How To: Soft and Hard Reset Your Windows Phone

Like on other platforms, Windows Phone devices support various levels of reset – which may be life savers in certain situations. I feel with the arrival of Windows 10 for Phone preview builds, the need of knowing how to perform a soft or hard reset is even more acute than before.

If you’re wondering why (you probably didn’t get to test Win10 preview on your phone), the short version is these builds are far from the final version of the OS and often behave unpredictably because of bugs and insufficient optimization.

However, I think knowing which type of reset should be used and how to do it can get you out of serious trouble faster than you might think even if you didn’t choose to jump on the Windows 10 bandwagon prematurely.

Soft Reset

This is an extended reboot that will not remove any data from your phone, in fact using this method is completely risk free. It can be useful in various situations such as:

  • You can’t open one or more apps
  • The devices freezes becoming unresponsive
  • One or more apps are repeatedly crashing
  • Anything odd (and seemingly inexplicable) that happens while using the device

When it comes to apps, in some cases, the problems you’re experiencing might simply be their own fault and something only their developers can fix. But you can never be sure until you perform a soft reset.

How to soft reset your phone

Slide down to power off

The quickest way you can do this is by turning your phone off normally (by long pressing the Power button) and use the ‘Slide down to power off” prompt. After your device shuts down, wait for a few seconds and turn it back on. There can be situations in which your device won’t respond to this method aka nothing happens.

There’s another way to do it, but only if your phone has a removable battery. Open your device and remove the battery. Wait for 5-10 seconds so the phone is completely discharged. Insert the battery into the device and close the case then start the phone by long pressing the Power button.

Finally, Lumia owners (it may also work for other Windows Phones) can also use this method:

With your phone turned on press and hold the Volume Down + Power buttons for about 10 seconds until your phone reboots. This method always worked for me.

Hard Reset

The Hard Reset will revert your phone to its factory settings. This means all your personal data, settings, apps, messages…etc. will be erased. If you back up your phone before this, using the related options in the Settings menu, you’ll be able to easily restore all of this, as long as you sign in with the same Microsoft account.

Just be aware related data and progress for certain apps and/or games cannot be restored or requires you have additional accounts and/or settings enabled within the apps themselves. Some apps offer data export/import options which you can use to backup/restore their own content.

Here are a few cases in which performing a hard reset can help you:

  • You want to sell/give your phone to someone else and want to make sure all personal data is removed
  • When the soft reset method doesn’t fix your problems
  • You want to switch to another Microsoft account (there’s no other possible way)
  • You want to restore a backup

How to hard reset your phone

From the Settings

For Windows Phone 8.1 go to your phone’s Settings -> About section. For Windows 10 go to Settings -> System -> About.

Tap on ‘Reset your phone’.

Reset phone warning screen

You’ll be warned twice and asked to confirm your decision.

Once you launched the reset process it may take a while, depending on how much information and installed apps and games you had on your phone. Patience is key.

Using hardware keys

If your device is unresponsive so you can’t navigate through the system settings you can use its hardware keys to perform a hard reset. The method described below works on Lumias and as far as I know on HTC phones too. However, it may work on WP devices from other manufacturers.

Turn off the phone and wait for about 20 seconds (the phone cannot be connected to any power source).

If you can’t turn off the phone by simply pressing the Power button and using the “Slide down to power off” option (or by removing the battery for a few seconds) you can just press and hold Volume Down and Power (like you would for a soft reset) until the device vibrates. Once you feel the vibration do the following sequence as fast as possible.

While you press and hold Volume Down quickly press the Power button at the same time. Continue to keep the Volume Down button pressed and shortly an exclamation mark will appear on the screen (you can let go of the button now, by the way).

Now press the following buttons, in exactly this order: Volume Up, Volume Down, Power, Volume Down.

I hope this guide will help you troubleshoot your Windows Phone when problems appear. Just don’t forget – if you need to hard reset your phone, be sure why you’re doing it. If you’re looking for a way to downgrade the OS and/or the firmware to a previous version, like going from Windows 10 for Phones to Windows Phone 8.1, a hard reset is NOT going to do the trick.

Something like this can be achieved using the Windows Phone Recovery Tool, provided by Microsoft. It’s also a viable solution to fix your phone if not even the hard reset can solve the problems you’re experiencing.

If you want to stay updated with the latest on apps & game reviews, news, tips and how tos for Android, iOS and Windows Phone, feel free to follow us on PinterestGoogle+, Facebook and Twitter and join us on the Pocketmeta forums for some more mobile technology discussion!