A clean slate can do wonders in life, especially when it comes to the numerous gadgets and gizmos we use on a daily basis, like the iPhone. Although performing a factory reset of your smartphone may not sound ideal — it essentially wipes your device of any and all personal settings and data you’ve acquired through the years — it’s occasionally necessary when troubleshooting your device for software errors or when retaining your private information is of the utmost importance, such as during a sales transaction or repair.
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However, restoring any iPhone to its original factory settings is a simple a process that requires little more than your smartphone and five minutes of your time. Once completed, you’ll quickly notice that all of your phone’s data and content — songs, videos, contacts, photos, calendar info, etc.– have automatically been deleted, thus safeguarding your personal information and preventing it from falling into the wrong hands should you sell your device.
Scroll down for our quick guide on how to factory reset an iPhone, so you can ditch the data before passing on your device. The exact process for doing so may vary slightly depending on which version of iOS your iPhone is running, but it’s essentially the same regardless if you’re performing a factory reset using iTunes or your untethered phone. Furthermore, feel free to follow the same directions when performing a factory reset on any of your iOS devices.
How to factory reset an iPhone using iTunes (the old way)
Performing a factory reset on an iPhone — whether it’s a 4S or an iPhone 7 — is easier when you use iCloud and reset directly from the device, but you can still use Apple’s aging iTunes with a PC. This is useful if you have traditionally used this method and are a longtime iPhone owner.
Step 1: Prepare your iPhone for restoration
First, launch iTunes as you would normally. Then, click the iTunes menu located on the left side of the main toolbar, select Check for Updates from the resulting drop-down menu, and ensure you have the latest version of iTunes. If not, download and install the latest version thereof. Afterward, connect your iPhone to your computer via USB and click the gray Back Up Now button when viewing the Summary tab for your given device. Alternatively, follow our guide on how to use iCloud to back up the device to Apple’s remote servers. Although backing up your device is not necessary, doing so will store your photos, apps, contacts, settings, and other data so you can automatically restore other iOS devices from the backup down the line.
If you’re using an iPhone 4S or a newer device, you might also want to disable Find My iPhone. To do so, tap the main Settings icon when viewing the home screen, select iCloud, and tap Find My iPhone. Then, toggle the slider at the top to disable the feature if you haven’t done so already.
Step 2: Restore your iPhone
Once the backup is complete, click the gray Restore iPhone button when viewing the Summary tab for your given device. Click the Restore button in the resulting pop-up window to confirm your decision, and if prompted, click Agree to agree to the software license agreement and begin downloading the necessary iOS software file before restoring.
Step 3: Ensure the phone was restored
Once the restoration process is complete — a process that may take up to several minutes — check to ensure your phone has been restored to its original factory settings. If done correctly, you’ll once again be presented with the iOS Setup Assistant upon startup, from which you can then restore your phone from a backup or continue the process as if you were setting it up anew. It’s like it just came off the assembly line in China all over again.
If you want to perform a factory reset directly on your iPhone, follow the directions on the next page.
How to factory reset an iPhone using iCloud
Step 1: Prepare your iPhone for restoration
Go into your iPhone Settings menu — Settings > iCloud — and turn on the items you’d like to back up. We recommend you choose to back up almost everything, but especially your Photos, Mail, Contacts, and Notes. Once you have chosen what you would like to back up (and keep in mind that anything you do not back up will be lost forever once you perform the reset), scroll down until you find the Backup button with the green icon. Click it and turn on iCloud Backup with the toggle switch. Then, if you’re connect to Wi-Fi, you will be able to Back up now. Keep in mind that it will take a few minutes.
For more detailed instructions, check out our guide on how to use iCloud to back up your iPhone.
Alternatively, you can also still rely on a PC a little bit. Connect your iPhone to your computer via USB and click the gray Back Up Now button when viewing the Summary tab for your given device in iTunes.
Step 2: Access the Reset menu
Tap the main Settings icon when viewing the home screen, select General on the resulting menu, and tap the Reset button at the bottom of the resulting page.
Step 3: Reset your iPhone
Tap the blue Erase All Content and Settings option near the top, followed by the red Erase iPhone option in the resulting pop-up window to confirm your decision.
Step 4: Restore your iPhone
Once the reset process is complete — a process that may take up to several minutes — check to ensure your phone has been restored to its original factory settings. If done correctly, you’ll once again be presented with the iOS Setup Assistant upon startup, from which you can then restore your phone from a backup or continue the process as if you were setting it up anew.
You’ll have to log in and set up your iPhone from scratch once it has been factory reset. The prompts will ask you whether you want to restore from your iCloud account, set up a completely fresh phone without any of your previous settings, or use iTunes and a PC to put your old content onto the phone again.
We’ll go into more detail on the next page.
What do all those different reset options mean?
When you’re resetting your phone, iOS presents you with a host of different options, and it can be confusing to know which one to choose. Usually, you’ll want to perform the aforementioned factory reset, but here’s an explanation of what the other options do, so that you can choose the best reset for your needs.
It’s important to note that, if you are selling your phone or turning it over to someone else, the only one that safely erases everything and takes your phone back to its original state is Erase All Contents and Settings.
Reset all settings
If you choose this option, you won’t lose all your data, but you will lose your settings and Wi-Fi password. Manual settings will disappear, sure, but you’ll still have your pictures, apps, and other content.
Erase All Content and Settings
This is the option we described at the start of this post, which erases everything from your device. Your settings, pictures, apps, and other data will vanish for good — unless you’ve backed up your content.
Reset Network Settings
Sometimes you just need to refresh your network settings to set up a better connection. Choosing this option resets your network settings, flushes the cache, and deletes any temporary files you have stored on your device. It’s great for those who are experiencing trouble with various Wi-Fi connections.
Reset Keyboard Dictionary
Sometimes autocorrect can do more damage than good. If you feel like your iPhone is always suggesting typos and the wrong words to you based on your previous messages, you can always reset the keyboard dictionary.
Reset Home Screen Layout
Although most people like to set up their smartphone’s home screen with their favorite apps, sometimes it’s nice to change things up a bit. If you ever want to go back to the original home screen layout that came with your phone, you can choose this reset option.
Rest Location & Privacy
Sometimes, when you start tapping around in settings, you can mess things up. If you want to go back to your phone’s original privacy and location settings, this is the reset for you. All other info will remain intact.