by Al Sacco

RIM BlackBerry Tip: Hard v. Soft Resets, and When to Perform Each

Aug 28, 20085 mins
Computers and PeripheralsConsumer ElectronicsData Center

Resetting your Research In Motion (RIM) BlackBerry occasionally will help maintain your smartphone's health. This week's tutorial explains the difference between a hard and soft reset--and a double soft reset--how to perform resets, and when each type of reset is appropriate.

Anyone who’s spent even a small amount of time using a Research In Motion (RIM) BlackBerry smartphone probably knows the ol’ battery pull trick: Whenever your BlackBerry starts misbehaving, just pop off that battery cover, wedge your finger beneath the power pack, remove and reinsert it, and, voila!, your smartphone will (usually) be running like new again.

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That’s because removing a BlackBerry’s battery severs the device from its power source, resetting the network connection and rebooting the handheld operating system (OS). However, you can choose from a few different kinds of BlackBerry resets–soft, double-soft and hard–and it pays to know when each is appropriate.

Our past BlackBerry Tips of the Week have included performance advice on how to determine your BlackBerry memory usage at any given point, free up device memory, extend battery life and more. This week, we’ll show you the basics of BlackBerry resets, just in case our smartphone performance tips don’t fully resolve your issues.

BlackBerry Soft Resets

The soft reset, the most basic BlackBerry reset, is typically used to reestablish a connection between your smartphone and PC. So, for instance, if you’re attempting to connect to your PC to transfer files using the BlackBerry Desktop manager software, but the program keeps freezing or losing your connection, a soft reset may be in order.

Soft resets also stop and restart all the software applications running on your BlackBerry, so if you’ve come across a problem that you believe is related to an application and not the device itself, you’ll want to do a soft reset.

To perform a soft reset on any recent BlackBerry except the Pearl 81xx series, hit your device’s ALT, Right Shift/CAP and DEL keys simultaneously. Your BlackBerry display then goes black, your LED indicator turns red for a number of seconds and the reboot process commences. It can take a few minutes for your device to reboot, so be patient. (If you’re a BlackBerry Pearl user seeking a way to soft reset your device, check out the SoftReset application.)

It’s also a good idea to back up all the data on your BlackBerry before attempting any sort of reset. For more on BlackBerry backup, read “How to Back Up and Restore BlackBerry Handheld Data.”

  On to Double Soft and Hard Resets >>

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Double Soft Resets for Your BlackBerry

In addition to the simple soft reset described above, BlackBerry users experiencing device performance issues can also choose to execute a “double soft reset,” according to We’re not one hundred percent sure of how a double soft reset is different than a single soft reset, but apparently it’s “nearly the equivalent” of a hard reset, which not only stops all applications running on a BlackBerry and reconnects it to a PC, but also resets the network connection and can help resolve more complex hardware and software issues

BlackBerry users with skins or cases that aren’t exactly easy to remove may want to give the double soft reset a try before stripping off all the gear just to remove the battery and perform a hard reset.

To perform a double soft reset, simply follow the process described above for a standard soft reset, but as soon as your display illuminates again after shutting down briefly, press ALT, Right Shift/Cap and DEL one more time. Your BlackBerry display should go black again, and you’ll then see an hour glass or another status indicator if you’re using a non-standard BlackBerry theme.

BlackBerry Hard Reset

Finally, if neither soft nor double soft resets do the trick, or you suspect your BlackBerry performance issues are associated with hardware or a network connection, you may want to perform a hard reset or battery pull.

Doing a hard reset on a Java-based BlackBerry–all of RIM’s 8xxx series device are Java-based–is literally as simple as removing and replacing your BlackBerry battery. To reset BlackBerry smartphones that aren’t Java-based, such as the 850/950 and 857/957, you need to insert a pin or paperclip into the tiny holes in the devices’ rear panels.

Here’s a breakdown of potential network, software and hardware issues that may call for a hard reset, according to RIM.

Network Issues

  • BlackBerry shows an X beside wireless coverage indicator

  • BlackBerry shows GSM or lower case gprs as the wireless network status

  • The user cannot send or receive messages via BlackBerry

Software Problems

  • BlackBerry displays an error code on screen

  • Applications appear to be malfunctioning

  • BlackBerry Desktop Manager software remains in “working” mode when smartphone is connected to a PC

  • Bluetooth can’t be detected

Hardware Complications

  • BlackBerry display is blurred or difficult to read; lines throughout display make block text; etc.

  • Smartphone keyboard isn’t working properly; keys don’t work at all; trackball lags or sticks; device will not power up; etc.

As a general rule of thumb, a hard reset does everything a soft reset does and more. Think of the soft reset as for software related problems (think: soft reset) and the hard reset for hardware issues.

And again, you’ll want to back up all your handheld data before attempting to perform any sort of reset.

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