Does a Factory Reset Get Rid of Viruses? (2023)

Topic Malware Threats

When malware infects your Mac, iPhone, or Android device, you might consider a factory reset to wipe the virus from existence. While the method can be effective, you'll also lose all of your important information. Even if you back up your data, you'll need to ensure that the backup is free from infection. If you'd prefer to remove only the malicious software, Clario's security app with built-in antivirus can perform a more targeted elimination.

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Table of contents

  • What does a factory reset do?
  • Why would you do a factory reset?
  • Will a factory reset remove malware?
  • xHelper: The unremovable Android malware
  • How do some viruses survive factory resets?
  • How to do a factory reset?
  • Factory reset for Apple iPhone and Mac
  • How to factory reset PC on Windows 10
  • How to factory reset Android phones
  • Prevention is better than cure

If your PC, Mac, iPhone, or Android smartphone becomes infected by a virus, a factory reset is one way of potentially removing it.

What does a factory reset do?

A factory reset means erasing all of the information on an electronic device and restoring the software to its original state (when it was in the factory). On your phone or desktop computer, this means all your apps and files will be removed. Any apps pre-installed by the manufacturer will be reinstated.

It’s not just computers and phones that can be restored to factory settings. TVs, printers, and GPS units are all examples of other electronic devices with factory reset options.

For MacBook Pro, MacBook Air, or iMac owners, here’s a detailed guide on how to reset Mac to factory settings.

(Video) How to Remove ANY Virus from Windows 10 in ONE STEP in 2021

Why would you do a factory reset?

There are a few different reasons why you might want to do a factory reset on your device.

  1. Giving away or selling your device to someone else
    If you’re passing your device on to someone else you’ll want to ensure you wipe your personal information and history from it first.
  2. To try and improve its performance
    If your device has become slow, is freezing on you, or just not performing well, you might decide to try a reset to factory settings. We’d only recommend this as a last resort though after you’ve attempted a manual clean-up. However, if the problem stems from your hard drive or operating system (OS), a factory reset might be a handy option.
  3. You suspect you have a virus on your device
    Viruses can be tricky to detect and time-consuming to remove. This is why protecting your devices with cybersecurity software and avoiding the problem in the first place is the best approach. If your device does become infected by a virus, a factory reset may be the only way to remove it.

Will a factory reset remove malware?

In short, yes, a factory reset will usually remove viruses … but (there’s always a ‘but’ isn’t there?) not always. Due to the wide variety and ever-evolving nature of computer viruses, it’s impossible to say for sure that a factory reset will be the answer to curing your device from malware infection.

For example, take the recent case of xHelper which reportedly infected 45,000 Android users.

xHelper: The unremovable Android malware

xHelper started infecting Android devices in March 2019. It managed to infiltrate users’ devices by hiding in the code of unofficial Android apps downloaded outside the Play Store.

Once downloaded and installed, xHelper served up intrusive pop- ups and notification spam. Annoying right?

Well, what was even more annoying was how xHelper could not be removed. Even after a factory reset, the app would somehow reinstall itself a few hours later.

There are a few ways in which this could happen.

(Video) Does factory reset remove malware?

How do some viruses survive factory resets?

In most cases, a factory reset will remove viruses. But how exactly do some manage to survive it?

  1. Your backup is infected
    Wherever your backup data is stored, make sure you scan it for malware before moving any of it back to your device.
  2. The malware is on your recovery partition
    The recovery partition is part of the hard drive where your device’s factory settings are stored. In rare cases, this can become infected with malware. Hence, doing a factory reset will not clear the virus.
  3. You might have rootkit malware
    A rootkit is a program capable of providing deep (‘root’) level access to your OS. Their original purpose was to provide authorized users with administrative access to a device. However, today, rootkits can be corrupted by malware, making them difficult to detect and remove.
  4. Other devices, like your printer, are infected
    It’s possible for malware to infect your secondary devices, such as your printer for example, without you knowing. This device can then reinfect your computer when you connect to it again, even after you’ve gone through the process of a factory reset.

How to do a factory reset?

As outlined above, a factory reset will wipe all of your files, documents, and apps from your phone or computer. This is why we only recommend a factory reset as your last resort when trying to remove malware.

Factory reset for Apple iPhone and Mac

If you’re concerned your Apple iPhone may have been infected by a virus, read up on the appropriate steps you should take before resorting to a factory reset in our guide on how to remove spyware on Apple devices.

Similarly, if you’re concerned your Apple Mac may have been infected by a virus, learn more about ways to remove malware from your Mac, including a factory reset if necessary.

How to factory reset PC on Windows 10

If your Windows PC is infected with malware, first follow the steps outlined in our guide ‘How to get rid of a computer virus’.

If you need to carry out a factory reset, you can follow the steps below:

  1. Click the Start button and click Settings
  2. Click Update & Security, then click Recovery
  3. Click Get started under Reset this PC
  4. Click the Remove everything option to erase all the data on your PC. Otherwise, click Keep my files to maintain your files and settings.
  5. Click Remove files and clean the drive to erase all data securely
  6. Click Next if you see a warning you won’t be able to revert to the prior version of Windows
  7. Click Reset when you see Ready to reset this PC
  8. Click Continue when you see the prompt, Choose an option.

How to factory reset Android phones

Just like on your PC, be absolutely sure you’ve backed up anything you want to keep before doing a factory reset on your Android device. Remember, it will wipe everything.

(Video) Can Formatting Remove Viruses from Computers or Phones?

Doing a factory reset is very similar on most Android devices. Here are the steps for some of the most popular manufacturers.

On a Samsung Galaxy:

  1. Go to Settings
  2. Tap General management
  3. Tap Reset
  4. Tap Factory data reset
  5. Then tap Reset device

On a Huawei:

  1. Go to Settings
  2. Tap System
  3. Tap Reset
  4. Tap Factory data reset
  5. Then tap Reset Phone

On a Google Pixel:

  1. Go to Settings
  2. Tap System
  3. Tap Advanced
  4. Tap Reset options
  5. Tap Erase all data (factory reset)
  6. Then tap Reset phone

Prevention is better than cure

A factory reset is a handy tool to have at your disposal if you’re struggling to recover from a malware attack. But it can be a stressful process, you may lose important information and it’s not even guaranteed to work.

Your best option is to take action now to avoid ever having to go down this route. From today, why not commit to the following?

  • Stay informed about the latest cybersecurity threats and scams (this is why we’re always updating the Clario blog)
  • Maintain strong passwords
  • Keep your files safely backed up
  • Install anti-malware software

Read more:

(Video) Does Factory Reset Remove Viruses from Android, iPhone or Windows

  • What Is Malware?
  • Can iPhones Get Viruses
  • How to Remove Malware From Your Mac
(Video) How to Reset Windows 10 After a Virus or Prepare the Computer to Sell it


Does a factory reset clear viruses? ›

Running a factory reset, also referred to as a Windows Reset or reformat and reinstall, will destroy all data stored on the computer's hard drive and all but the most complex viruses with it. Viruses can't damage the computer itself and factory resets clear out where viruses hide.

Can you completely wipe out a virus? ›

The easiest way to remove viruses is by using an antivirus program designed to clean your system safely. If a virus is already on your computer, however, you may need to run this program under very specific conditions.

How do I remove a virus from my phone? ›

How to remove a virus from an Android phone
  1. Clear your cache and downloads. Open Settings, go to Apps & notifications, and select Chrome. ...
  2. Restart your Android device in safe mode. ...
  3. Find and remove malicious apps. ...
  4. Activate Google Play Protect. ...
  5. Install anti-malware software.
Dec 9, 2022

Can a factory reset get rid of hackers? ›

Yes, you should be able to remove a hacker by doing a factory reset on your phone. Keep in mind that this solution will remove all of your data, including contacts, third-party apps, photos, and other files. You will need to set up your phone entirely from scratch.

How long does it take for the virus to go away? ›

Early research suggested that it could take 2 weeks for your body to get over a mild illness or up to 6 weeks for severe or critical cases. Recovery varies for different people, depending on things like your age and overall health. Fatigue, headache, and trouble breathing were the symptoms most likely to linger.

Will factory reset remove spyware? ›

A factory reset will delete everything on your phone, including the spyware. Make sure you have a backup of your phone before you do this to prevent losing your photos, apps, and other data. You'll need to restore your phone to a backup from before you started experiencing the spyware issues.

How long does it take for a virus to go away on its own? ›

The good news is that viral infections usually aren't serious. Most will go away in a few days without medical treatment.

What happens when your phone is full of viruses? ›

Phones can get a wide variety of viruses. Viruses on personal devices could delete your data, increase your phone bill, attempt to make unauthorized purchases, or gather private information and use it for malicious purposes —such as blackmailing or identity theft.

Will a virus on your phone go away? ›

Do iPhone viruses go away? If your iPhone is infected with malware, it won't go away on its own. Act quickly to remove the virus or malware from your iOS device and restore your privacy and security.

Does erasing all content and settings get rid of viruses? ›

In conclusion, performing a factory reset can help you get rid of some simple viruses from your PC, Mac, Android, or iOS devices. But as for sophisticated viruses, this doesn't work.

What is it called when a virus is wiped out? ›

Another definition of eradication that is widely accepted by many organizations, including the WHO, is the “permanent reduction to zero of the worldwide incidence of infection caused by a specific agent as a result of deliberate efforts.” The last reported case of smallpox occurred in Somalia in 1977 and the last ...


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