Maybe you had a feeling that something wasn’t right about that game you recently downloaded. It wasn’t available on Google Play, but you still had to have it. Everything was going great until you were suddenly swatting pop-up ads like flies, and it seems like everything just went downhill from there.
Even the new third-party security app you loaded to fix things seemed sketchy, but then again you’ve downloaded a lot of apps. Perhaps your data usage has spiked for no obvious reason, your phone is constantly crashing, and your performance is sluggish at best.
Did your phone catch something?
How can you know exactly what the culprit is?
It is estimated that 97% of mobile malware is on Android devices—according to one study conducted by F-Secure. Before you concede that maybe Steve Jobs was right—the only way to prevent viruses is through tight control by the manufacturer—it’s also important to acknowledge that maybe that number was a bit overstated.
The vast majority of these malicious apps come from a small third-party app stores located in Asia and the Middle East. When you look at the statistics for apps available from Google Play itself, the odds of your Android contracting a virus are quite minuscule–.1%. That isn’t a whole lot different from Apple, which has shown some cracks in its tight defense against malware lately.
Nonetheless, a report from G DATA that came out just this year estimates 2 million new Android malware strains. The odds of your device finding itself under attack can vary greatly from the .1% depending on your geographical location, user behavior, and the fact that the threats tend to increase, not decrease.
If one of these nasty programs renders your device inoperable, that .1% is going to feel like 100% to you personally. If you find your Android to be the victim of a vicious rebooting cycle or another frustrating phenomenon, you will want to know how to handle these without losing your mind or your Android.
When it comes to viruses, the adage used in medicine still applies—an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure. In addition to figuring out how to turn on Safe Mode and recover from malware, you will also want to be aware of how to prevent it in the future. Try reading about Lookout Security and Antivirus (Android) App Review for more information. If you are seeking alternatives to Google Play, you will find them at 16 Android App Store Alternatives for those who hate Google Play.
If you phone boots into Safe Mode on Android without your bidding, it could be trying to tell you something is wrong, or it may be an accidental trigger. If it’s a recurring problem, it’s probably the former. You will need to try to figure out what has changed on your phone to prevent it from booting normally. If it’s an accident, try restarting your phone.
Related: Android Safe Mode
Method 1: The Power Button (works on most newer phones)
If you download a troublesome app, or if you are simply having some sort of performance issue, booting into Android Safe Mode can help you identify and remove it. In fact, Safe Mode may be the only way you can boot your phone in some cases. Since it allows you to interact with your phone without the interference of any third-party apps or drivers, you are free to uninstall what could be causing the issue.
Booting your Android phone into Safe Mode is great for using the process of elimination. If you don’t experience the same issue you were having when you booted into the phone’s normal state, the odds are that it is not the default drivers, settings, or apps causing the problem. Plus, getting there is easy.
Hold down the Power button until the option to “Power off” appears.
This is the physical Power button often located on the side or top of your phone.
Long-press the “Power off” button on your touch screen.
A dialog box should appear, asking you to confirm that you want to reboot to Safe Mode.
Your device should reboot.
When the screen refreshes you should see the words “Safe Mode” in the bottom left corner of your screen.
Compare the performance of your device to what is was before you booted your Android into Safe Mode.
Has there been an improvement? If your Android is behaving better than it was, odds are it could be a non-default setting, driver, or an app.
Keep in mind that Safe Mode is all or nothing. You can’t disable only some third-party apps. None of them will work. The best way to conduct the process of elimination that I spoke of earlier is to uninstall all third-party apps during Safe Mode, and then reinstall them one at a time to determine which one is causing the issue.
Restart Your Phone
When you are done, power down your phone as you normally would by pressing and holding the Power button to turn it back on.
If you reached Safe Mode by accident, this should be the only step you’ll need. If you cannot escape from Safe Mode, see How to Turn Off Safe Mode on Android Phones to Live on the Wild Side. Exiting Safe Mode can also be quite similar to how we enter Safe Mode in Method 2. Alternatively, you might have to remove your battery (if you have a phone that allows it).
Method 2: The Volume Button
If Method 1 didn’t work for your device, here’s an alternative. Older versions of Android tend to employ the following tactic to turn on Safe Mode. Even some newer versions do.
This is important if you have the Samsung Galaxy S6:
Instead of pressing both the Volume Up and Volume Down buttons at the same time, turn your phone on into Safe Mode by holding the Power button and Volume Down buttons instead.
The correct way to boot into Safe Mode on Android can vary between phone manufacturers and even models. For instance, I can use Method 1 for my Motorola Droid Turbo, but the Motorola Droid Razr uses the following method.
Note: If you are using a phone with a customized ROM, you will first want to ensure that your ROM has a Safe Mode, and then follow the instructions for that particular ROM.
Turn your phone off.
Choose the “Power off” option.
Once your phone has powered down, turn it back on again by pressing the Power button. Proceed to next step quickly.
Immediately press and hold the Volume Up and the Volume Down buttons simultaneously.
Now the words “Safe Mode” should appear to the bottom-left.
Compare the behavior of your phone to its previous unlimited state.
- To uninstall or disable problematic apps or updates, go to the “Settings” menu.
- Under “Settings”, you will find the “Apps” tab where you can search for the guilty app or update.
It might seem daunting to have to uninstall what you have worked to install on your phone, but at this point, it is probably necessary. However, you can get it back, minus the offending apps or updates. If you are already certain or suspicious of particular apps or updates, you could try these first.
Of course, Safe Mode is not the only method of troubleshooting your Android. I would definitely recommend trying it before you resort to a Factory Reset—however, you will wipe everything except for what came out-of-the-box.
Problems may stem from a variety of sources, and aren’t limited to apps or updates. There could be an issue with the hardware on your device itself. Rather than an update being a problem, the issue could be that you didn’t apply an update that would have fixed a known bug. A bad connection can also result in less-than-optimal performance.
While Safe Mode is a nice place where things can return to functioning correctly, it is limited. You will still want to work on the issues that brought you here. Until then, you will have no access to anything that wasn’t originally installed on your phone.
Safe Mode is a fine place to visit, but probably not anywhere you would want to live. Think of the treasures you’ve found that are collecting digital dust, or all of the unexplored opportunities you have yet to find.
Do you know of a method to access Safe Method not mentioned here?
Do you have troubleshooting advice and tips?
Please tell us about it below.