How to reset a Garmin watch

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

If you’re looking for a fresh start for your Garmin Forerunner, having problems with Fenix functionality, or you're simply preparing to ship your trusty Instinct off to a new home, a reset might be in order. And as with all connected devices there are varying levels of 'Reset'.

There’s a simple reboot to troubleshoot a glitchy GPS signal, or a modest reset that protects your valuable training data on your running watch while restoring the original settings.

Read this: The best Garmin watches 2019

Some options enable you to Clear User Data without deleting the history, while the hardest resets wipe everything from the watch, returning it the factory state. Choose wisely, there’s no coming back from the master reset option, unless you’ve backed up the data.

Methods vary slightly depending on the type of Garmin sports watch and the specific model you’re using, so you may see slightly different instructions. We’ll explain when necessary.

How to reboot a Garmin watch

Performing a soft reset (reboot) on many Garmin watches can take care of some issues you might experience during usage. For example, if some features aren’t working as expected, or you’re not receiving a GPS signal. All it takes is powering the watch off and back on again.

The simplest way to soft reset (reboot) your Garmin watch is to simply hold down the power button (labelled Light, CRTL on many Garmin watches) for 15 seconds to power off the wearable. Hold the same button for one second to power on again.

You can perform this task with a little more speed though: press the same power button until the carousel of options appears, then select Power off from the main menu. Again you’ll need to then power on again.

NB: Make sure you sync your data before performing this as it’s possible some data may be lost when performing a reboot.

How to reset a Garmin Watch

How to reset device settings on a Garmin Watch

Some Garmin watches, like the most recent Forerunners 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 System Settings menus.

Although this method varies slightly depending on the watch and its buttons, it works on recent Forerunner watches as follows:

Access the Menu by holding down the button (often labelled Up), and use the down keys you see to find the Settings menu. After selecting settings, move down to System. Select this and find Reset. From here select Reset Default Settings. You should see a message saying "This restores all default settings. Activities and music will not be deleted." You’ll be asked to confirm before the reset commences.

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 reset a Garmin Watch

How to hard (master) reset a Garmin watch

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

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 recent Garmin Forerunner, Fenix, Instinct and Vivoactive watches:Enter Settings > System > Reset. Here you’ll need to select Restore Defaults. This command may also appear as Delete Data and Reset Settings. You should see a message warning: "This restores default settings and clears all data such as activities and music." Again, you’ll be asked to confirm with a Yes before this takes place.
  • On the Vivomove touchscreen watch:Hold the touchscreen to bring up the menu, select the Settings cog, the spanner icon and select Restore Defaults.
  • On the Approach golf watches: Hold the button > Choose Settings > Reset > Delete Data and Reset Settings.
  • On the Quatix and Descent watches: Similar to the Forerunner, hold Menu Settings > System > Restore Defaults > Reset Settings.
  • Earlier Forerunner watches like the 235: Menu > Settings > System > Restore Defaults > Yes.

How to reset a Garmin Watch

Other ways to reset your Garmin watch

For most of the company’s outdoor watches, there’s also a way to 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:

  • Before powering the watch back on, hold down the Back/Lap button (depending on your watch model).
  • With the Back/Lap button still held down, press the power (Light) button to power on the watch.
  • Continue holding the Back/Lap button until you see “Restore Default Settings” on the watch face. Release the Back/Lap button.
  • Select Yes.

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

The hard reset can also be accessed through the menu system: Hold the menu button and select Settings > System > Reset. Here you’ll need to select Delete Data and Reset Settings in order to restore default settings and clear all data such as activities or music. Select Continue > Yes to complete the task.

How to Clear User Data on a Garmin Watch

On some watches like the Garmin Forerunner 935, 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 achieve this: Power down the device. While holding the back button, power on the watch. You’ll be asked to confirm whether you want to Clear User Data. Release the back button and select Yes.