There are many reasons that you may wish to perform a complete factory reset on your Android device, ranging from:
- Getting rid of the encryption on your device. Android encryption is a one-way deal, so the only way to remove it is to wipe the device.
- You are selling your device
- You tend to ‘Tinker’ a little too much and things broke.
- You were bored so figured you’d create a walk through.
In this article I will show you how to perform a Factory Data Reset on your Android device, when you are able to boot it normally. This article does not discuss how to perform a Factory Reset when the device doesn’t boot properly, (via Safe Mode) but I will be doing one on this later . For the purposes of this article I will be using my Nexus 4 which is running Android version 4.2.2. I have also tested this on my Nexus 5 running KitKat 4.4 in which the steps are the same.
Before we start with the process of restoring your device back to its factory settings, it is important to point out that all data on the device will be erased. If you have an external memory card on your device, then I would remove it whilst performing the factory reset, just to be safe. For Nexus 4 users this isn’t an issue as we don’t have an external memory card, but instead only have either a 8GB or 16GB internal one, that will be wiped when doing the reset. Some of this data though is automatically backed up to your Google account (assuming you have one) so after the reset has been performed and your phone has been rebooted, you will be asked to sign in to your Google account which will then restore some of your personal data. If you haven’t set your device to let Google backup your data, then please make sure you do this (Settings>Backup & reset and check the 2 available boxes) It is also advisable to manually backup your important images as well to your PC or favourite Cloud Storage provider.
I have performed a few of these with my Nexus 4 in the past, and the procedure is very straight forward. First let’s take a look at what data is backed up by Google automatically:
- Your calendar, emails and contacts (Google email that is)
- Your Wi-Fi passwords
- Your bookmarks for Chrome
- Any apps (paid or free) that you have downloaded are all restored. (re-downloaded automatically after the reset) If these are Google apps then the data attached to the apps (like Google Keep, images that you have stored via Google+ etc) will be retained but for most third-party apps the data will be lost, unless the app in question gives you the ability to export logs for it which is doubtful for the majority of them.
Now what isn’t backed up by Google’s automatic backup:
- SMS messages. When performing a factory reset on your Android device you will also lose your old messages, so it is important to get them safely backed up before hand. For this I would recommend using the SMS Backup+ app, which is free and will store your messages to Gmail (by default, but you can use other clients if you wish). Just make sure that you have IMAP enabled in your Gmail settings for the app to work correctly (it also works on any email client that can use IMAP) Once you have used this app to start backing up your SMS messages in the background, it will also create a SMS label in your Gmail account giving you access to them. To restore the messages after the reset has been done, simply use the Restore function in the app. MMS messages are not currently supported yet, but will be in the future.
- Google Authenticator data. This is kind of a big one for me as I use 2-Step Verification on a lot of sites, so making sure that you have Backup Codes safely saved away somewhere (like Dropbox or emailed to yourself) will be of great benefit here. For example, if you have 2-Step Verification enabled on your Dropbox account and Gmail account, then it will make it tricky to sign back in to your Gmail account after the reset has taken place. (unless you have other ways of getting the verification codes like by a landline) I find it simpler just to disable 2-Step on my Dropbox for about 30 seconds whilst I can access my Backup Codes, and then re-enable after I have full access again to DB and Gmail.
- Pictures taken on your mobile phone. (including screenshots) This wasn’t really that much of an issue for me as every picture I take get synced to my Dropbox account instantly. That said, if you don’t have a Dropbox account then you can do the same using Google+ instead. It puts you mind at peace knowing that your images are safe.
- Login details for third-party apps like TVCatchup, Cerberus, Dropbox, Flickr etc. Either make a note of these or access the saved passwords via your browser on the PC
- Some games will fail to save any progress you may have made.
- Music/ringtones you may have downloaded will not be saved. Get these backed up to your PC or Cloud Storage account first before performing this reset.
With the above in mind, lets take a look at how to reset your Nexus 4 or other Android device back to factory settings. (Again, make sure you have backed up any important data first) The process is pretty straight forward and shouldn’t take you too long to complete. I will be do a step-by-step walk through here, so don’t get put off with the amount of images involved as I just wanted to make it easy to follow for people who may have never done this before.
First, head to your Settings area and then go to Backup & reset.
Once you have selected Backup & reset, you will see the main Backup options available to you. Hopefully you already have these two boxes checked by default so that Google will automatically be making a backup of your personal details, which will then be able to be restored at a later date should you need it. (like now)
At the bottom, you will see Factory data reset. Select this.
The next window will inform you that all your phones internal storage will be wiped and which accounts you are currently signed in to. Once you are sure, hit Reset phone to continue
It will now ask you to confirm your unlock pattern (or however you unlock your device) for security purposes.
In the next window simply hit the Erase everything button. This is the last point at which you can back out if you wish.
Your device will now power down. You will then see the Android bot on the screen whilst the reset is performed.
Once this has been completed (approx 1 minute) your device will then reboot and you will come to the first of the device set up screen. Select your contries languge and hit Start to begin
In the next screen it will ask you to log in to the available Wi-Fi connections. Select your Wi-Fi and input the password when asked.
You will now be asked to connect to your Google account so that your personal details and data can be restored.
Enter your Google account details and then Next
Accept Google’s Terms and hit OK.
You will now see a message saying that you were unable to sign in as you need to use your phones browser to sign in to your Google account. Hit Next
You will now see a mini-browser window which will require you to enter your Google password again (same one as you used just above)
Now, remember what I was saying earlier about having 2-Step Verification enabled on your Gmail account. This is where having access to your Backup Codes makes things easy to do, as you don’t have access to your Google Authenticator app yet. Once you have one of your codes available, select the Don’t have your phone? link just below the box.
Note: If you don’t have access to your Backup Codes, but do have internet access via your PC, you can view the codes by heading to your Google SmsAuthSettings (you will need to sign in again for security reasons) and select Show Backup Codes.
This will then open a small window displaying your available codes. If you have used up the current codes (as I have a few times before) then simply hit the Generate New Codes button.
Only the latest codes will work. You can also save these codes by either choosing to print then (eg. keep in your wallet) or save them as a text file. (eg. store on your Dropbox account) Once you have one of these codes available, simply input it when prompted (as shown below)
Here you will be given 3 different way to access your account
- Use a backup code (my choice above)
- Send to your backup phone number ending in xx
- Send to your backup phone number ending in yy
Enter the code given and hit Verify
You will now be signed in
Check both the boxes available (ensures that Google will continue to make backups in the future as well as restoring your device to the previous backups.)
You can now choose whether or not you want Google as well as other apps to have access to your location (your choice)
It will then say Just a Sec followed by a Set up Complete message. Hit Finish and you are pretty much done.
Now all you have to do is a bit of house keeping and rearrange all of your apps again as well as re-enable your pattern/PIN/Face Unlock security functions.