devices have slightly altered directions on how to hold these buttons down.

    Button Commands to Reset Your Phone

    Here's a list of the button commands for some popular brands. If you don't see your device manufacturer on the list, the easiest way to find the information is to search google for "master reset" and your device's name. It's best to press all of the other buttons before pressing the power button. 

    • Samsung: Volume Up, Home Button, Power.
    • Google Nexus/Pixel: Volume Down, Power.
    • HTC: Volume Down, Power. On some HTC models, you may need to keep the volume down button pressed down when you release the power button.
    • Motorola Moto Z/Droid: Volume Down, Power. Most Moto brand devices want you to keep the volume down button pressed while you press and release the power button.
    • LG: Volume Down, Power. When the LG logo appears, release the Power button and then press it again immediately. Keep the Volume Down button held down during this time.
    • Sony Xperia: Volume Down, Power.
    • Asus Transformer: Volume Down, Power.

    If you are wondering why there are so many different ways to access recovery mode, it isn't because they are trying to frustrate you. Manufacturers want to make certain it is difficult to accidentally trigger recovery mode. Because this recovery mode makes it easy to wipe your device, they think it best to require finger gymnastics to activate it.

    Wipe or Delete Data From Your Android

    Once you access recovery mode, simply use the volume buttons to select the command. In this case, it should be some variation of "wipe" or "delete" data. It may simply say "perform factory reset." The exact wording may change based on the manufacturer. Most devices use the power button as an 'enter' button, so press power when you've selected the command for wiping the device. It can take several minutes to complete the reset process.