You’re thinking about hitting that “Factory Reset” button. But wait. What happens next? Does a factory reset wipe out everything on your device? Let’s dive in.

The Answer (TL;DR)

Short answer: A factory reset deletes almost everything on your device, including apps, settings, and personal data like photos and messages. However, it does not erase the firmware, Android or iOS, which is essential for your device to function.

What is a Factory Reset?

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A factory reset, also known as a master reset or hard reset, is a software restore process. It’s like taking a time machine back to the moment you first unboxed your device. The factory reset reverts your device to its original, out-of-the-box settings, effectively erasing all the changes you’ve made since then.

If you don’t need to do anything this extreme, you’re probably best off doing a standard reset on your phone.

What Happens During a Factory Reset?

During a factory reset, your device undergoes a full wipe of its internal storage. This means all your apps, settings, and user data like photos, messages, and files get deleted. It’s a clean slate. However, the firmware—the software that runs your device’s hardware—remains untouched.

The firmware – Android or iOS, for instance – is the backbone of your device. It’s what makes your phone a phone, or your tablet a tablet. Deleting it would essentially “brick” your device, rendering it useless. So, the firmware stays put during a factory reset to ensure your device remains operational.

Can You Undo a Factory Reset? No, a factory reset is irreversible. Once you hit that button and confirm the action, there’s no going back. That’s why it’s crucial to backup your data before taking this step.

When Should You Consider a Factory Reset?

A factory reset is often the last resort for troubleshooting persistent software issues. It’s also a must-do if you’re planning to sell, donate, or recycle your device. Just remember, a factory reset is a powerful tool—use it wisely.

Why Perform a Factory Reset?

Two main reasons. One, you’re selling your device. Two, it’s acting up. A reset can fix software issues. Or, if your phone is unresponsive, you can use a computer to force a factory reset.

Does It Delete Everything?

Short answer: mostly, yes. Here’s what you need to keep in mind before initiating a factory reset:

  • What Gets Deleted? Apps, settings, and user data. That includes your photos, messages, and files.
  • What Doesn’t Get Deleted? The operating system. Also, any files on an external SD card or cloud storage.

Factory Reset: Android & iPhone – They Do It Differently

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Android Devices

A soft reset on some Android devices is a milder form of resetting compared to a factory reset. It only restores your device’s settings to their default state, leaving your personal files like photos, videos, and apps untouched.

This is useful for minor troubleshooting, like fixing connectivity issues or app glitches. The process usually involves going to “Settings,” then “System,” and selecting “Reset options.”

It’s generally considered a safe option for resolving small issues without risking your personal data.


iPhones have an option called “Erase All Content and Settings,” and it’s as comprehensive as it sounds. When you choose this option, your iPhone will delete all your apps, settings, and personal data like photos and messages.

It’s essentially Apple’s version of a factory reset, designed to wipe your device clean. This is particularly useful if you’re planning to sell your iPhone or give it away. However, it’s irreversible, so always make sure to back up your data before taking this step.

The option is usually found under “Settings,” then “General,” and finally “Reset.” It’s a powerful tool, so use it wisely.

The Risks

  • Data Recovery: Deleted doesn’t mean gone forever. Skilled people can recover data. Always encrypt your device before a factory reset.
  • Personal Information: Your data could fall into the wrong hands. Be cautious.
  • Real-World Example: I once sold an old smartphone. Did a factory reset. Thought I was safe. Wrong. The buyer recovered some old photos. Lesson learned: always encrypt.

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