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How to Securely Wipe Your Android-Based Device

It’s time for a new Android phone or tablet. Perhaps you are just ready for an upgrade, work is giving you the new technology, or your old device has finally decided to stop working.

You might first consider reusing your old Android device, as a wireless trackpad and controller for your Windows or Mac computer, a universal smart remote, a kitchen common center, or something else. However, if you think it is time to resell, regift, trash, or give away your phone, do so with care.

Your phone is typically full of personal data, photos, financial information, contact details, and more — things you don’t want to fall into the wrong hands. This means you need to do a secure wipe of your Android before selling, gifting, or trashing your phone so whoever has it next doesn’t have access to any of your personal data.

Know that deletion isn’t erasure

The first thing to note is that deleting the information on your old Android device isn’t the same as performing a complete, secure erasure. When you delete a file and empty your trash, what this does is mark the area of the hard drive it was on as available to be written with new data. At this point, the old data still exists on your device and can be recovered with standard data recovery software.

Securely wipe your Android in 5 steps

To do a secure erase of your old Android smartphone or tablet, you need to delete all the info on your phone’s internal storage (just as you would with a computer). This can be done with either a magnetic hard disk or, more commonly, solid-state storage, which is faster, stronger, and has no moving parts.

After deletion, you need to ​​write over every phone sector with junk data and then delete that (a number of times) to ensure the old data cannot be recovered. Use the following steps to securely wipe your old Android device. 

1. Backup all your data 

As much as you want to get rid of your old phone’s or tablet’s data, as you anticipate becoming the proud new owner of a recently introduced model, take some time to consider if there is anything you need from the older device. You likely want to keep things like contacts, photos, and important calendar dates. With this process, the data is truly erased; it will be gone, and you can’t recover it. So be sure to take time to do a full backup.

Typically data is backed up in the cloud, but you can also use a flash drive or computer for this storage. You might also want to backup your photos and videos specifically to Google Photos. 

To check your account sync status for cloud storage, you should:

2. Encrypt your phone 

While it is unlikely, it’s not impossible that someone who now has your old Android phone might use data recovery tools to dig up old pieces of information on the device for nefarious purposes. This is why you should make sure that all the data on the phone has been securely encrypted.

On a new phone (Android 5.0 Lollipop operating system or newer,) the data has likely already been encrypted, but you should check to be sure that there was no oversight. To check, go to:

If you need to, you can choose “Encrypt phone” under Security. 

Pre-2015 phones weren’t often encrypted, so you have to do this yourself. For Androids running 4.4 KitKat or lower, you will have to set up a PIN or password first. Here’s how:

Then, pick a pattern, numbered PIN, or mixed password for your lock screen. Then you’d hit “Encrypt phone” under the Security menu.

With newer Samsung Galaxy phones, you:

Once your local storage has been encrypted, then a factory reset will render your data irretrievable.

3. Remove your SIM card and SD card 

Your phone might have a physical SIM card (subscriber identity module card) that connects to your mobile carrier so you can make phone calls and send text messages. In some cases, it might have an SD card (secure digital card), which looks similar to the SIM card but serves as extra storage for movies, music, photos, and so on.

Depending on the make and model of your Android phone, including Samsung phones, the slots for these cards may appear on different areas of the phone. Check around the edges of a phone to find your sim card slot.

To open up a slot, turn off your phone and  simply poke a SIM eject tool (which comes with the phone) into the hole beside the slot to open the tray so you can remove the card with your fingers. 

4. Factory reset your device 

Now it’s time to do a factory reset of your Android device to erase its data. Here is how to do this on most stock Android phones:

With a Samsung Galaxy phone, you generally:

While your data is considered erased, technically it remains on your phone until it is overwritten. If you want to take your security a step further, you can overwrite your phone’s storage disk by adding large files to your phone (such as video files) until the disk is filled up, and then delete those files.

5. Remove account associations that remain 

Finally, remove any accounts connected to your old phone. To sever your Google Account connection:

If you have more than one Google Account, you’d have to sign out of all of them. Other accounts that might need to be dealt with this way might include password managers, such as Last Pass, and security apps, such as Authy and Microsoft Authenticator. 

Use a data erasure software when selling used phones

When you are selling an Android phone, after the factory reset you can ensure the erasure of the device by turning to an app, such as Secure Erase iShredder (available on Google Play), which “shreds” your data permanently.

Many phone resellers are also relying on the proven capabilities of Phonecheck Pro Software, with ​​fast, comprehensive data erasure. This safety solution helps form a bond of trust between buyer and seller, enabling fast, reliable transactions without hassles.

Phonecheck’s data-wipe capabilities are among the most comprehensive in the industry, having performed OEM-secure data sanitization on thousands of mobile devices, including both Androids and Apple iPhones (iOS).  

Wipe phones clean smarter and faster with Phonecheck

Used phone resellers should check out the comprehensive solutions offered by Phonecheck, including data-backed certification which will perform ADISA-certified erasure of smartphones, do 80-point diagnostic tests, and much more. They consolidate current clumsy workflows and supercharge a business’s throughput.

You can also protect yourself for about the cost of a cup of coffee with a Phonecheck Certified History Report. It provides valuable, money-saving intel on a single device, such as whether the phone has been lost or stolen, if costly carrier lock is put in place, or whether unpaid bills mean it is blocked on certain carrier services.

With Phonecheck, you can make sure that everything about a potential phone purchase checks out.

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