How to reset a Garmin watch: soft reboot or factory reset

Different methods for rebooting your Forerunner, Fenix or other Garmin watch
Wareable How to reset a Garmin
Wareable is reader-powered. If you click through using links on the site, we may earn an affiliate commission. Learn more

Your Garmin watch may be a very reliable companion, but there's still a small chance you'll need to perform a reset of some kind every now and again.

As with all connected gadgets, however, there are different kinds of reset at your disposal - and we'll cover them all below in this guide.

They include a soft reset to help you troubleshoot the likes of a frozen screen or glitchy GPS signal, a more modest reset that restores the watch's original settings, and a full-blown hard reset that returns the device to its factory settings.

Methods may vary slightly depending on the type of Garmin sports watch and the specific model you're using, so you may see slightly different instructions, but we'll explain the raw gist of it here.

> Top picks: Best Garmin watches for your needs

How to perform a soft reset on a Garmin watch

WareableFenix reset

Performing a soft reboot on many Garmin watches can take care of some issues you might experience during usage. For example, if something isn't working as expected, this can often be solved by powering the watch off and back on again. There are also a couple of ways to do so.

To perform a soft reset on your Garmin device:

  • Hold down the power button (also labeled 'Light' and 'CTRL' on some watches) for 15 seconds

Alternatively, try this:

  • Press down the power button until the carousel of options appears, then select 'Power off' from the menu

To power your Garmin watch back on, simply hold the power button for one second.

Tip: Make sure you sync your data before performing a soft reset, as it's possible some data may be lost when performing a reboot.

Reset Default Settings on a Garmin Watch (medium reset)

WareableForerunner reset

Some Garmin watches, like the most recent Forerunner and Instinct models, enable you to reset the watch settings without losing all of your activities, personal data and music.

This is through the 'Reset Default Settings' option, accessible from the 'Settings' menu.

Although this method varies slightly depending on the watch and its buttons, it'll be roughly similar to the following steps:

1. On your Garmin watch, access the 'Menu' by holding down the button (often labeled 'Up').

2. Scroll down to 'Settings', then 'System'.

3. From here, find 'Reset' and tap through to select 'Reset Default Settings'.

4. You'll then be asked to confirm before restoring these settings. No activities or music will be deleted.

WARNING: Beware when attempting to 'Reset Default Settings'. Some of the more recent watches offer a "Restore Defaults" option (see below) which performs a hard reset.

How to perform a hard reset on a Garmin watch

WareableVenu reset

If you want to wipe the contents of your watch and all of the user-entered information, activity history and personal data, then a hard reset is the way to go. This is perfect if you plan on selling or handing down your watch to somebody else.

If you’re keeping the watch and plan to continue using it, it’s important to consider that learned training data like VO2 Max, Distance Totals and Training Effect (if applicable) will be erased when performing this reset - and will be relearned thereafter. Some of the activity data can be transferred back to the watch when you re-pair.

There are slight variances in this method, which we’ll explain below.

  • On Garmin Forerunner, Fenix, Instinct and Vivoactive watches: Settings > System > Reset > Restore Defaults / Delete Data and Reset Settings
  • On the Vivomove touchscreen watch: Settings > Delete Data and Reset Settings
  • On the Approach golf watches: Settings > Reset > Delete Data and Reset Settings
  • On the Quatix and Descent watches: Settings > System > Restore Defaults > Reset Settings
  • Earlier Forerunner watch models: Menu > Settings > System > Restore Defaults > Yes.

How to Clear User Data on a Garmin Watch

On some watches, it’s possible to clear user data while maintaining your activity history.

This means user-entered information like your height, weight and age will be removed from the watch, but your activity data will be retained.

To clear user data, follow these steps:

1. Power down the device.

2. While holding the back button, power on the watch.

3. You’ll be asked to confirm whether you want to 'Clear User Data'.

4. Release the back button and select 'Yes'.

Another way to Restore Default Settings

For most of the company’s outdoor watches, there’s also a way to find 'Reset Settings' or 'Delete Data and Reset Settings' without delving deep into the menus.

The first thing you need to do is power off the device. Here’s what follows:

1. Before powering the watch back on, hold down the Back / Lap button.

2. With the Back/Lap button still held down, press the Power / Light button to power on the watch.

3. Continue holding the Back/Lap button until you see 'Restore Default Settings' on the watch face.

4. Release the Back/Lap button.

5. Select 'Yes'.

Once the process is complete, you’ll see the Garmin compass arrow appear on the display, and it’ll be time to set up and pair the watch again.


How we test

Conor Allison


Conor moved to Wareable Media Group in 2017, initially covering all the latest developments in smartwatches, fitness trackers, and VR. He made a name for himself writing about trying out translation earbuds on a first date and cycling with a wearable airbag, as well as covering the industry’s latest releases.

Following a stint as Reviews Editor at Pocket-lint, Conor returned to Wareable Media Group in 2022 as Editor-at-Large. Conor has become a wearables expert, and helps people get more from their wearable tech, via Wareable's considerable how-to-based guides. 

He has also contributed to British GQ, Wired, Metro, The Independent, and The Mirror. 

Related stories