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Smart Tip: How to Completely Erase Your Phone

Posted April 12, 2016 in Consumer, Smartphones, Tips by 0

Having a shiny, new smartphone in hand is enough to get anyone excited. But don’t forget about your old device. When upgrading to a new phone, it’s essential that you backup the data from your old one, and then wipe the old device clean afterwards – no matter what you plan to do with it – to help prevent your personal data from being compromised.

This is particularly important when you consider everything you do on, and store in, a smartphone these days – from banking passwords, to medical data, and personal family photos and emails. The CTIA (The Wireless Association) reports, for example, that nearly half of all smartphone owners use their mobile devices for banking transactions.

You might think that simply deleting the most important items is enough, but it isn’t. And in some cases, it’s been found that even going through the basic factory reset process may still leave data accessible. Software firm Avast recently purchased 20 devices online, and discovered they were able to retrieve swarms of data from them, including more than 40,000 stored photos, 1,500 family photos of children, and more than 250 contact names and email addresses.

So, now that we’ve established how critical it is to wipe your device clean if it gets lost, stolen, or if you’re simply upgrading to a new device, you may be wondering what steps you need to follow to get it done. Here’s a simple overview of how you can wipe your iOS and/or Android device clean.

How to wipe an iOS device

First, it’s important that you backup all of your important files, apps, and contacts before doing so, either in iCloud (Settings > iCloud > Backup > Backup Now), on a local computer through iTunes (tap the iPhone icon, then Backup Now), or both.

Once that’s taken care of, to run a factory reset of the iPhone, go to Settings, General, Reset, and select “Erase all Content and Settings.” You may need to enter your passcode and Apple ID to initiate the process, and it’s advisable to plug your phone into a power source as it could take some time to complete the task.

Alternatively, you can use the Find My iPhone feature to remotely reset the device and erase its contents. Sign in to, click All Devices, select your iPhone, and hit “erase.”

By default, as long as you use a passcode, iOS devices are hardware encrypted, so your data should be inaccessible.

How to wipe an Android device

Again, you need to backup your device. With most Android phones, you can go to Settings, Accounts & Sync, Auto-sync data, and select Google to backup your phone’s contents to your Google account.

Then, before running a factory reset, encrypt your phone by going to Settings, Security, and Encrypt Phone. This adds the requirement of a PIN code before you can access data. Then, proceed with a factory reset (after having backed up your files, of course) by going to Backup & Reset in Settings.

The bottom line

Following these steps ensures that you’ve taken reasonable measures to protect your information, and reduced the likelihood of unauthorized access to your data. Now, time to enjoy your new phone!

By Christine Persaud

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