Will A Factory Reset Remove Viruses? A How-To Guide For 2024

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Will a factory reset remove viruses? A factory reset is an extreme step, but it can be one of the best solutions for virus removal – though it’s important to understand what it will and won’t do.

In this article, we’ll explore how to get rid of viruses with a factory reset on a range of devices.

What is a Factory Reset?

Restoring your device to factory settings essentially means turning the clock back to make your device brand new. All your data and settings will be wiped, restoring the manufacturer’s defaults across installed apps, personal files, downloads, and even passwords.

Deleting all your files and apps will generally succeed in stopping virus infections, going beyond what even the best antivirus software can achieve.

Will a Factory Reset Remove Viruses?

A hard reset of your device will generally be highly effective in removing malware and spyware from your device – however, it’s not 100% guaranteed to eliminate threats.

If a virus has infected the files in your device’s recovery partition, used to restore factory defaults, then it won’t be removed. Equally, if you’ve inadvertently backed up infected files or if devices like keyboards or routers are infected, then you could be exposed to the threat as soon as you set your system up again.

Using advanced device forensics or antivirus software is recommended for achieving more complete protection.

Other Steps to Consider Before a Factory Reset

Before doing a full factory reset of your device, other measures should be taken to see if the issue can be resolved without you having to risk losing any data. Automated backups are ideal for rolling your system back, but the following options can also help tackle viruses.

Download Antivirus Software

Having an antivirus on your device can go a long way toward protecting you from viruses and can help you identify and remove existing infections on your system.

TotalAV is one of the best options, given its high detection rates, usability, and wide range of features.

TotalAV Antivirus Software

Remove Recently Installed Apps

If you suspect your device is infected, it’s wise to check up on new and potentially suspicious apps. Newly installed apps – particularly those from third-party app stores – could contain malicious software or be bundled with software you’re unaware of.

Use the task manager to look at what programs are running and check for any that you don’t recognize or that are consuming a disproportionate amount of system resources. Confirm what the app or program is intended for – to avoid stopping system processes – and if it’s not wanted, then delete it.

Disinfect Any External Drives

It’s sensible to double-check all USBs and external storage devices for suspicious activity if they’re connected to your device.

If you plan to back up files, thoroughly scan them before running a system reset to prevent yourself from getting reinfected. On a broader level, it’s wise to be wary of connecting your device to unknown external drives, which can be an easy way for viruses to spread.

Scan Your Router

Don’t forget to check for malicious traffic traveling through your router. Scanning and blocking traffic from unknown IP addresses can help limit what can come into contact with your device and all those connected to the same network.

How to Do a Factory Reset

Before we run through how to remove viruses with a factory reset, you’ll likely want to make sure all your data is backed up, either with an external hard drive or using cloud-based storage. Once your data is safe, you can proceed with a factory reset.

The process is slightly different for each device. Here’s a quick guide, starting with how to get rid of viruses on your phone.

How to Factory Reset an Android

Factory reset Android Samsung

There are two ways to do this – via your device settings or the recovery mode.

  1. Go to “Settings,” then “System,” then “Advanced”
  2. Tap “Reset options
  3. Select “Erase All Data
  4. Confirm the factory reset to finalize the process – you may also get options on whether to preserve data at this stage

Recovery Mode

If you’re unable to get into your phone settings, you can use the recovery mode.

  1. Turn off the device
  2. Press and hold the power and volume up/down buttons, also holding the “Home” button on Samsung devices
  3. Use the volume buttons to select the wipe data or factory reset option and confirm the choice with the power button
  4. Allow the changes to run until the process is complete

How to Factory Reset an iPhone

Factory reset on an iPhone

The procedure is slightly different for iPhones and will depend on whether you have access to your Apple ID.

  1. Open “Settings” and go to “General”
  2. Next, tap “Reset” and “Erase All Content and Settings
  3. Confirm your choice by entering your password and then click “Erase iPhone” to complete the reset – this may take a few minutes

How to Factory Reset an iPhone Without an Apple ID Password

If you’re not able to use your Apple ID, you need to go to Recovery Mode to reset the device.

  1. Connect your iPhone to a computer and open iTunes
  2. Press and release the volume up, then the volume down button, and then the side button in order to put your device into recovery mode
  3. Choose “Restore” and follow any additional instructions
  4. Then, wait for the reset to complete before disconnecting your device from the computer

How to Factory Reset a Desktop Device

There are different approaches for resetting different desktop devices – here’s a step-by-step method for each operating system.

How to Factory Reset Windows 10 and 11

  1. Go to settings, then “System” (“Update & Security” in Windows 10), and click “Recovery
  2. Under “Reset this PC,” you’ll find two options – “Keep my files” and “Remove everything”
  3. Follow the instructions to reset your PC

Factory reset a PC

How to Factory Reset a Mac

macOS also comes with a reset option, which is labeled “Erase All Content and Settings.” To access it, follow these steps.

  1. From your home screen, open “System Preferences” (“System Settings” in macOS Ventura or later)
  2. For macOS Ventura, select “General” and then “Transfer” or “Reset” and then “Erase All Content And Settings” (with macOS Monterey, you can choose this option from the “System Preferences” menu)
  3. Finally, confirm your choice by clicking “Erase Now” – this may take a few minutes

How to Factory Reset a Chromebook

Chromebooks are relatively secure devices, but that doesn’t mean a factory reset won’t be useful if you’re concerned about an infection or want to pass the device on. Here are the steps to factory reset a Chromebook.

  1. Sign out on the device
  2. Hit Ctrl + Alt + Shift + R
  3. Click “Powerwash” on the pop-up box that appears and then “Continue” and follow the subsequent instructions to completely reset your Chromebook

What to Do if a Virus Returns After a Hard Reset

Factory reset to remove computer viruses

Resetting your device to factory settings is an extreme step, but it won’t always address the issue if your recovery partition has been infected or you’re getting re-exposed to the virus.

The first step is to check your security settings. If you’re using a PC, make sure your network and firewall settings are turned on, and if not, look for the option to reset the defaults.

Next is to check your home network settings. Disconnect all peripheral devices and reset your router or modem. This minimizes the channels through which your device can be attacked.

Antivirus software is the most effective way to get rid of viruses. There are lots of solutions available that can scan and remove malware and other threats. The top antivirus tools are around 90% to 98% and can help you ensure there are no infected files in your backups or in your system defaults.

If all this fails, you may want to seek professional assistance from cybersecurity experts to identify the issue.

Tips to Stop Your Device Getting Viruses

Prevention is better than cure for your health and the health of your digital devices. Here are some tips to stop viruses from getting onto your device.

  • Keep your system and software up to date, including all firmware security patches.
  • Don’t open suspicious emails or download files from unknown senders. Some of the most persistent computer viruses in history were spread by email, so it’s better not to take the risk.
  • Only download apps from trusted sources like Google Play or the App Store, and be wary of “free” apps from third parties.
  • Get antivirus software. Being able to scan your system, quarantine threats, and block malicious websites and downloads is invaluable for ensuring your online safety.
  • Don’t root or jailbreak your device. Doing so exposes you to a wider range of security threats, so it’s best to stick to default settings to keep yourself safe.

Other Antivirus Guides From Techopedia

We’ve created a wide range of guides to the best antivirus tools on the market for different devices and use cases. If you want to learn more about protecting your devices online, check out the links below for more resources.

Summary – Will A Factory Reset Remove A Virus?

Factory resetting your device is a fairly extreme measure and should generally only be considered as a last resort. Before doing this, run thorough antivirus scans to identify any known threats.

If all else fails, then factory resetting may be necessary – but it’s not guaranteed to completely erase all traces of malicious software.

Preventative measures such as using an antivirus and keeping your device up-to-date are advisable to protect you from future attacks and will help you identify and address issues.

Having automatic backups in place can also be effective – allowing you to roll your system back in the event of disaster. Ultimately, prevention is always better than cure.

Factory Reset Virus FAQs

Will a factory reset remove malware?

What does a factory reset do?

Does a factory reset delete everything?

What happens if I factory reset my phone?

Will a factory reset remove hackers?

Can a virus survive a reformat?

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Nick Saraev
Tech and SaaS Expert
Nick Saraev
Tech and SaaS Expert

Nick Saraev is a writer & entrepreneur who pivoted from a path in medicine to forge a series of successful digital media businesses. He's been featured in Popular Mechanics, Apple News, & Bloomberg, and is an Amazon Kindle best-seller. He has extensive experience in the tech and SaaS industry, writing in-depth guides to help users grasp technical concepts better.