How to reset a locked Samsung phone

A Samsung Galaxy S21 FE in someone's hand, in front of a window
A Samsung Galaxy S21 FE (Image credit: Future)

There are various ways to unlock Samsung phones, so generally you’re best off doing that if possible. But if you’ve exhausted your options and are still locked out – or were planning to reset your phone regardless – then you may be able to reset it without unlocking it.

Doing so will remove all of the data – so again, it’s best to unlock the phone first if at all possible, so that you can ensure everything is backed up. But with the phone reset you will at least be able to use it or sell it on.

Below, we’ll explain how to do this in several simple steps. Note however that in most cases you will need access to your Google account to reset your phone without first unlocking it.

Quick steps

  • Turn off your phone
  • Open the recovery menu (often by pressing volume up and the side button)
  • Enter your Google account details if prompted
  • Select ‘Wipe data/factory rest’ or ‘Delete all user data’

How to reset a locked Samsung phone - explained in depth

We've covered the steps for resetting a locked Samsung phone above in brief, but if you're running into difficulties then read on for a detailed step-by-step process.

1. Turn off your phone

The first step is to turn off your Samsung phone, but if you’re locked out of it that could be easier said than done, as it will ask you to enter your PIN, password, or pattern. If you don’t remember your security information, then you’ll have to wait for the phone to run out of battery and power down automatically.

2. Open the recovery menu

Three Samsung phones with the buttons for accessing the recovery menu highlighted

The three likely button combinations for accessing the recovery menu (Image credit: Samsung)

With your phone switched off, you now have to boot it into the recovery menu, which means switching it on with a specific button combination.

The exact combination will depend on which Samsung phone you have, but with most of Samsung’s more recent phones – and specifically any Samsung phone that only has volume buttons and a side button – you should press volume up and the side button until you feel a vibration and see the Samsung logo, then release them.

That approach works on the likes of the Samsung Galaxy S22, Galaxy S21, and Galaxy Z Fold 3.

If your phone has both a power button and a Bixby button (like the Samsung Galaxy S10) then you should press the volume up, power and Bixby buttons all at the same time, and hold them until you feel a vibration, then release them.

Finally, if your Samsung phone has a separate physical home button beneath the display, then you should press volume up, home and power all at the same time until you feel a vibration. Once you do, release the power button but keep the other buttons pressed, then when you feel a second vibration you can release the remaining buttons.

In the vast majority of cases one of these methods will work, however a few phones for whatever reason use volume down rather than volume up, so if it’s not working, try that button instead.

Also, some Samsung devices require you to either plug your phone into a computer via the USB port or connect USB headphones before these button combinations will work.

3. Enter your Google account details

One your phone has rebooted it should take you to the recovery menu – but before getting access to this you’ll probably be asked to enter your Google account information, meaning the registered email and password. This is to prevent stolen phones from being reset.

If you know your email but not your password, then you can reset or recover the latter by using the Google Account Recovery page. If you don’t know your email or your password then you’ll need to send your phone along with proof of purchase to an authorized Samsung Service Center, where they’ll be able to reset it for you.

4. Reset your phone

On the recovery menu, you should see an option that reads either ‘Wipe data/factory rest’ or ‘Delete all user data.’ Navigate to this using the volume buttons, then press the power button to select this option.

You’ll be asked to confirm this a couple of times, so using the same buttons select ‘yes’ until the process begins.

This process may take up to a few minutes, but once finished, the words ‘Data wipe complete’ will appear on your phone, and you can then press the power button to select ‘Reboot device.’

When your device reboots you may be asked to enter your Google password. If you’ve got this far that’s likely something you know, but if you don’t know it, try the suggestions offered in step 3.

After that, you’ll be presented with the device setup screens that you’d see the first time you switch on a new phone. So either carry out that setup if you want to continue using your Samsung phone or switch it off ready to sell or recycle.

James Rogerson

James is a freelance phones, tablets and wearables writer and sub-editor at TechRadar. He has a love for everything ‘smart’, from watches to lights, and can often be found arguing with AI assistants or drowning in the latest apps. James also contributes to, and and has written for T3, Digital Camera World, Clarity Media and others, with work on the web, in print and on TV.