How to Backup and Reset an Android Phone
Having problems with your Android smartphone? A factory data reset can fix most issues that can occur on an Android phone. This process will clear the entire phone and revert it back to how it was when it came off the assembly line. Any incorrect settings, glitches, bugs, viruses, or software problems on the device will be wiped clean. The phone is going to think its brand new right out of the box.
Since the factory data reset erases the content and information on the device this article also covers how to backup your important data such as pictures, contacts, text messages, etc. that way when you reset the phone you won’t lose any of your important information.
If you’re looking for instructions on how to fully backup and reset your Android smartphone then this step by step guide is exactly what you’re looking for.
Step 1: Software vs Hardware
The instructions found on this page will only fix software related issues (how the phone thinks, its brains), NOT hardware (its body and parts). If your phone is suffering from a hardware or physical issue then read Tips on how to fix a broken phone. If your phones not responsive or you are unable to navigate at all then click here for specialized instructions. Otherwise proceed to step 2.
The first thing that you are going to want to do before resetting your Android phone is to make sure that the important information that’s currently saved on the phone is backed up to a place other than the phone. That way, once you reset the unit, you can put your information back onto your phone and you won’t lose anything. If you have already saved everything on your mobile or don’t need anything to be saved then proceed to step 7.
If you’re not sure if you have a memory card, here is how you can check.
- Go to your home page, the main screen when you turn on your phone (tap the home key, it’s one of the 4 physical buttons on the bottom underneath the phones display, usually looks like a house)
- Tap on your menu key, (it’s one of the four buttons too, usually on the far left.)
- Tap settings, (once you tap on the menu key, the phone should show a few options on its screen, one of those options is settings, select settings.)
- Scroll to and select Storage, (It should give you a list of options to choose from. Scroll down and select the option that has the word storage in it. This option will be different depending on what type of phone you have; it will say either “Storage” or “SD and Phone Storage”, etc. click on that storage option.
- Look for an option that says “Mount SD card” or “Unmount SD card”, if the phone is reading a memory card then it will say “Unmount SD card”, the phones basically saying I see a memory card in me, do you want me to unmount it so you can take it out without having to power me off first? If it says “mount”, then the phone is not reading a memory card and it will probably be grayed out not even letting you click it.
- Don’t click it! If you clicked it, don’t worry it won’t hurt it, just click it again. It needs to read unmount if you want to save stuff to your memory card.
Mount SD = No Memory card
Unmount SD = You have a Memory Card
If that’s too complicated, didn’t make sense, or the issue on your phone won’t let you do that than just look for a physical chip that plugs into your phone, different phones have them in different places, sometimes you have to pull the battery out of the phone to get to it, sometimes it plugs into the side or the bottom, it just depends on the phone. Remember it’s NOT your SIM card that you’re looking for. SD or Memory cards usually say SanDisk on them and often a size like 2GB (two gigabytes) 4GB, 6GB, 8GB, 16GB etc. Some phones come with them some don’t. If you got one proceed to step 3, if not step 4.
Good you have a memory card! Great investment, you never know if and when your phone is going to stop powering on or give you a white screen of death and you won’t be able to save or transfer your info then.
Saving your information to your memory card is going to be different depending on who made your phone. Select the manufacturer below, it will take you to those instructions. Once you backup your photos, videos, music, etc. come back to this page and proceed to step 5. If you want to back up your information to other places other than your SD card you can go to step 4.
No Memory card? Bummer, you should get one after we fix your phone, they make your life so much easier and help your phone run smoother too. Do some shopping online for some good deals on memory cards, or read this page on what memory card is right for you. It’s never a bad investment and if you get another phone it will make transferring your information to that other phone a lot easier on you. But I digress; here are a few ways that you can backup your info.
A computer – your best bet is to backup your information to a computer. I’m going to briefly outline how to do that below.
Connect your phone to the computer – your charging cable that came with the mobile and your data cable are one in the same. Simply, gently, pull on the cable part and the part that actually plugs into the wall outlet. It should separate into 2 different pieces. If your cable was damaged or no longer available you’re going to need to get another one, click here to get the best deal on one. I recommend you have one, one way or the other, so that you can get into the good habit of backing up your phone on a regular basis.
Once you plug the phone into the computer, the computer should recognize the phone and a pop-up will show on your computer screen giving you some options. You want to select the last option. You want to select the option that says something like “open folders to view files”. If nothing pops up on your computer then look at your phone. If you have an option that says “mass storage” you want to click that, it might also have“transfer information”, “connect to computer”, etc. mass storage is most common, once you click on that then wait a min and the “open folder to view files” option should pop up.
Once you click on the “open folder to view files” on the computer, it’s going to show you a few manila envelope looking folders. Look for the one that says “DCIM”. That DCIM folder is where all the pictures and videos that were taken and are saved onto your phone are located. If you want, you can click on that DCIM then click on Camera and you should see all your pictures.
What you need to do is right click that DCIM folder (right click on your mouse not left click) then select “copy” (left click the mouse on copy). After you click copy, you need to minimize (not close) that window on the computer (look in the upper right hand corner, click on the box that looks like a minus sign “_” not the close “X”.
Once that screen is minimized, right click on an empty spot on your desktop (the screen you see when you first turn on your computer), then tap on “Paste”. That will paste a copy of all your pictures/videos from your phone onto your computer. You should see a new file/folder on your desktop that says DCIM, go ahead and open it, make sure all your pictures are there.
It’s as easy as that. You’re going to want to open that window that has all your phones folders back up and repeat the process for any other information you’re going to want to save from your phone. That might include a music folder, maybe an app folder, etc the main thing is your pictures. Don’t worry about saving your names and phone numbers. We’ll get to saving your contacts in a minute. Just save any other files from your phone onto your computer.
Once everything is saved onto your computer you can close that window that shows your phones files, and go into my computer, right click on the drive that’s showing your phone, and selecting unmount/safely remove/eject etc. if you don’t see that, or that steps to complicated just unplug your phone from the computer. Once it’s unplugged go into your computer and make sure you can open those files/folders you saved onto your computer, just to double check. Then if everything is saved proceed to step 5 below.
Google Drive – it’s ok if you don’t have a computer or memory card, there are a few other options, just a little more involved. What I would recommend is to (if your phone will allow you) go to the app marketplace and download the app named Google Drive, it’s made by Google Inc. Just go to the marketplace and do a search for Google Drive, it will be the first option that pops up. It’s actually an app written by Google designed to backup info and from what I have seen, it’s pretty slick. What it does is actually allows you to backup up to 5GB worth of information onto Google’s online server. Don’t worry no one else can see your stuff. Best part is that you get 5GB FREE! I don’t know about you but free is always in my price range. 5GB should be more than enough space for the average user.
Once downloaded and installed then go into your pictures, tap the menu key, tap share, then share to Drive. This will upload your pictures online where they will be nice and safe.
Note: this WILL use up data from your data plan if you’re not connected to WiFi (wireless internet). I always recommend that if you can use a wireless internet then use it! It’s usually cheaper and faster.
A little more tedious but doable – is to send your info via text or email. Just open a message, attach file, select a file like a picture, type in person’s cell phone number or better yet email address, and send the file that way. Again, Tedious but doable. I would also check where ever you are sending your information just to make sure that it send and received correctly.
Note: when sending pictures through text messaging there is often a loss of quality. It’s not an incredible difference in resolution but just FYI.
Bluetooth the information to another device – most of the time when we think of Bluetooth we think of our phone connecting to a headset or the Bluetooth in our car but Bluetooth can be used to transfer your information as well. The simplest way to Bluetooth info is to download an app to help you. Go to the marketplace aka Play Store and search for “Bluetooth File Transfer”. It pretty much streamlines the entire process. Great app and again free.
I have talked about pictures and videos and thrown around the word information but one of the most important things that are found on a mobile phone is its contacts! Well, when it comes to your address book the android phones got you covered. Your android phone automatically backs up your contacts for you. All you will need to do to get your contacts back after a reset, or if you get another phone, as long as it’s an android phone, is log into your Gmail account again. Gmail not only backs up your contacts and calendar but it’s also your online signature. When you buy an app the marketplace remembers your Gmail account and if you need to download it again then guess what… you won’t have to pay for it again. Another great idea by the all powerful GOOGLE!
Checking your Gmail account (the basics) - first let’s make sure you know your Gmail account. Many people set and forget, don’t fret if you don’t know it. To check your Gmail account, go into your settings and open the option that says accounts (it might say “accounts and sync”), under accounts it will show all the accounts that you have associated with your mobile device (like email accounts Facebook accounts etc). Look for the option that has an account that ends in @gmail.com for example it might look something like firstname.lastname@example.org. That is going to be your Gmail account (unless you have two Gmails, if you have two Gmail accounts then the Gmail that’s synced to your phone is the 1st one you added to the phone).
Note: you can check if it’s your Gmail account by actually clicking on the account and at the bottom it will have a remove account option. If you click it, your phone WILL NOT let you remove your Gmail account, a primary Gmail account is that important. In fact, the only way to remove a primary Gmail, once it’s on your phone, is to erase everything from the phone, which coincidently is what we want to do. --UPDATE: newer Android phones that run on Android Version 4.0 or later may allow you to remove your primary Gmail account without having to factory data reset your device --.
Make sure you know that Gmail account, write it down if you need to, we are going to need it later. After you have it written down then click on your Gmail account (click on that email on your accounts page that you’re still on). Once you open it up it will have a few items that the phone is syncing. This list gets bigger and bigger, but the list should have sync contacts, sync Google, sync calendar, etc. on many phones (HTC can be so user friendly) there is a sync now option. Click on that, once you click “sync now” it’s going to put some spinning circles next to those options letting you know that its syncing. Once those spinning circles disappear it should show the days date next to the options in that list. If the spinning circle stops spinning, especially on the calendar option, just give it a minute or sync it again. Sometimes the calendar ones stubborn, unless you have really important information on your calendar and the date next to it is way off then don’t worry if that circle won’t disappear. It happens and is not a big deal in the slightest.
Note: If you don’t have a “sync now” option then just click on the list item itself. So for example click “sync contacts” if it deselects then reselect it and it will manually sync. As long as the date next to sync contacts is showing the days date then you’re address book is synced to your Gmail and you’re good to go.
Note: you can check to make sure you know your Gmail accounts password by getting on a computer, going to mail.google.com and signing in. If you can sign in on a computer you can sign in on your phone. You can also reset your password on that website if you need to.
Saving your contacts on something other than your Gmail – if you are synced to your Gmail then you don’t NEED to do the following, and can proceed to step 6. However it would be a good idea to back your contacts up to a place other than your Gmail. Having a hard copy rather than it stored only in cyberspace can be a real lifesaver, especially if you’re not sure what your Gmail account password is. Better to be safe than sorry, and having multiple copies is a GOOD IDEA.
Saving contacts to your SIM card – Some phones do not have SIM Cards; it depends on what wireless carrier you use. Wireless providers that use phones that run on GSM technology require SIM Cards to function. AT&T and T-Mobile both use SIM Cards in their wireless devices. Verizon and Sprint phones don’t have SIM Cards. If you use a phone that has a SIM Card then backing up your contacts to that SIM can be one of the best choices available.
A SIM card, its official name being subscriber identity module if you ever have to answer a trivia question, will allow you to save 250-300 contacts onto it, usually 250. Sims will usually only hold names and phone numbers, sorry it won’t hold your pictures, and it will not hold fax number street addresses etc. so when you’re saving contacts to your SIM if you get an “Some information might be lost” message, that’s what its letting you know, only names and phone numbers.
The backup process varies depending on the device your using. On some phones you have to back up your contacts one at a time and it’s just torture, I’m having flashes of the ATT HTC Inspire, where to save on the SIM you have to do it one contact at a time, and a business phone can have a thousand contacts and its painful, luckily that phone comes with a memory card and you can import/export the contacts to the SD card from the phone in a matter of seconds. It just saves it as a v-card file. But I digress again.
Typically to back up your contacts from your phone to your SIM card you go into your contacts/people, tap your menu key, tap More, select SIM Management, tap Copy Contacts to SIM, select all, copy/export, tap ok, and your done. If you don’t see a SIM management option then look for an Import/Export option and Export/Copy to SIM.
Now you have a hard copy of your contacts as well as your Gmail. If you don’t have a memory card proceed to step 6, if you do, you’re in luck you can save way more than 250 contacts to your SD card.
Saving contacts to your SD card - This varies depending on the phone as well, so I will list a few of the common methods.
Method 1 (usual HTC method)
Go to your people, press your menu key, select import/export, select export to SD card, it will ask you where you want export from, select Phone, press ok. And you’re done.
Method 2 (usual Samsung method)
Go into your contacts, tap your menu key, tap Import/export, and export to SD card, if it asks you “are you sure you want to copy your contacts to your memory card” you press ok. And then you’re done.
The Method 1 and 2 pretty much sum up most phones. You might have to poke around a bit on your phone but you just want to export your contacts to your memory card (also shown as SD Card on most phones).
Note: If you need to pull contacts onto your phone from a memory card then go to import/export again and select Import this time. Then Import the contacts to the phone (not Gmail). It’s as easy as pie.
Note: saving contacts to a memory card is a lot faster than saving them onto a SIM card; it’s probably going to finish very fast and might not show you a “processing” message. Once you go through method 1 or 2 it should take you back to your contact list and be done. You can back them up twice to make sure that it really saved if you worry as I sometimes do. It won’t hurt it or anything and you won’t get duplicate contacts if you need to import them back onto your phone. If/when you import them just don’t chose “import all files” you need to select the file with the most resent date on it.
Go through your phone and check you’re saved text messages, and check you’re apps. Your applications are going to need to be re-downloaded onto your phone after the reset (most of the time, the newest phones running the 4.x.x Ice Cream Sandwich or higher often sync your apps too, but that’s something you don’t need to worry about). Some people have a lot of apps on their phone and when they do a reset and go to re-download their apps they say to themselves “what apps did I have again?” Just write down the apps you don’t think you will be able to remember so that you can find and re-download them again if you need to.
As for your texts messages, make sure to record those as well. There’s not really any default way to save texts, even if you have a memory card. HOWEVER someone did recognize the need to save texts messages and there is a trick to it. If you absolutely need to save your text messages then you can look into the options mentioned in How to backup and save text messages on an Android phone.
Note: If your phone is capable of taking screenshots (most current Android phones running on Android 4.0 or higher allow you to take screenshots) then instead of writing this information down you can simply take a screenshot of it, move the screenshot(s) from the phones storage to an SD card or computer, and you will have a copy of your message. ~**Suggestion submitted by Ruairí O'Neill on 12/03/2013 click here to read his comment**~
You can also use this screenshot trick to help you remember how you customized your phone after you bought it. If you added or moved icons to or from the phones desktop then when you reset the phone these icons may not appear in the same places that you put them, as they return to their default locations. By taking screenshots of the changes that you made to your desktop, apps, messages, or other parts of your phone you can save yourself the headache of trying to remember where you had everything before you performed the reset. This is just a cool little tip that you should consider when performing a hard reset on an Android phone.
When you have your texts and apps recorded proceed to step 7.
Your phone is completely backed up and we are ready to proceed with the reset. What we need to do is find the option to do a Factory Data Reset. This too depends on the make, model and software currently on your phone. Here are two of the most common methods on how to perform a factory data reset through the settings of an android phone. IMORTANT NOTE: if there is an option to erase your memory card, make sure that that option is NOT selected, you do NOT want to erase/format your memory card.
Home key > Menu key > Settings > Privacy > Factory Data Reset, when on the reset page you’re going to get a big warning that you’re about to erase the information on your phone and that you should know your Gmail account and backup your phone (pretty much what we went over and have already done in these instructions). Click on Reset phone, and then click Erase Everything. The phone will power itself off all by its self and then power itself back on all by itself. It can take a few minutes to boot back up. Once it does proceed to step 8.
Home key > Menu key > Settings > SD and Phone Storage > Factory Data Reset >you’ll see the same warning showed in method 1 > Reset Phone > Erase Everything. After it reboots go to step 8.
If you’re on the 4.0 Ice Cream Sandwich Operating System or later then try this method.
Drag down the Notification Bar (the black bar on the top of the screen where the signal strength bars, battery life, and clock is located), and then tap the settings icon (the icon that looks like a little white gear). Or to get to the settings you can go to the home page, press the Menu key, and then tap Settings.
Once in the Settings scroll down and tap the “Back up and reset” option.
Tap Factory data reset > Reset device > Delete all. After it reboots go to step 8.
Congratulations, you made it through my lengthy instruction manual on how to backup, reset, and hopefully more importantly, fix your android phone. Now what you need to do is setup your android phone like you did when you first purchased it. Go through those settings and when it asks or prompts you to log into your Gmail account make sure you, add a Gmail account, and then Sign in, NOT sign up. You want to sign into an existing account (the one we checked earlier in step 5) you don’t want to create a new account.
Log into your Gmail account, if it doesn’t ask you to log into one during the phone setup then go to Settings > Accounts (or Accounts and Sync) > Add Account > Sign In. If you’re Mobile asks if you want to sync your phone to your Gmail then select yes, you’re going to want to sync your phone with your Gmail account.
Step 9: Enjoy your Working Phone
Your phone should now be working correctly, so enjoy.
Step 10: Additional Suggestions/Advice
I recommend that you try your phone without any apps on it, and as a clean installation for a couple days, just to make sure everything is working correctly. After a couple days, if your phones still working fine, then start re-downloading your applications, one at a time. Download an app try it out for a day or two, download another app try it out. If you download an app and your phone starts acting funny, then it’s probably that app and you should uninstall it and not use it any more.
Step 11: Still Having Problems
If for some reason this troubleshooting didn’t fix your issues, I can’t fix my phone, now what should I do? might be of some use.
Also if you have any questions or a suggestion or just want to leave a friendly comment don’t hesitate to do so in the comments section below.