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What is the difference between a "soft" and "hard" reset? When should I use them?

It is a sad fact of modern life that complex electronic devices such as PDAs and desktop PCs can suffer from strange little problems which go away if you restart the device, but there are often unique terms associated with this process whose purpose aren't immediately obvious.

What is a Soft Reset?

A "soft" reset is by far the most common type of reset any PDA user will come across, and is often useful in solving minor problems and strange behaviour. When you perform a soft reset of a PDA, you are essentially causing the device to stop everything it is running, and restart - much like rebooting a PC.

If you had a program open and were entering data into when you perform a soft reset, you might lose the information you were entering, but otherwise a soft reset does not affect any information you have stored on the PDA at all, and can be performed quite safely.

Before performing a soft reset, I usually suggest making a quick backup of your data, just to be on the safe side!

Instructions for performing a soft reset can usually be found in the user manual that accompanied your PDA. In general, all that you need to do is locate the "reset hole" (which may be labelled), and gently push the tip of the stylus or a bent paperclip into it. Doing so pushes a tiny button inside the device which triggers the soft reset, so you shouldn't need much pressure. If you are unsure, check with the manufacturer of your PDA!

What is a Hard Reset?

Sometimes also referred to as a "factory reset", a hard reset is an extremely serious process, because performing a hard reset will always wipe all the data from your PDA and return it to the settings it originally had when purchased.

In general, only the manufacturer of your device will ever suggest performing a hard reset, and even then only in the direst of circumstances! Before even considering a hard reset, you should always take a thorough backup of your data, and make sure you have a copy of it in a safe place.

The instructions to perform a hard reset are again usually found in the user manual for your PDA, but if not, you should contact the manufacturer of your PDA and they will be able to help...but a hard reset should only be used as a last resort!

Someone mentioned a Warm Reset to me once, what does that do?

Palm OS® powered PDAs and Pocket PCs both share the above two types of reset (soft and hard), but Palm OS® powered PDAs are also able to perform a third, much less well know, type of reset.

The warm reset is analogous to the "safe mode" of a desktop PC, and similar in many respects to a normal soft reset.

Normally, when a Palm starts up (is soft reset), it sends notifications to all the applications installed informing them that the Palm is starting up, and any program designed to load and run in the background should start at this point. Performing a soft reset bypasses this notification step, restarting your Palm without any of the additional background applications and add-ons you may have installed.

Performing a warm reset is very similar to performing a soft reset, as noted above. The key difference is that you should hold the "up" button on your Palm (or "up" on the directional pad if you Palm has one), and while holding this button, perform a soft reset. Keep the "up" button held until the Palm preferences screen appears, and your Palm has now been warm reset.

It should be noted that on some Palm OS® devices, such as the Tungsten T2, some normal Palm OS functions may not be available. Since a warm reset should be used only to help diagnose and fix a problem, you should perform a normal soft reset when finished to restore everything to normal.

So why is this useful? There are several reasons why this might be handy, and here are a few examples:

Hopefully this information will be helpful in better understanding some of the different terms associated with PDAs.

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