The Complete Guide to Wiping Your Android Phone

Affiliate Disclaimer: If you purchase through links on our site, we may earn an affiliate commission at no additional cost to you!
Photo of author

Update on

Getting a new phone is always exciting. But before parting ways with your old Android device, it’s crucial to make sure you wipe it properly.

A factory reset doesn’t always completely erase all your personal data. That’s why you need to know how to do a full wipe if you plan on selling, donating or recycling your Android phone.

This in-depth guide will walk you through everything you need to know to fully wipe your Android device.

Why Should You Wipe Your Android Phone?

Here are some of the top reasons for wiping your Android device before getting rid of it:

  • Protect your privacy – Your phone contains a ton of sensitive personal information. From contacts and messages to photos, call logs and browsing history. Wiping it prevents strangers from accessing your private data.
  • Remove malware or viruses – If your phone has been infected with malware, the only way to be sure it’s gone is to wipe the device. This gives you peace of mind when passing it to someone else.
  • Improve device performance – Over time, leftover files and cached data can slow your phone down. Wiping it clears out this clutter for a speed boost.
  • Remove lock screen – If you forgot your lock screen pattern, PIN or password, a full wipe lets you bypass it and start fresh.
  • Prep for resale – Buyers feel more comfortable purchasing a used phone if it’s been wiped to factory settings first. This can increase your phone’s resale value.
  • Resolve software issues – Sometimes system crashes, frozen screens or app glitches can be fixed by wiping your device. It’s an easy troubleshooting step.

As you can see, giving your phone a clean slate before saying goodbye makes a lot of sense. Next let’s look at how to back up your data.

Back Up Important Data Before Wiping

The wiping process will permanently erase everything on your Android phone. So prior to wiping it, be sure to:

  • Copy photos/videos – Transfer any photos and videos you want to keep onto a computer or cloud storage. Google Photos and Dropbox are easy options.
  • Export contacts – Save important contacts by exporting them to your Google account, SIM card or microSD card.
  • Sync app data – Use Google Sync to backup app data you want to retain, like WhatsApp conversations or game progress.
  • Transfer files – Manually copy any other files or documents off the phone to save them.
  • Note down passwords – Make a list of any passwords you need to remember for apps or accounts on the device.

Thoroughly going through your phone to backup everything needed will save you from headaches later. Don’t skip this step!

What Does a Factory Reset NOT Delete?

Before we get into wiping methods, it’s important to understand what data a standard factory reset leaves behind.

A factory reset will delete:

  • Downloaded apps
  • Photos, videos and audio
  • Contacts, call logs, messages
  • Accounts and settings
  • System and app data and cache

However, it will not remove:

  • SD card files
  • Some system settings
  • Malware or viruses
  • Sensitive cached data

For these reasons, a factory reset isn’t enough when wanting to completely wipe your Android phone before disposal. Read on for better options.

4 Methods to Completely Wipe Your Android Phone

There are a few different methods you can use to do a complete data wipe on your Android device. Here are some of the best options and how they differ:

Method 1: Factory Reset From Settings

This is the most basic wiping method. Here’s how it works:

  1. Open your device Settings app
  2. Select System > Advanced > Reset options
  3. Choose Erase all data (factory reset)
  4. Tap Reset phone
  5. If prompted, enter your lock screen credentials
  6. On the confirmation screen tap Erase everything
Wipe Android Phone with Factory data Reset

The phone will reboot into recovery mode and erase all user data. This process takes 5-30 minutes.

Pros: Simple, built-in on all Android devices.

Cons: Doesn’t delete everything. Some data may remain on SD card.

Method 2: Wipe Data From Recovery Mode

Similar to a factory reset but initiated from recovery mode:

  1. Power off your Android phone
  2. Press and hold the Power + Volume Down buttons together
  3. When the recovery menu appears, use volume keys to select “Wipe data/factory reset”
  4. Press the Power button to confirm
  5. With volume keys, highlight Yes on the confirmation prompt
  6. Press Power to initiate wipe (takes 5-30 mins)
  7. When complete, select “Reboot system now”

Pros: More thorough than standard factory reset.

Cons: Still may not delete all data remnants.

Method 3: Secure Erase with Third-Party Software

For the most comprehensive wipe, use data eraser apps like iShredder or dr.fone Data Eraser. These overwrite the entire phone memory with zeros to prevent file recovery.

Wipe Android Phone with dr.fone Data Eraser

To use:

  1. Download and install app on your Android device
  2. Grant required permissions to access storage
  3. Select wipe method (1-pass, 3-pass, 7-pass)
  4. Tap ‘Erase’ and confirm when prompted
  5. Wait several hours for process to completely overwrite all data

Pros: Military-grade wiping leaves no trace of recoverable data.

Cons: Requires downloading third-party software. Very slow process.

Method 4: Encrypt Device Before Factory Reset

One last option is to encrypt your Android phone before doing a factory reset:

  1. Go to Settings > Security > Encryption
  2. Enter your lock screen PIN/password
  3. Tap “Encrypt phone” and confirm
  4. Leave it plugged in overnight until encryption completes
  5. Once encrypted, do a factory reset as usual

This adds an extra layer of protection since encrypted data is unrecoverable.

Pros: Makes data recovery impossible without original decryption key.

Cons: Encryption takes several hours. Reset process still imperfect.

Out of these methods, secure erase apps provide the most peace of mind that all personal data is obliterated. But each option has its pros and cons to weigh.

Extra Wiping Tips

Keep these additional tips in mind for optimal results when wiping your Android:

  • Update to latest OS version before wiping when possible
  • Disable lock screen passwords before factory reset
  • Remove SIM card and SD card before wiping device
  • Perform multiple wipe passes for paranoid-level security
  • On custom ROMs, wipe data/cache partitions from recovery first
  • Check ‘Erase USB storage’ option when available for full wipe
  • If any data remains, use file shredder apps to individually wipe folders

Signing Out of Accounts Before Wiping

Don’t forget to sign out of any accounts logged in on your device prior to wiping:

  • Google Accounts – Unlink all accounts under Settings > Accounts
  • Samsung Account – Go to Settings > Accounts > Samsung account > Remove account
  • Outlook.com – Go to Settings > Accounts > Microsoft > Tap account > Sign out
  • Social media & other apps – Open each app and sign out from any connected accounts

Logging out ensures credentials aren’t left behind where someone else could access them.

Selling Your Wiped Android Phone

Once you’ve fully wiped your Android device, it’s ready to be sold, donated, recycled or passed on to a new owner worry-free.

Here are some tips for selling your wiped phone:

  • Reset to factory settings right before meeting buyer
  • Show buyer the “Setup Wizard” screen to prove it’s wiped
  • Be upfront about any existing hardware issues
  • Factory reset again on the spot if requested
  • Remove your SIM card and microSD card
  • Include original packaging and accessories if possible
  • Meet buyer in a public place for safety
  • Accept digital payment only to avoid fake cash

Taking these precautions helps avoid any potential issues or sketchy buyers.

Restoring Your Data on a New Android Phone

After getting your new phone, you’ll want to transfer over your important data from either your backup or old Android device.

To restore your stuff on a new Android phone:

  • Photos & videos – Upload to Google Photos on old phone, then install Google Photos app on new phone and log into your Google account.
  • Contacts – Export contacts to old phone storage or SIM card, then import them on new phone.
  • Apps – Re-download apps from Google Play store and log in with your Google account. App data synced via Google Sync will transfer.
  • Other files – Copy files from old phone to a computer, then onto the new phone’s storage or SD card.
  • Accounts & settings – Log into same accounts to sync settings. Use Android Smart Switch to transfer some info.

Take it slow reconfiguring your new phone to avoid anything getting lost or overwritten in the process.

Key Takeaways:

  • Always fully wipe your Android phone before getting rid of it to avoid privacy risks
  • Factory reset alone doesn’t delete all data – use third-party eraser apps for full wipe
  • Encrypt your phone before wiping for added security against file recovery
  • Manually back up and transfer any data you need prior to wiping the device
  • Sign out of all accounts so credentials aren’t left behind
  • Selling your wiped phone is safe if proper precautions are taken
  • You can restore your data and settings on a new Android phone from backups

Frequently Asked Questions

Does a hard reset delete everything?

No, a standard hard reset or factory reset does not permanently erase all files on an Android phone. Some data remains in the phone’s internal memory and SD card which can be recovered.

Is factory reset enough before selling phone?

Doing a factory reset is better than nothing before selling your phone, but it isn’t enough to fully wipe sensitive personal data. Use a third-party data wiping app or encryption for optimal security.

Can wiped Android phone data be recovered?

If the phone was only factory reset, then specialized data recovery software can often restore much of the “deleted” information. But if the device was encrypted and securely erased, retrieving wiped data is nearly impossible.

How do I permanently delete everything on my Android phone?

To permanently erase everything from internal storage on an Android phone, use a secure data wiping app like iShredder or Eraser. Overwriting the phone’s memory multiple times with random data guarantees the deleted files can never be recovered again.

Does Verizon wipe phone when returned?

No, Verizon does not promise to wipe or reset phones when they are traded in or returned. It is up to the customer to fully factory reset the device before sending it back to ensure personal data isn’t compromised.

Can wiped phone data be recovered after factory reset?

In many cases, yes – personal data can still be recovered using specialized software after just a factory reset, since this does not deeply erase files. To prevent recovery and total data loss, use data wiping apps instead of just a factory reset.

Is it bad to not wipe your phone before trading it in?

It is highly recommended to fully wipe your Android phone before trading it in or selling it to another owner. Not wiping your phone puts all your private texts, photos, emails, accounts and other personal data at risk of being accessed by strangers.

Can you recover lost data after factory reset?

If you forgot to backup important data before factory resetting your Android device, recovery is often possible using data recovery apps like Dr.Fone – Android Data Recovery or UltData as long as the phone wasn’t encrypted. But full data recovery is not guaranteed, so always backup first.

Does turning off Android phone delete everything?

No, nothing is deleted when normally powering off your Android phone. To delete all data and settings, you must either factory reset through the Settings menu or use a third-party data wiping tool while powered on.

Jason
Jason

Skilled software testing specialist with expertise in comparisons and research, passionate about blogging, reviews, and creating video tutorials.

More Articles

Fixing a Samsung Black Screen Problem
Repair, Samsung

Fixing a Samsung Black Screen Problem In An Easy Way

As a Samsung Galaxy phone owner, few things are as frustrating as when your phone suddenly gets stuck ...
Android Partition Manager
Android

Maximizing Your Android Device’s Storage with Partition Manager

Learn how to partition your Android device using the Android Partition Manager app. This can help improve storage capacity and OS efficiency.
How To Transfer And View Heic Images On Android
Android, Convert, Multimedia

The Complete Guide to Transferring HEIC Photos from iPhone to Android

Apple’s switch to the HEIC (High Efficiency Image Format) for photos taken on iPhone has caused compatibility issues ...