It is advisable to wipe any and all sensitive information from your phone, tablet, or laptop before passing it on, not just to ensure that your personal data remains private, but to also make sure your device runs like new for its next owner!
- Restore your Android to factory settings: CLICK HERE
- Factory reset a Windows PC, laptop or tablet: CLICK HERE
- What to do before you give away your iPhone, iPad, or iPod touch: CLICK HERE
Performing a factory reset is always a good idea, but it might not always be enough. When the security firm Avast bought 20 Android smartphones from eBay, for example, it was able to recover photos, Google searches, emails, text messages, and contact details. We’re going to show you how to wipe your Android phone properly, to make sure that can’t happen to you.
Factory Reset Protection
You’ll want to start by removing Factory Reset Protection (FRP). Google introduced FRP in Android 5.0 Lollipop as an extra layer of security. It’s designed to prevent thieves from being able to steal your phone, wipe it, and then use it or sell it.
When you factory reset a phone with FRP enabled and try to set it up as a new device, you’ll be prompted to enter the username and password for the last Google account that was registered on the device. If you don’t have those details, then the phone will remain locked and you can’t gain access. Obviously, this is no good if you’re trying to sell it or give it away.
Here’s how to disable it:
This step will differ slightly depending on your phone. On a Samsung Galaxy, go to Settings > Lock screen and security > Screen lock type and choose None. On an LG G6, go to Settings > Display > Lock screen > Select screen lock and choose None. On a Google Pixel, go to Settings > Personal > Security > Screen lock and choose None.
The next thing you must do is remove your Google account.
- On a Samsung Galaxy, go to Settings > Cloud & accounts > Accounts and tap on Google, then tap the three vertical dots in the upper right or More > Remove account.
- On an LG G6 or a Google Pixel, go to Settings > Accounts & sync > Google and tap the three vertical dots in the upper right, then tap Remove account.
If you have more than one Google account registered with your phone, then make sure you remove all of them.
If you have a Samsung Galaxy, then you should remove your Samsung account, too. To do this, go to Settings > Lock screen and security > Find My Mobile. Then, enter your password, tap on your account at the top, and select More > Remove account.
Once your Google and Samsung accounts have been removed, you can proceed with the factory reset.
How does a factory reset work?
When you do a factory reset on your Android smartphone, it’s supposed to wipe it clean, but it doesn’t. It deletes the addresses of all of your data, so it no longer knows where it’s stored, but it doesn’t actually overwrite the data. That being the case, it’s possible for someone to employ off-the-shelf recovery software and get some of that data back. Let’s look at how to wipe your Android smartphone properly.
Encrypt your data
The first step is to encrypt your data. This option is built into Android, and requires you to enter a PIN or password every time you turn your phone on. It means that anyone attempting to recover data from your phone after you will need a special key to decrypt it, and they won’t have the key.
Fully charge your phone or keep it plugged in to the charger while this process is running, because it can take several hours depending on how much data you have.
The exact method for navigating this next step will differ slightly from phone to phone. It will generally be Settings > Security > Encrypt phone.
But on a Samsung Galaxy, for example, you want to go to Settings > Lock screen & security > Protect encrypted data. You have the option to encrypt the SD card as well, but if you’re passing the phone on, we would recommend removing it instead.
If your phone came with Android 6.0 Marshmallow or above, it should be encrypted by default, and you can skip to the next section. If you’re unsure about which version of Android your phone is running, then take a look in Settings > About device/phone > Software info. Keep in mind that it will only be encrypted by default if Android 6.0 Marshmallow was installed out of the box.
Factory reset the phone
Make sure that you have anything you want to keep backed up before you do this because it will wipe everything. The steps are generally the same for most Android devices, but some manufacturers like to be different.
On most Android phones, go to Settings > Backup & reset > Factory data reset and then tap Reset phone or Reset device. On a Samsung Galaxy go to Settings > General Management > Reset > Factory data reset and then tap Reset device. We also have a separate guide on how to factory reset a Galaxy S8.
When the process is done, your phone will be wiped and any data that could be recovered will be encrypted and should be impossible to decrypt. It’s now safe to sell your Android smartphone, or pass it along to someone else.
Overwriting with junk data
If you want to be absolutely certain, you can overwrite the encrypted data with junk data and then perform another factory reset — then it would be genuinely impossible to recover any of your old data. This is probably overkill. If you want to do it, however, then simply load a bunch of dummy data onto your phone until the storage is full — a few large videos should do the trick — and then perform another factory reset.
You can also get an app to do it for you. There are a few options in the Play Store, such as Secure Erase with iShredder 6.
How to factory reset a Windows PC, laptop or tablet: CLICK HERE
Restoring your computer or tablet to its factory state can be a way to solve performance problems, remove malware or get it ready for a new owner.
If your device is just running slowly, you might only need our guide to speeding up Windows, but for more serious performance problems, a full reset might be in order.
The process of resetting a computer has changed slightly in Windows 10, so we offer separate guides on how to reset Windows 10 and how to reset Windows 7 or 8 below.
Factory reset a Windows 10 computer or tablet
In Windows 10 the process is pretty easy, thanks to a built-in tool for resetting a PC. Open the Start menu and select Settings (the cog wheel). Now type ‘reset’ in the search bar and select ‘Reset this PC’ on the left when the results appear.
Under the Recovery section of Update & Security you can now hit ‘Get started’ to begin the process. During this you can select if you would like to keep files or do a full reset.
The process is identical for a Windows 10 tablet, because the operating system is almost identical across computers and tablets.
Factory reset a Windows 7 or 8 computer
Factory resetting a computer running an older version of Windows is a little trickier, because there’s no reset tool built into the operating system.
Some computers come with recovery discs, which is a fairly easy way of performing a factory reset – you can just insert the disc and follow the instructions. Just remember to back up your files first!
Windows 8 computers will sometimes have a recovery application which is launched from within Windows, rather than from a disc, so check your app menu.
If you didn’t get any discs in the box, and don’t have a preinstalled recovery app, then there’s a good chance your PC or laptop has a recovery partition instead.
This is a hidden part of the hard drive which safely stores a complete copy of Windows, drivers and extra programs. You can use it return your computer to the exact state it was in the first day you had it – and it will perform just the same, too.
Please bear in mind that the process will vary between different brands and even different models. The recovery software will be called various names for each brand of computer, usually along the lines of ‘recovery manager’. We’ve done our best to put together a ‘one size fits all’ guide.
Back up any data which you wish to keep before performing a factory reset. You will probably want to copy everything from your user folders, including documents, photos, music and videos. The factory reset will delete all these along with any programs you’ve installed since you got your laptop.
1. Start-up or reboot your laptop.
2. During the startup process, hit the appropriate F key or key combination which we have
listed below for your manufacturer.
What to do before you give away your iPhone, iPad, or iPod touch: CLICK
Before you sell or give away your device, you should remove your personal information. You shouldn’t manually delete your contacts, calendars, reminders, documents, photos, or any other iCloud information while you’re signed in to iCloud with your Apple ID. This would delete your content from the iCloud servers and any of your devices signed in to iCloud.
Follow these steps:
- If you paired an Apple Watch with your iPhone, unpair your Apple Watch.
- Back-up your device
- Sign out of iCloud and the iTunes & App Store.
- If you’re using iOS 10.3 or later, tap Settings > [your name]. Scroll down and tap Sign Out. Enter your Apple ID password and tap Turn Off.
- If you’re using iOS 10.2 or earlier, tap Settings > iCloud > Sign Out. Tap Sign Out again, then tap Delete from My [device] and enter your Apple ID password. Then go to Settings > iTunes & App Store > Apple ID > Sign Out.
- Go back to Settings and tap General > Reset > Erase All Content and Settings. If you turned on Find My iPhone, you might need to enter your Apple ID and password.
- If asked for your device passcode or Restrictions passcode, enter it. Then tap Erase [device].
- If you’re switching to a non-Apple phone, deregister iMessage.
- Contact your carrier for help transferring service to a new owner. If you aren’t using a SIM card with your device, you can contact them to get help transferring service to the new owner.
When you erase your iPhone, iPad, or iPod touch, Find My iPhone and Activation Lock is turned off.
Do you have an old cellphone which no longer serves you? In collaboration with the Global Ecovillage Network (GEN), we are collecting electronic devices (cell phones, Ipads, Notebooks) during the Celebrate Life Festival 2019. They will be redistributed to GEN’s community leaders for sustainable change in the Global South. These are key figures in rights and peace movements, poverty reduction, climate change and social justice.
Before giving away your devices (smartphone, tablet or laptop), it is important to restore them to default settings.
It is advisable to wipe any and all sensitive information from your smartphone before passing it on, not just to ensure that your personal data remains private, but to also make sure your device runs like new for its next owner.
How to restore your Android to factory settings:
How to factory reset a Windows PC, laptop or tablet:
What to do before you give away your iPhone, iPad, or iPod touch: