According to this article,

/data ... Wiping this partition essentially performs a factory reset on your device, restoring it to the way it was when you first booted it, or the way it was after the last official or custom ROM installation. When you perform a wipe data/factory reset from recovery, it is this partition that you are wiping.

What about /boot, /system, and /recovery, and /cache?

If Factory Reset wipes only /data, then I wish it were called something else, because if you've rooted your phone, it will still be left with whatever custom ROM you flashed even after a Factory Reset.

On the other hand, if Factory Reset does indeed wipe /boot, /system, and /recovery as well, especially /boot, what does it restore those from? Do all phones come with stock images in a real internal ROM somewhere that it can re-flash those images from?

I can somehow imagine manufacturers not wanting be burdened with the extra cost that such a spec for hardware-recoverable images might have cost them, so it got left out of the standard and left out of most phones, which is why it's so easy to brick them. So, instead, they give you the option to wipe /data and /cache only, and call that a "Factory Reset" because you're not supposed to be foolish enough to root your phone in the first place according to their way of thinking.

Since rooting my Android and reading hundreds of posts, I've found that many of the terms I learned and accepted as a Computer Science grad student in the 80's don't quite mean the same thing anymore so I have to verify what everything really means before I do something.

Comments to this post answer the first part of my question.

But they don't really answer the second part of my question which is really a complaint: Why call it "Factory Reset" if it doesn't really restore your phone to it's stock factory state?

At this point, the question is merely rhetorical. I think I already answered this in my question, unless someone can correct me.

  • 1
    All manufacturers treat those who root and install custom OS the same as those who solders a custom BIOS, i.e. if you're messing with no-touch zone, you're on your own. Having an actual ROM (ROM as in CD-ROM-like impossible to write, not ROM as in read-only permission) adds a huge cost for development because that means replacing a hardware for every little changes, it also becomes essentially a dead space once you update the software. I think there are probably no commercial hardware made in the last ten (twenty?) years that still have firmware in an actual read-only memory.
    – Lie Ryan
    Jul 23, 2012 at 19:40
  • You are the factory of the device if you flash the ROM. rest are details... :)
    – iOS
    Jul 23, 2012 at 20:41
  • I came across this from another reference somewhere. The initial statement about /data is incorrect in 2 ways. First, /data is NOT a partition, it is a directory, made up of more than one partition. The internal sdcard memory and the program data partition are both mounted there. So, if you delete the /data directory, it will delete the data on both partitions. But if you wipe the data partition in, say, TWRP, it will format the data partition only, and not touch the sdcard data. Mar 2, 2016 at 15:20

4 Answers 4


On a non-rooted device we can group the partitions into two categories: the ones that can be affected by the user during normal runtime, and the ones that can't. The ones that can be are data and cache. The ones that can't are system, and boot. (Plus recovery on some.)

"Factory reset" here means that the partitions that are affected by user activities are wiped clean. Thus when the user performs a factory reset, she is greeted with a phone that has no user data on it. If she updated her phone via official methods the updates are still there! So not even stock devices are reset to their factory state!

With the above in mind, let's look at custom ROMs. When you flash one, the updater-script wipes your system partition, then copies the contents of the zip there. What was previously there is now gone! There's no way you can get back to where you were before if you don't have a backup or an original system image.

Now, when the user boots, technically, most everything is the same. During normal operation she can still only modify data and cache. So if you perform a factory reset it only makes sense to wipe these. Remember the original rom is now long gone!

You're right that the terminology is confusing; blame Google! It's been this way since the G1.

  • 1
    "blame Google" -> One must realize that this terminology and methodology was already present before smartphones existence. Take the example of a rooter, they can be factory reset, and they can also have a custom ROM.
    – Zuul
    Jul 23, 2012 at 13:31
  • @Zuul Forgot my sarcasm sings... That terminology was correct. Now it isn't. It doesn't reset the device to a factory state. Google already made a new OS and they choose to use the old terminology.
    – user13391
    Jul 23, 2012 at 13:54
  • Note that on some devices (eg. Sony), boot and recovery are on the same partition.
    – kinokijuf
    Jul 23, 2012 at 14:05
  • For further reference: rooter
    – user13391
    Jul 23, 2012 at 15:07

Why call it "Factory Reset" if it doesn't really restore your phone to it's stock factory state?

Since the original definition make no sense in the current world, let's try to make up an alternative explanation. So, the term Factory Reset was not referring to the action of resetting the device to the state it came out of the factory, instead the term means it's the type of reset the factory does to the phone's software before putting it into the packaging, the factory reset will reset the phone to a state suitable for shipping to customer, therefore if the factory now released a phone with your model and OS version, they will do factory reset as the last thing they do after testing.

How is that explanation?


A factory reset is an informally standardised term for resetting a phone. A user will understand that this makes your phone the same as when you received it. If you've taken a power user step like rooting and flashing a custom ROM then you are outside of the normal use cases.

It is worth noting that the "factory reset" on a phone with a custom ROM will reset that ROM back to its default view.

It is impossible in today's devices to be able to reflash the system and restore back to how it originally shipped. The same is true of many user flashable products, such as routers and media players.


You may have ear terms like "Factory Reset" or "Factory Default". They are basically the same. Is the term used to describe the action of reversing a device to the state that it was when it got out of the factory.

For this to happen, all custom data will be clean of the device, leaving just what was already present when the device left the manufacturer.

For users with custom ROMs, the factory reset works the same way, when used it will wipe all custom data and leave the device like was when the custom ROM was applied.

What is a Factory Reset on Android devices?

It erases all the data on your device by cleaning up the internal storage and return the phone to the default factory settings!

This means that: your google account, your device settings, system and application data, and APP's downloaded/installed by the user will get removed.

After the Factory Reset is complete, your device will be just like the first time you've turn it on.

To have you "stuff" back, You’ll have to re-install and re-configure everything.

Reasons for a Factory Reset:

  • When the device experiences a malfunction for unknown reasons, resetting it may fix the problem.
  • If you gonna sell your device, a factory reset insures the removal of all your personal data.
  • Sending the device for repair or simply returning it, the factory reset comes in hand. They don't need to know what you've been using, nor they need access to your personal data.

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