Mobile phones hold all sorts of data such as the Google searches you have made, your emails, texts, photos, files, and contacts. As you can see, knowing how to securely wipe your phone before selling is crucial to protect the personal data that your phone has accrued. Our guide below explains how to wipe your data on a variety of devices. This guide assumes that you still have the phone in your possession, and will not help if your phone has been lost or stolen.
Before you hit the factory reset switch, there are a couple of steps to complete first:
- Log out of your email and social media accounts
- Back up any contacts and data that you want to keep
- Remove your SIM card and microSD card (memory card) if you use one
- Unpair your other devices such as your Android or Apple Watch
It is fairly easy to securely wipe your iOS device, even if you are a bit of a tech novice. The first thing that you should do is turn off Find My iPhone. To do this you should follow the settings options listed below:
- iOS 10.3 or later – Settings> Your Name> iCloud> Find My iPhone
- iOS 10.2 or earlier – Settings> iCloud> Find My iPhone
Once you have completed this step you should sign out and turn off the following services:
- App Store – Settings> iTunes & App Store> Apple ID> Sign Out
- iMessage – Settings> Messages> iMessage toggle
- iCloud (iOS 10.3 or later) – Settings> Your Name> Sign Out
- iCloud (iOS 10.2 or earlier) – Setting> iCloud> Sign Out
It is important to sign out of iCloud before manually deleting any content. If you don’t do this, then any content you manually delete will also be deleted from iCloud as well.
You should also sign out of services such as Twitter and Facebook. Once you have done this you are ready to wipe your device and this process contains two steps:
- Wipe your iOS device – Settings> General> Reset> Erase All Content and Settings
- Remove your device’s serial number from your Apple account – visit appleid.apple.com
When you follow our guide to securely wipe your Android phone you will delete your accounts, installed apps, app data, system settings, photos, music, and all internal storage, from your old phone.
Android added an extra layer of protection with its devices that run the Android 5.0 Lollipop operating system or later. This extra layer of protection is called factory reset protection (FRP) and it prevents access to the phone when it is reset unless you enter the original Google account and password that you set up when you first used the phone.
So, if you wish to sell your Android phone, then you must deactivate FRP so that the person you sell the phone to can set it up as their own. The first step is to turn off your lock screen:
- Huawei phones – Settings> Security & Privacy> Lock Screen Password> Disable Lock Screen Password
- Samsung phones – Settings> Lock Screen and Security> Screen Lock Type> None
- Google Pixel phones – Settings> Security & Location> Screen Lock> None
The next step is to remove your Google account from the phone:
- Huawei phones – Settings> Users & Accounts> Google> Remove
- Samsung phones – Settings> Cloud & Accounts> Accounts> Google
- Google Pixel phones – Settings> Accounts> Google> Remove Account
You should also remove your Samsung account if your old phone is a made by Samsung.
The next step is to perform the factory reset:
- Huawei phones – Settings> System> Reset> Reset Phone
- Samsung phones – Settings> General Management> Reset> Factory Data Reset> Reset Device
- Google Pixel Phones – Settings> System> Advanced> Reset Options> Erase All Data> Reset
Even after completing these steps it is possible for someone to recover some data, using certain tools. This shouldn’t be a concern for the vast majority of people, however, you can completely stop the possibility of recovery by:
- Performing a factory reset, filling the memory with other data such as videos, and then performing a second factory reset
- Using a secure erase app from the Play Store
If you have a Windows Phone that you can wipe your data in two steps:
- Wipe your phone – Settings> About> Reset Your Phone
- Remove your device from your Microsoft account – visit account.microsoft.com/devices
As you can see, it isn’t too hard to securely wipe your phone before selling it or passing it on to another user. For more security tips and tricks, take a look at our guide on avoiding phone scams, or protecting your information online.