So, your trusty Android device has passed its best-by date, or you’ve decided to sell it, or you’ve managed to mess things up to the point that things just aren’t working anymore, or a combination of all of the above. These, and a whole host of other possible reasons, may lead to you deciding a factory reset is a wise choice. Typically, a factory reset will tick all the necessary boxes, but in the rare case that it doesn’t, completely flashing your device yourself is also an option. We will be covering both of these methods here.
Disclaimer: We are not responsible if your device blows up, grows hands/legs/hair, becomes self aware, etc.
This method should be sufficient for 99% of the Android using population. Executed properly (and depending on what options are selected), this method will restore your device to the state at which it would have left the factory in not including all the bumps, scratches, and scuffs you may have physically picked up along the way. This process will also not magically downgrade your firmware to the version you had when you originally unpacked the device either; should you want to accomplish this, you are unfortunately going to need to refer to the firmware flashing portion of this article.
Backup. Everything. Years of experience (and learning from numerous mistakes) have taught me that this is the most critical part of wiping your device. Contacts and messages are typically the most important part of your backup process. Fortunately, these days, most Android device come with baked-in cloud backup abilities, and for those missing that ability, a backup application is just a tap away.
Depending on which version of Android your device is running or in some cases depending on which manufacturer (HTC, Samsung, etc.), the Factory Reset option may reside in a different place, but the idea is similar. Find it! This is where you’d find the option on a Samsung Galaxy S Advance – Apps > Settings > Privacy.
At this point, you are given a choice between formatting the USB storage or not this is where things get slightly hairy. The way Android handles external storage, internal storage, and file systems can be somewhat confusing. The option to Format USB Storage may be the cue for some people to stand up in shock and start scrambling to remove any SD/MicroSD they have installed in their device. Especially so if you’ve been using your device for some time and have been using it like most people to take numerous pictures of every meal you’ve had over the lifetime of the device. Fret not… for despite the appearance and wording of Format USB Storage, it doesn’t actually touch your SD/MicroSD.
The only people who should be concerned when there’s any mention of USB storage, are interestingly enough, people who technically don’t have any USB storage. In a case where you are using a non-expandable Android device (HTC One for example), Android interestingly enough creates a partition called SDCard. Further confusion arises when using an expandable Android; without an actual SD/MicroSD inserted, an SDCard partition still exists!
Seeing as you should already have backed up anything important on your device, it should be safe to select Format USB Storage before hitting Reset phone. If you have not, time to head back to Step 1. Otherwise, your phone should now start doing random things related to formatting your device.
Usually, it’s at this point when you’ll realize you forgot to back up a whole bunch of things you can’t live without. Hold your head in your hands for a few minutes while waiting for your Android to complete the format, restart, and show you that swanky “Welcome” screen you vaguely remember from when you first received and powered on your device.
Flashing Your Device
No, this doesn’t involve wearing a long jacket with nothing underneath before revealing yourself to your device. This is the “advanced” method for resetting your device software to lemony fresh goodness. Seeing as this is the “advanced” method, we’ll assume that you’ve either already backed up your phone (as per Step 1 of the Basic method) or are completely willing to spend some time after with your head in your hands wondering why you didn’t back up.
Depending on phone manufacturer, you’ll need to find out the key combination specific to your manufacturer (or device). For Samsung devices, this is typically VolumeUp+Home+Power. For HTC devices, this is typically VolumeDown+Power, followed by using the VolumeUp/Down keys to navigate to Recovery Mode and tapping the Power key to select. You’ll probably need to become a little more acquainted with Google to figure out the key combinations for other manufacturers.
[box_tip]Samsung S3/S4: VolumeUp+Home+Power[/box_tip]
[box_tip]HTC One: VolumeDown+Power[/box_tip]
[box_tip]Google Nexus 4: VolumeDown+Power[/box_tip]
Once in recovery mode, navigate to Wipe Data/Factory Reset and select that with whichever the select key is for your device (usually Home or Power). Your phone will now appear to do absolutely nothing except display some spinning graphics or something similar for a few minutes before exclaiming that it has completed the wipe. For the slightly more paranoid among us, you’ll also want to select the Wipe Cache option, which will result in a few more seconds of spinning graphics.
At this point, select Reboot System. Congratulations, you should have a device that looks exactly like one that was just removed from a factory line-up (minus physical injuries your device may have picked up while under your care).