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Android customization - how to factory reset your Android device, and a few things you should do first

You've tried everything you can think of to fix a problem with your Android device, now it is time for a factory reset. Here is how it's done, and what you should do before you push those buttons.
March 19, 2015

Last week on our Android customization series, we helped out the beginning Android users in the crowd, showing off how to install a new icon pack on your Android device. This week is still a somewhat beginners task, we’ll look at performing a factory reset on your Android device.

More than just a straight out factory reset, we will start with some best practices on backing up your data before the wipe and a few other tips to help make recovery from the reset as quick and painless as possible.

Today, we will be working on a WiFi only Nexus 7 (2013) running Android Lollipop. However, you will find that most Android devices operate in a very similar way.

Before we begin

When it comes to a factory reset, the first thing you need to do is determine if a reset is right for your needs. An obvious time to reset your device is when it is going to someone else and you want to protect your data. If you are selling your device, donating it to family, returning it for service or other that eyes other than your own will be viewing the device, a factory reset is not a bad idea.

If you are looking at doing a factory reset to repair an issue with your unit, perhaps you should look for one of our fix it articles for your phone or tablet. You may be able to fix your device without a factory reset.

How to factory reset your Android device

The buttons to press to actually perform the factory reset on your Android device are really simple. But before we get to that, let’s cover a few things we recommend doing before hitting that button. Primarily, we recommend backing up your data and checking a few quick settings, let’s look at those in a bit more detail.

I am certain you have heard this a thousand times before in your computer career, it remains true for your Android experience. The great thing about Android is that you’ll find most of your apps to either be cloud based or otherwise handle their own data and settings for you. For those that do not, here are a couple quick recommendations.


In-app backup or export. Many apps like Launchers and customization apps have their own built in tools for backing up your data. Look for the Export Settings option in your Launcher, or look for the Export feature in apps like Tasker or Zooper Widget.

Manual backup. Alternative title: copy/paste. This concept is pretty simple, install a file explorer, hook up to your computer and transfer the files to your PC, or up to the cloud. Of course, if you have a device with a microSD card, just make sure all the files are on the card. Grab your Downloads, DCIM, Wallpapers and Pictures folders for sure, from there, don’t forget to grab the backup and/or export files from your above in-app actions. You’ll need those to restore or import again later.

Spend some time in your files, make sure you copy off of your device everything that you want to keep. If we haven’t mentioned this yet, a factory reset will wipe all of your files, permanently deleting them forever.

Backup app. There are apps in the Google Play Store that can help you backup your data files for apps. For most of us, an app like Helium, previously named Carbon backup, is your best friend. It will backup all of your app data, including game progress, Tasker Tasks and Profiles, Zooper Widget projects, your custom keyboard dictionary, settings and more. Root users can also look at Titanium Backup and similar, but we presume that if you are rooted, you already know a thing or two about backups.

best Android tools and utility apps

Again, please spend some time with your apps, as mentioned, many just pull your info and settings from the cloud, but some do not. For example, you will not need to backup Gmail, as your messages live online, but you will need to backup any other app or game that does not have a cloud save. And if we haven’t mentioned this yet, a factory reset will wipe all of your app data as well. Say goodbye to saved game progress that you haven’t backed up above.

When it comes to managing your actual apps on your device, Google has got you covered. As you well know, the Google Play Store keeps record of all of your app installs, making it easy to find your favorites again after a reset. But there is more up Google’s sleeve.

Head into your device Settings, look for Backup & reset. There are two options here:

Android Lollipop Nexus 7 Google Backup settings

Back up my data will handle things like your saved WiFi SSIDs and passwords, plus your actual Android device settings, like display timeout. This does not backup your game data and progress as we looked at above.

Automatic restore is, as the name implies, an option to tell Google that when this device comes back online, please restore all of the Google backed up data, like WiFi passwords. It will also trigger the auto re-installation of all of your currently installed apps.


Last, and this is totally up to you, I make a habit of taking screenshots of my Homescreens and app dock, plus any settings pages for apps that I’ve spent any time customizing. For the most part, this is entirely unnecessary, but the odd time you forget what apps you had installed or why your wallpaper doesn’t fit right anymore, a screenshot to see how things were before can be very handy.


That is the bulk of preparation for a factory reset. I promise, the actual reset will seem like nothing compared to all the above work.

Now for the magic. I promise, this is really simple.  You will be warned several times along the way to make sure you’ve got everything backed up and to verify that you are certain you want to proceed. I recommend pulling your microSD card before proceeding.

Android Lollipop Nexus 7 factory reset steps

Head back into your system Settings.

Look again for Backup & reset.

Click on Factory data reset (erases all data on phone).

On the next warning screen, tap on the Reset Phone button. Like I said, you’ve been warned.

Last step: on the next warning screen, tap on the Erase Everything button.

Stand back and watch. This is it and there is no turning back. Your device will restart and wipe all data while resetting the device.

Breath! Everything is going to be fine. Wait, you remembered to backup your ringtones folder right? I’m kidding, of course you did.

What’s next

Android Lollipop Nexus 7 factory reset restore steps

What comes next is fairly obvious, you need to log into your device as though this were your first time ever using it. Then restore all of your apps and data. If you chose to let Google handle a lot of the work, you will be able to mostly just sit back and watch as the Google Play Store re-installs all of your apps. Most of your Android device settings will come back into place as well.

Reversing all of the above is pretty straightforward at this point. Sliding your microSD card back in is a simple solution, for the rest of us, you can recover app data from your Helium backup, manually transfer files back to your device by connecting to a PC. If that gives you trouble, don’t forget to try out an USB OTG option, I find it so much faster than a PC transfer.

Android USB OTG flash drives

Disclaimer: A factory reset is an unforgiving solution for wiping data from a device to overcome an issue or pass the device off to another user. Please be aware that we offer no guarantee that our suggested backup/reset/restore actions will solve your concerns, or that they will work at all. We have had good luck with a combination of all of the above techniques on many Android devices, including the stock Android Nexus device used today, but your results may vary. Don’t be afraid to find us in our forums if you have any questions before proceeding.

Next week

A factory reset can be a pretty major undertaking on an Android device, we hope today’s Android customization post has helped you work through the process. Next week, we have a device here that is using more battery than it should be, let’s look at some diagnostic tasks you can perform with the built-in Android tools, no apps required.

Have you ever factory reset your Android device? Why did you do it and did it solve your concerns?