Our mobile phones are more than just gadgets. They're extensions of ourselves, filled information about what makes us who we are. Private conversations, Instagrammed meals, sexy selfies - whatever it is, you don’t want that data to be accessed by just anyone. So when the time finally comes to sell your handset, you need to make sure that you completely wipe all the data.
In essence, to sell a phone you have to make sure to remove any trace of… well, you. Read on, and we'll tell you how to completely erase your Android or iPhone, and what your options are if you forget to do it.
How to wipe personal data from your iPhone
A good thing about Apple iOS is that it's designed to be really easy to use. That design philosophy extends to all the various device admin you may have to do, including erasing all your personal data before you sell the iPhone on. The quickest way to erase stuff is to reset to factory settings (step 5), but for the sake of thoroughness, here's everything you can do:
- Turn off security - if you have a passcode or Touch ID fingerprint set to unlock your phone, turn them off. Go to Settings > Touch ID and Passcode then deactivate Touch ID for unlocks and tap >Turn Passcode Off.
- Back up your device - if your iPhone isn't set to automatically back up, you should do that before anything else. Go into Settings > [your name] > iCloud > iCloud Backup. Make sure iCloud backup is turned on and tap >Back Up Now.
- Unpair any devices and turn off Find My Phone - if you have any devices paired with your phone, such as an Apple Watch, unpair them. You should also deactivate Find My Phone by going into Settings > iCloud > Find My iPhone and toggling it off.
- Sign out of iCloud completely - go to Settings > [your name]. Scroll down and tap >Sign Out. You'll be prompted to enter your Apple ID password - once you've done that, you are fully signed out.
- Restore factory settings - It's time to wipe your data. Go to Settings > General > Reset > Erase All Content and Settings. If you're signed into iCloud or Find My Phone is still on, you may be required to enter your Apple ID (it'll then turn these off). You'll also probably have to enter your passcode if you still have one set. Once that's done, tap >Erase and wave sayonara to all your data.
How to wipe data from an Android phone
Android handsets are more diverse than iOS devices, and the interface can differ depending on which manufacturer, specific handset, or even version of Android you're using. So bear in mind that your specific device might have a few language or menu variations compared to the information presented here. A factory reset (step 5) will wipe all your data, but here's everything you can do to remove wipe any trace of personal data:
- Turn off security - go to Settings > Lock Screen and Security. Select Screen lock type, enter your security details and select >
- Backup your phone - if you haven’t backed up your phone for a while and want to save your data, go to Settings > System > Backup. You'll be able to save your phone settings and photos to Google, though depending on the manufacturer and backup options they offer, you may need third party apps to save conversations and the like.
- Remove your Google account - on most devices go to Settings > Users and Accounts, select your account and then remove it. If you have a Samsung phone, you'll find your Google account details under Settings > Google.
- Sign out of your Samsung account - if you're using a Samsung Galaxy, you'll want to get rid of Samsung Cloud too. You'll find this in Settings > Cloud and Accounts.
- Factory reset your phone - it's time to wipe all your data. Go to Settings > Reset options and select >Erase all data (factory reset). If you have a Samsung, you can find this option in Settings > General Management > Depending on the handset, it may also be under Settings > System > Backup & Reset or Settings > System > Reset. As we said - there's a lot of variance between Android phones.
What do I do if I send my phone without wiping the data?
Oh no! You've already sent your phone without wiping your data? You're doomed!
Actually you're not, so don’t panic. Recyclers will wipe your phone before they do anything with it. It's still more secure to do it all yourself first, but they're unlikely to send it back for the sake of a bit of admin.
UNLESS… you don't turn off the passcode. Active security features will stop them accessing the phone, and they'll have no choice but to send it back to you. A small number may even charge you for the return postage. So, if you take nothing else from this guide, remember this: turn off your security!
Is it worth using a mobile phone data eraser app?
There have been some questions about exactly how good Android is at wiping your data. If you're sending your phone to a reputable recycler like those listed on SellMyMobile, most people will probably be okay with a standard factory reset, but if you do have concerns, you can use a data eraser (sometimes referred to as a data shredder) app to make sure no information is recoverable.
There are various data shredders on the Google Play Store, but make sure you check reviews to ensure you're using legitimate, respected software.