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Power menu on a Pixel 4 XL
Power menu on a Pixel 4 XL (Image credit: Joe Maring / Android Central)

So you're using your phone to do your thing, and you notice that it's starting to get slow and maybe even buggy. It didn't use to act this way, and you have no idea what's going on. Blaming the phone probably isn't the solution because this can happen to even the best Android phones. Chances are you won't be able to find the solution that fixes the problem, but the good news is that you can easily address the symptoms: restart your phone.

There are several reasons why a phone can get slow and even a little glitchy. You might notice the volume stopped working or you get weird screen artifacts. While this could be a symptom of a hardware problem, chances are it's not; it's likely a misbehaving app running wild in the background.

I don't mean apps that have no business running in the background here. Google is finally clamping down on those and giving us tools to manage when they are allowed to run. I mean things that have a legitimate need to have all or some of the app running so it can stay connected. Those apps need to be written to work with the version of Android you're using, and even sometimes the brand of phone you're using.

Google Play Store

Source: Android Central (Image credit: Source: Android Central)

Most of the apps we use meet these criteria, but not all. We all have an app or two that hasn't been updated in a while, but we still want to use it, so we install it. Chances are there won't be a problem. Google works really hard to keep apps working across versions because that's what makes Android so popular and keeps money flowing in. But this isn't much condolence if your phone is acting up because of an app.

Memory leaks happen in phone apps, too.

You might have heard the term "memory leak," and this happens to apps more than most people think it does. If it's happening to an app that has permissions to stay running, it does just that, eating up resources until things go haywire. It's not going to stop until you uninstall it or it gets fixed, but you can intervene with a daily reboot.

I'm not knocking anyone developer or phone maker here. With well over a million apps and almost 15,000 different models of Android devices, this is bound to happen. In fact, it's amazing it doesn't happen more often.

Pile of Android smartphones

Source: Android Central (Image credit: Source: Android Central)

When you reboot your phone, it forces everything that runs in the background to start up fresh. It also does some other important things like wipe and reallocate the VRAM your GPU uses, erases the pseudo-file system that is used to keep tabs on running hardware, and restarts the actual wireless radios. When you power down, everything not needed to allow the phone to boot again is unpowered and killed.

Don't use some sort of app cleaner when you can do things even better by restarting.

Restarting your phone will clear bad data and free memory from a misbehaving app without any other adverse effects to the running system, like a "memory manager" app that just kills off every app you aren't using when you tap the button. There is a reason some of these apps need to run, and unless you know what you're doing, indiscriminate killing of all apps to free memory actually does more harm than good because half of those apps need to start back up again from a cold state.

If you have pinpointed what app is acting up on your phone, you can go into its settings and force stop it. But if you don't, the best thing you can do is take 60 seconds and restart your phone every morning to clear the slate.

Jerry Hildenbrand
Jerry Hildenbrand

Jerry is an amateur woodworker and struggling shade tree mechanic. There's nothing he can't take apart, but many things he can't reassemble. You'll find him writing and speaking his loud opinion on Android Central and occasionally on Twitter.

18 Comments
  • I'm gonna wait until I actually get problems to reboot... It isn't 2011, daily or even weekly reboots aren't necessary anymore. My phone's current uptime is 335 hours (about 2 weeks) and it's running normally.
  • I also do it if I think it is necessary. However, I have to ask what phone requires 60 seconds? Out of curiosity, I just did my Pixel 4XL and from holding in the power button, pressing restarted and after the reset punching in my four digit security code, it was 32 seconds.
  • RETG: About 60 seconds, good question. When I had iPhones (eleven years worth) the combined shutdown/restart took a long time. In a bright location turn it off the screen goes black, but the phone is not off. In a low light location after the screen goes black you could see a slight glow on the screen. When the glow went totally off I could press start; then await getting back to my login screen. When I moved to my first and only Android device, the Note 20, constantly I am amazed how quick turn off restart is. With the iPhone XR very much I dreaded the shutdown restart process.
  • I actually use "Phone Master" to clear out system cache memory and I set it to auto clean at 2am. So before waking up my phone feels new every morning. No need to reboot here
  • I reboot my phone once a month, whether it needs it or not. If your phone needs daily rebooting, then it's time to switch to a better manufacturer.
  • Yeah, me too, when I get my security patch from Google on my Pixel.
  • I do it when it needs it, usually one or max 2 times per month.
  • I turn mine off most nites so not a problem.
  • I have been preaching this "to the choir" for a long time. Android is NOT Windows server! It took Microsoft many. many years to finally build an OS with 99.9 uptime. Android just is not there yet! I turn my phone off every night...which I realize is not possible for many people. But you can restart your phone in less time than it takes to brush your teeth in the morning...you DO brush your teeth, no? I think this is a major reason that I simply do not have all the various issues that so many people complain about! Every phone I have had ...less a couple of Samsung lemons...has been basically flawless for me minus a glitch now-and-then.
  • With 8GB RAM or more you shouldn't need to restart daily. I maybe restart once a week. Even less for my PC. Maybe once a month. Android and Windows with 8GB RAM (or more) manage memory well these days.
  • The amount of RAM on an Android phone has absolutely nothing to do with the frequency of a simple restart. You will notice after each restart that the same number of recently opened apps stays static. The amount of RAM determines how many apps can remain open/available in active (RAM) memory. Windows RAM works completely differently. For example, when you power down, or reboot/restart a Windows machine all the RAM is completely cleared. A Windows SWAP file is carved out of RAM and is another story not to be discussed here. So then how does volatile (erasable) RAM appear to remain active with apps even after a restart??? It's because of CACHE. Cache can become corrupted with rogue, and or bad files, thus the reason for the restart. It freshens the cache and can make the phone run smoother. If I am wrong in any of this then I stand corrected!
  • As soon as I read the headline I thought… they must be using an android phone. iPhones only need rebooting to install OS updates.
  • Oops, not true, iPhones do get an attitude thus a reboot is the fix. My iPhone use goes through eleven years from the 3GS through XR, for the most part they were wonderful phones. Moved to the Note 20, now I do not see any reason for returning to iPhone. On the Samsung phones one can manually wipe cache partition, and optimize applications, and do other maintenance items not available on iPhone. My feeling about the Note 20 is it is more of a platform than phone only.
  • You mean the fact that you was reading it on Android Central was clue enough for you? This explains your comment.
  • just set it up to reboot each night automatically while you sleep. you don't see it and its restarting daily.
    my S21 reboots every night and it runs just like it came out of the box. it's literally been flawless and I have had it since release. Such an awesome phone.
    maybe it doesn't need to every day, but it also doesn't hurt one bit.
  • Android is a buggy OS, it needs to restart once a week at least or the OS will crash and restart by itself.
  • Sony used to recommend a reboot every 2 weeks but now it is every 4. I haven't had any trouble doing this.
  • Since I'm no longer on call I charge my phone in the evening, power off when I go to bed, and restart it in the morning. When I wake up I start the phone, enter my code, and by the time I've showered it's ready to go.