How to factory reset a PS4

Not all technology is perfect, and that includes our gaming systems. Sometimes, we run into issues with our PlayStation 4 systems that a simple console restart cannot help. The worst is when you’re trying to play a game and it freezes before you get a chance to hit a save point. Recently, these problems seem to be amplified due to the age of the system. It’s one of the reasons we’re looking forward to the upcoming release of the PlayStation 5. These frustrating experiences happen to many PS4 users, and there’s a relatively simple way to fix them: A complete factory reset.

Resetting the PlayStation 4 is a fairly straightforward process. Usually, this is a last-resort effort to ensure the functionality of the system. Be sure to back up any save data you may have before starting the reset process. Factory resetting the PlayStation will erase all of your data from the system, so doing this process without backing up your save data will cause you to start from scratch. Luckily, PS Plus subscribers can upload saves to the cloud, so backing up save data should be a non-issue if you’re a member.

Below are step-by-step instructions to complete a factory reset on your PS4, whether you’re rocking an original model, a Slim, or a Pro. 

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How to factory reset your PS4

Before we begin, you should know that a factory reset completely wipes the console’s hard drive and can even remove its system software. It’s a last resort when a software glitch stops your PlayStation 4 dead in its tracks, particularly when booting up or when you want to make sure the console no longer has your data on it.

You should back up any data you want to keep, such as images, saves, and video, to an external device or to the cloud. In order to back up data using the cloud, you’ll have to have a PlayStation Plus account, which gives you 100GB of storage space.

There are two ways to reset your PS4 — From the console’s dashboard or in Safe Mode if the console is having boot-up issues. We’ll be going over both ways, the first being through your PlayStation 4 dashboard.

1. Sign in to your PS4 and head to the settings menu

Start in the settings menu and find the option for Account Management. You’ll want to deactivate the machine as your primary PlayStation 4. That setting allows you to play downloaded games offline by identifying this particular PS4 as yours. Miss this step, and you’ll encounter a host of other problems when you sign on to your new console and try to play your games.

2. Deactivate your PlayStation

Go to Activate as Your Primary PS4. Your PS4 will probably already be activated. If that’s the case, the Activate option will be grayed out, and Deactivate will be the only choice you can select. Select Deactivate and select Yes on the following screen.

3. Sign back in with your user account

Sign back into your account and head back to the settings for the final steps.

4. Find the Initialization option in settings

initialization ps4

Scroll all the way to the bottom from within the Settings menu. Click on Initialization and you’ll be presented with a few more options. For the purposes of this guide, you only need to worry about the bottom two options —  we’ll be skipping Clear Learning Dictionary. Below that, you’ll see Restore Default Settings, which will clear your saved settings data and return the PS4 to its factory settings, but it won’t wipe your hard drive.

The other option, Initialize PS4, is the big one that will clear your hard drive of data, including downloaded games, saved game data, and anything else you’ve added to the console since buying it. This will restore your PS4 to the pristine condition it was in when it came out of the box.

5. Choose Full on the Initialize screen

initialize PS4

The big wipe is the one you’re looking for. Note that it’ll take a long time — probably a couple of hours or more.

Once you’ve initialized the wipe, the PS4 will give you a progress bar showing how long it’ll take, but expect it to take even longer as the console goes through multiple steps. When it is finished, you’ll be able to set up your PS4 the same way you did the first time you turned it on. If you’re looking to sell it, you’ll be handing it over completely fresh and with no data attached.

Perform a factory reset from Safe Mode

If you’re having trouble with system software or other errors that are preventing you from getting to the Settings menu and re-initializing your PS4, you can access the same options from the console’s Safe Mode.

1. Turn your PS4 fully off 

Don’t set it to Rest Mode. You want the power completely off on your console so you can boot into Safe Mode.

2. Hold down the power button until you hear two beeps

You need to physically push the power button on the console, rather than starting it with a controller. Hold it for about eight seconds. It will beep once when you first touch the button, and then again before booting up into Safe Mode. It will be labeled, and you’ll recognize it by its black background.

3. Choose the reset option you need

As in the Settings menu, in Safe Mode, you can choose Restore Default Settings to reset everything in the PS4 to its original software settings but keep your data. You can also choose Initialize PS4.

This will wipe your hard drive and restore you to factory settings, but keep the system software — its operating system, in other words. The last option is Initialize PS4 (Reinstall System Software), which is an even fuller factory reset that will require you to reinstall the PS4’s operating system.

safe mode ps4

4. If you’re not having software problems, pick Initialize PS4

This will restore your hard drive and software settings to the factory default but it will leave the operating system software intact. It’s the same as the option above (available in the Settings menu), and you’ll be able to choose between Quick and Full initializations. If that’s all you need, you’re done.

How to reinstall system software on PS4

This is an even bigger wipe than the previous full initialization, removing all software from the console. If you do that, you’ll need to reinstall system software from another device. If you’re having software problems with the operating system, you’ll need to pick Initialize PS4 (Reinstall System Software), but there’s another step in the process to do first.

1. Download the official PS4 firmware

Head to your PC and download the latest system software from the PlayStation website (version 7.55). You’ll also need an external hard drive with a USB connection or a USB flash drive to transfer the update to your PS4. Grab an external hard drive or USB flash drive with about 1.1GB of free space.

2. Create a new folder on your USB device and name it PS4

Inside that folder, create a folder and name it “UPDATE” in all caps. Save the firmware file into the “UPDATE” folder and you should be good to go. Make sure the file is named “PS4UPDATE.PUP” when you save it.

3. Boot up your PS4 in Safe Mode

Do it as described above by fully powering down your PS4 and then holding the power button until it beeps twice and boots to Safe Mode.

4. Choose Initialize PS4 (Reinstall System Software) on your PS4

Just follow the prompts. The console will wipe all data including system software, and then require you to plug in the USB device you saved the update to in order to reinstall the system software. When that’s done, your PS4 will be returned to factory settings.

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