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soft reset

What is a soft reset?

A soft reset is a restart of a device, such as a smartphone, tablet, laptop or personal computer (PC). The action closes applications and clears any data in random access memory (RAM). Unsaved data in current use may be lost, but data stored on the hard drive, applications and settings are not affected.

What's the difference between a soft reset and a hard reset?

A soft reset is a type of reset that is used to restart a device or system without losing any data. It is also known as a "soft reboot" or "soft power cycle."

This contrasts with a hard reset, which removes all user data, settings and applications and returns a device to the same state it was in when it shipped from the factory.

How is a soft reset performed?

On a Windows computer, a soft reset can be performed by clicking on the "Restart" button in the operating system, or by using the keyboard shortcut Ctrl+Alt+Delete. In a mobile device, a soft reset can be performed by holding down the power button for a few seconds, or by using a combination of buttons, such as the power button and the volume down button.

Why are soft resets performed?

Soft resets are usually conducted in an attempt to fix malfunctioning applications or because they're required for software installation. Typically, this is triggered when an application stops responding, is running slowly or experiencing other software-related problems.

For example, if a user is experiencing problems with their computer, such as a frozen screen or unresponsive application, a soft reset can be used to restart the device without losing any data. A soft reset can be used to resolve the same problems with a mobile device.

A soft reset can also be used to resolve problems with network devices such as routers, switches and firewalls. For example, if a network device is not responding or is experiencing connectivity issues, a soft reset can be used to restart the device without losing any configuration or other data.

Another use case of a soft reset is in embedded systems, where the device is usually running on a real-time operating system and a soft reset is used to refresh the device without losing any data or configuration. For example, in a medical device, a soft reset can be used to refresh the device without losing any patient data or without affecting the device functionality.

It's important to note that a soft reset should not be used as a long-term solution to problems. If a device or system continues to experience problems after a soft reset, it may be necessary to perform a hard reset or to seek further technical assistance.

Learn how to perform a factory reset on a Windows 11 desktop, see what organizations can do to address BYOD privacy concerns and explore mobile device management versus mobile application management.

This was last updated in February 2023

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