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How to wipe your smartphone before selling it (Android and iPhone)

If you're getting a new smartphone, you might want to sell your old device. If you're going to do this, however, it’s important that all your sensitive data is wiped clean. Leaving personal details on your old device may lead to unpleasant exposure or make you vulnerable to hackers. In this article, we'll show you how to perform a full reset to factory settings and securely erase the data on Android phones and iPhone devices.

Jomilė Nakutavičiūtė

Jomilė Nakutavičiūtė

How to wipe your smartphone before selling it (Android and iPhone)

Sometimes a simple factory reset won’t completely erase all the data on your device, and the new owner of your device might easily restore your files, messages and even photos. Some apps and browsers might also store your login details and passwords. We recommend that you remove all applications from your device; that's right, you should even delete VPN apps if you're going to sell your device. So before you trade away your device, make sure that you follow these steps to wipe it completely.

What to do before trading your Android

  • Delete saved passwords from your browsers and apps. Unsync them from associated accounts.
  • Remove your SIM card and any external storage.
  • Log out of your Google accounts.

    Go to Settings> Users and Accounts, select your accounts, and then click ‘Remove.’ (If you have a Samsung device, remove the accounts from your phone and tablet too).

  • Remove any payment cards associated with your phone.

    Go to the Google Play Store app. Tap Menu> Payment methods> More payment settings. Sign in to pay.google.com if needed. Choose the payment method you want to remove and tap Remove.

  • Deactivate factory reset protection.

    If your Android device came with the operating system 5.0 Lollipop or later, your phone will have Android device protection or factory reset protection (FRP). You will need to deactivate it — otherwise, the new owner won’t be able to use your phone.

    If your phone came with an older operating system, you can skip to the next step. If you are unsure which version your phone is running, you can find that out by going to Settings> About device/phone> Software info.

    To deactivate the FRP:

    1. Go to Settings;
    2. How to wipe Android
    3. Select Accounts;
    4. How to wipe Android
    5. Tap on your account;
    6. How to wipe Android
    7. Choose Remove Account.
    8. How to wipe Android
  • Sign out of Android Beta if you have Pixel or Nexus phones.
  • Encrypt your data. A simple factory data reset doesn’t completely wipe all the data from your phone, so all your files can be easily recovered. Encrypted data means that even if the new owner of your device tries to restore your data, they won’t be able to access it.
    1. Go to Settings> Security & location;
    2. How to wipe Android
    3. Tap Encryption & credentials;
    4. How to wipe Android
    5. Tap Encrypt phone.
    6. How to wipe Android
  • Upload dummy data

    For an extra layer of security, you can upload junk data on to your phone before performing a factory reset. Just upload a few video files or any other data to fill your internal phone storage. This method will make restoring the sensitive data you’ve already encrypted virtually impossible to decrypt.

How to backup your Android

How to back up your files

1. Go to Settings;

2. Choose System;

How to wipe Android

3. Click Backup;

How to wipe Android

4. Switch it to On. Your data will be stored in Google Drive.

Android 8.1 or later automatically backs up your text messages (but not your call log). If you want a more secure way to save your text messages and your call log, you can use third-party tools to do so.

How to sync Google apps

You should also sync your apps with your Google account. Normally, Google apps will sync with your account automatically, but if this doesn’t happen, you can sync them manually:

1. Go to Settings;

2. Tap Accounts;

How to wipe Android

3. Turn on Automatically sync data.

How to wipe Android

Please note that to sync other apps, you will have to check individual app settings and sync them manually.

How to back up your Google photos

1. Open the Google Photos app;

How to wipe Android

2. Sign in;

3. Click on the triple-bar icon in the top left corner;

How to wipe Android

4. Select Settings;

How to wipe Android

5. Tap Back up & sync;

How to wipe Android

6. Switch it on by tapping on the toggle next to the Back up to Google Drive option.

How to wipe Android

Keep in mind, however, that Google Photos is not the best choice in terms of privacy. If you are looking for something more private, check our list of more private photo apps.

The same goes for Google Drive. While it can be a useful back-up tool, there are many privacy-focused Google Drive alternatives.

How to back up your messages

If you have an Android 8.1 or later, your text messages (but not your call log) will be backed up automatically. If you want a more secure way to save your text messages and your call log, you can use SMS Backup & Restore, a Google app that will back everything up on your Gmail account. For a step-by-step guide, click here.

How to wipe your Android

1. Go to Settings> System.

How to wipe Android

2. Tap Reset Options;

How to wipe Android

3. Choose Erase all data (factory reset);

How to wipe Android

4. Tap the Reset phone button;

How to wipe Android

5. Tap Erase everything. Your phone will be returned to the same state as when you purchased it.

How to wipe Android

Lastly, remove the device from your Google account. Head to the Recently Used Devices section in your Google account. Once you log in, you’ll be able to see which devices are connected and linked to your account. Find the phone you are selling, click on it, and then click ‘Remove.’

Check out our video on wiping your Android phone below.

What to do before trading in your iPhone

  • If you have an apple watch, unpair it from your device. Click here to find out how.
  • Sign out and turn off services like:
    • iMessage: Go to Settings> Messages> Switch off the iMessage option.
    • Wallet & Apple Pay: Settings> Wallet & Apple Pay> Click on your Card> Remove Card.
    • Find my Phone feature: Settings> Your Name> Find My> Find My iPhone> Slide the toggle next to Find My iPhone and Enable Offline Findings.
    • Your Apple ID: Go to Settings> Your Name> Scroll Down and tap ‘Sign Out’> You will be prompted to enter your password.
  • Sign out of apps that store your login details, like Facebook and Gmail, and make sure they don’t retain these details.
  • Sign out of iTunes, the App store, and iCloud as well as other stores and accounts;
  • Delete any saved passwords from your browsers.
  • Remove the serial number of your device from your Apple account profile.

    Go to appleid.apple.com, log in to your account, and scroll down to ‘Devices.’ Here you’ll see all the devices linked to your Apple ID. Click on the device you wish to sell and click ‘Remove.’

  • Remove your SIM card.

How to back up an iPhone

Before wiping your phone clean, back up any data and personal information you want to keep. Here’s how:

1. Tap Settings;

How to wipe iPhone

2. Click on your name;

How to wipe iPhone

3. Choose iCloud. Sign in to your account if you haven’t done so already;

How to wipe iPhone

4. Scroll down to find iCloud Backup and tap it;

How to wipe iPhone

5. Turn it on by tapping the toggle on the right;

How to wipe iPhone

6. Click Ok to confirm;

How to wipe iPhone

7. Tap Back Up Now. Just make sure you are connected to Wi-Fi to start a backup.

How to wipe iPhone

For extra security, you can encrypt your backup by doing the following:

1. Open iTunes and connect your phone to your computer;

2. Click on the button with the small phone icon;

How to wipe iPhone

3. Go to Summary and click on Encrypt iPhone backup;

How to wipe iPhone

4. Create a password for the backup;

5. iTunes will now back up your phone and encrypt your backup.

You must be signed in to your iCloud account to perform these steps. iCloud synchronizes and stores your data in a virtual drive. You can also choose which apps to use with iCloud in Settings. You can back up text messages, contacts, and emails this way.

If you want to back up your call logs, you can only do so by using third-party software. If you have photos or music that you would like to keep, sync your phone with iTunes. For a step-by-step guide, visit Apple’s Support page.

What else to do before you wipe your phone

  • If you have an apple watch, unpair it from your device. Click here to find out how.
  • Sign out and turn off services like:
    • iMessage: Go to Settings> Messages> Switch off the iMessage option.
    • Wallet & Apple Pay: Settings> Wallet & Apple Pay> Click on your Card> Remove Card.
    • Find my Phone feature: Settings> Your Name> Find My> Find My iPhone> Slide the toggle next to Find My iPhone and Enable Offline Findings.
    • Your Apple ID: Go to Settings> Your Name> Scroll Down and tap ‘Sign Out’> You will be prompted to enter your password.
  • Sign out of apps that store your login details, like Facebook and Gmail, and make sure they don’t retain these details.
  • Sign out of iTunes, the App store, and iCloud as well as other stores and accounts;
  • Delete any saved passwords from your browsers.
  • Remove the serial number of your device from your Apple account profile.

    Go to appleid.apple.com, log in to your account, and scroll down to ‘Devices.’ Here you’ll see all the devices linked to your Apple ID. Click on the device you wish to sell and click ‘Remove.’

  • Remove your SIM card.

How to wipe an iPhone

1. Go to Settings;

2. Scroll down to General;

How to wipe iPhone

3. Tap Reset;

How to wipe iPhone

4. Press Erase All Content and Settings;

How to wipe iPhone

5. Click Erase Now. Tap one more time to confirm;

How to wipe iPhone

6. Enter your passcode;

7. Enter Apple ID password to erase the phone.

How can I erase my iPhone without an Apple ID password?

If you forgot your Apple ID password, you can reset it by going to your account page, clicking on Forgot Apple ID or password?, and following the required steps. If you cannot retrieve your Apple ID password, you can still wipe your phone:

1. Connect your iPhone to a computer and open iTunes;

2. Click on the button with the small phone icon;

How to wipe iPhone

3. Go to Summary and click on Restore iPhone.

How to wipe iPhone

Be aware that erasing your iPhone this way doesn’t delete all your data and settings completely. The deleted information cannot be accessed via the iOS interface, but it stays on your device and could be accessed by an experienced technician or hacker. To erase your data completely, you have to overwrite it using a third-party app. Just make sure you use a reliable program that respects your privacy.

Also available in: Nederlands.

Jomilė Nakutavičiūtė
Jomilė Nakutavičiūtė Jomilė Nakutavičiūtė
Jomilė is a content writer who loves to investigate the latest Internet privacy and security news. She thrives on looking for solutions to problems and sharing her knowledge with NordVPN readers and customers.