How to Completely Wipe All Data From Your Android Smartphone

android smartphone wipe data

Smartphones changing hands is hardly an uncommon occurrence nowadays – you buy a new one and the old one ends up in the hands of a sibling or parent, or sold to a second hand vendor somewhere. After all, there's no reason not to re-use a functioning device if the opportunity arises, right?

The practices of swapping smartphones open a whole new can of worms. You see, smart phones collect a lot of data on their users - from contact information to sensitive business emails and financial details. This is why performing a factory reset before handing out your device to a new owner is usually a necessary practice. However, it might not always be enough.

Research by a security team of the well known Avast firm made an experiment - they bought 20 random Android smartphones from eBay, and set its specialists to work. What they discovered was more than a bit disconcerting. The specialists were able to recover a heap of data from the phones, including important information such as contact details, Google searches, text messages, emails and even photos. So what should you do to make absolutely sure that any such information you have stored on your device is absolutely and completely wiped from it? Here's a handy guide below.

Disable Factory Reset Protection

First thing you will need to do to completely wipe your phone is remove Factory Reset Protection (FRP). This feature was introduced in Android 5.0 Lollipop as an extra layer of security, meant to prevent thieves from being wipe your phone and then proceed to use it or sell it off.

  1. The first step may vary depending on the type of phone you are trying to wipe clean. To perform it on a LG G6, select Settings, then choose Display, then choose Lock screen, then select Select screen lock and choose None. On the Samsung Galaxy family of smartphones, you should choose Settings, then go to Lock screen and security, then choose Screen lock type and finally choose None. On a Google Pixel smartphone, enter Settings, then go to Personal, then choose Security, then select Screen lock and choose None.
  2. The next step you should take to completely clean your phone is remove your Google account. On a Samsung Galaxy, enter Settings, then go to Cloud & accounts, then go to Accounts and tap on Google, then select the three vertical dots in the upper right or More, then select Remove account. On an LG G6 or a Google Pixel, enter Settings, then choose Accounts & sync, then select Google and choose the three vertical dots in the upper right, then Remove account. Make sure you perform this on all Google accounts registered with your phone, not just the one that you are currently logged in to.
  3. (SAMSUNG ONLY) If you are trying to wipe a Samsung Galaxy phone, then you probably want to remove your Samsung account as well. In order to perform this, enter Settings, go to Lock screen and security, then choose Find My Mobile. Once you enter into your account select More then finish the job by using the Remove account function.

Performing a Factory Reset

Little known fact – factory reset does not actually completely delete all your data. Yes, it makes said data inaccessible to the layman, but a savvy individual can still recover it without too much of a brother, especially if they employ off-the-shelf recovery software or specialist technical skills. That's why you should continue with step 4 after you are finished with this step, to ensure that your data has been wiped for good.

  1. Performing the factory reset step may vary depending on the Android phone's interface, but for most phones this sequence should do the trick - go to Settings, then access Backup & reset, then select Factory data reset and finally choose Reset phone or Reset device.
  2. On a Samsung Galaxy you will need to go to Settings, then choose General Management, then select Reset, then Factory data reset and finally select Reset device.

Overwriting with junk data

In order to be absolutely certain that none of your relevant data can be recovered, the best way to go about things is to then overwrite the potentially recoverable relevant data with junk data and perform another factory reset. There are several methods to do so – some apps in the App store offer this service, but there is another method to do that as well – just set your phone up to record a video at the maximum quality, and leave it at that for however long it takes – staring at a window, perhaps. When a message pops up and tells you that your phone's memory is full, you'll know that you're ready to perform another factory reset. Follow through with step 3 all over again. That way, even if someone starts tinkering with the device, all they will be able to recover is some empty footage of nothing in particular.

July 24, 2018

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