Data Security

The Complete Guide to Factory Reset

Sometimes, the easiest way to restore a device — and to help ensure that it doesn't escalate into a data breach — is to start over by resetting it to factory settings. Learn more about the importance of a factory reset within your fleet recicling plans or even as data security measure when an incident ocurrs .

April 28, 2022

A factory reset restores a computer, smartphone, etc. back to the state it was in when it left the factory. This includes deleting all of the data, apps, and settings that the user changed on the device. The next person to use it should have the same experience as when it was first unboxed.

Depending on the electrical gadget, factory resets can be accomplished in a variety of methods. In certain cases, this can be accomplished by accessing the device's Service Menu. Other gadgets may need a complete software reinstall. The following sections will explain the importance of a factory reset and will detail how to restore factory settings to a variety of common devices.

Reasons to Factory Reset your Device

A factory reset should be a user’s last resort because it completely removes all applications, data, etc. from the device. If it is is lost or stolen, using a remote lock and wipe tool such as Apple Lock Factory Reset to remotely lock a device may be a less drastic step that could be followed by a factory reset if needed.

However, some scenarios exist where a factory reset may be the right choice. These include the following.

Preparing a device to be lent to an employee

For an organization wanting to maximize the impact of its IT budget, loaner devices are a logical choice. Allowing employees to check out devices as needed prevents waste if they are only using them sporadically if at all.

However, shared corporate devices create the potential for an employee to have unnecessary and unauthorized access to corporate data stored on it. Performing a factory reset of devices between owners helps to prevent these accidental data leaks.

Viruses, malware, and other threats

Some types of malware are designed to be persistent and difficult to remove from a device. Simply deleting the malware might not be enough if it has made deep-level changes to the system’s settings.

Since a factory reset restores a device to its original state, it can be a solution to these persistent malware variants. By deleting all files and restoring original settings, it removes both the malware and its various persistence mechanisms.

You want to sell your device

Information accidentally left on sold or discarded devices is a common source of data leaks. Some cyber threat actors will buy them up secondhand in the hopes of collecting sensitive information that was accidentally left on them.

Performing a factory restore before selling or discarding a device is a good security practice. Wiping data and applications from any gadget helps to protect against data loss and ensures that the next user doesn’t have access to corporate applications or systems.

You are going to install some ROM or modify the system

Smartphones commonly have built-in limitations on what their owners can do. For example, the only way to achieve root-level permissions on these phones is to root/jailbreak the device by exploiting a vulnerability in the operating system.

To achieve greater configurability and control, some smartphone users will install custom ROMs. When doing so, resetting the device to factory state is a necessary first step.

You are having data-related issues with your device

Applications, configuration settings, and other factors may cause a device to become unusable. If it is running slowly or freezing, the logical first step is to attempt to identify and fix the problem application or setting.

However, if this does not address the issue, then a factory reset may be the best option. Since this removes all applications and data from the device and resets its settings to factory state, it can likely fix any software-related issues with a malfunctioning device.

How to Factory Reset Your Device

The factory reset process differs based on the type and operating system of a device. The easy way to perform a factory reset is with data protection tools that offer this feature. If no such tools are instsalled, here is how to perform a factory reset on Android, iPhone, macOS, and Windows.

Android devices

Different Android devices and OS versions have different processes for performing a factory reset. The Reset option is commonly found in the Settings app under General Management but can also be found by searching the Settings app for the word “Reset”.

Within the Reset window should be an option for Factory data reset. Clicking on this option and following the prompts will result in all user-installed apps and data being removed from the device.

iPhone

An iPhone, iPad, or iPod Touch can be factory restored via the following steps:

  1. Open the Settings app
  2. Select General
  3. Click on Transfer or Reset iPhone
  4. Click Reset
  5. Choose “Erase All Content and Settings”
  6. If asked, provide Apple ID password or passcode

An iPhone can also be factory reset by connecting it to a Mac computer. After connecting the device, tell it to Trust This Computer and select the device when it appears on the Mac. Under the General tab, click Restore iPhone and confirm by clicking Restore.

macOS

On a Mac running macOS Monterey, follow these steps to factory restore your device:

  1. Select System Preferences from the top menu bar
  2. Click “Erase All Contents and Settings”
  3. Type in your password and click OK
  4. Click Continue to avoid making a backup
  5. Click Continue to all all content and settings to be removed
  6. If prompted, enter your password to sign out of Apple ID
  7. Click Erase All Contents & Settings to wipe the device
  8. Follow prompts throughout the reinstallation process

At the end of the macOS factory reset process, the computer should show the Activate Mac screen.

Windows

On a Windows device, follow these steps to perform a factory restore. But first, if you're using a laptop or another mobile device, connect it to an outlet to keep it charged. If you can't connect your laptop to an outlet, ensure that you have a battery charge of at least 50%, otherwise Microsoft won't let you do a factory reset

  1. Open the Start Menu and click the gear icon to open Settings
  2. Select Update & Security
  3. Choose Recovery in the left pane
  4. Under the “Reset this PC” heading, click Get started
  5. Select Remove everything
  6. Choose Cloud download for an easier installation of Windows
  7. Click Next
  8. Click Reset

When Windows is done reinstalling, all user-installed apps and data and user accounts will be deleted from the computer.

Simplified, Remote Factory Reset

While mobile devices running Android or iOS may have built-in support for a remote wipe or factory reset, the same is not always true of laptops.  Companies wanting to prepare a laptop for a new employee or minimize the risk of a lost or stolen device could benefit from remote factory reset functionality.
Factory Reset is one of many data protection features available from Prey for Windows devices.  Learn more about Prey’s Factory Reset and Kill Switch data protection tools.

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