How to Wipe Data from Your Old Phone

28 May 2022 by Tom Nevin

Wiping data from old phone

Whether you’re due an upgrade or you’ve simply decided that it’s high time you invested in a new smartphone, one thing that you are probably considering is either selling or trading in your old one to help fund the cost of your purchase. While this is a great idea, since most phones have at least some value to them, there’s something that you absolutely must do before you send it off to the highest bidder – wipe your old data from it.

The importance of wiping the data off of your old phone

How much of your personal information is currently on your smartphone? Whatever guess you make, it’s highly likely to be an underestimation. In addition to your personal photos and videos, you’ll also no doubt have a variety of apps. Studies suggest that the average smartphone user has between 60 and 90 apps on their device, and most of these apps request at least some information about you and the device that you are using. This could be as little as just your name, your date of birth, your mother’s maiden name, and even your bank sort code and account number! And that’s just the information that you have to input manually. When you chose to download an app, you will have been asked to give the app creators certain permissions, such as access to your device’s microphone, camera or exact location! Many people simply overlook this element of the download and push ahead, without really knowing what data they are giving away.

Unsurprisingly, nobody wants their private and personal information to fall into unknown hands. The best way to protect your privacy and reduce your risk of becoming a victim of identity theft is to make sure that you remove all of the data from your old phone before you ship it off to a new owner or third-party seller.

Here’s our simple guide to how to wipe data from your old phone before you get rid of it.

Step 1: Remember to remove your SIM card

It may sound obvious, but if you aren’t planning on using your existing sim card in your new phone, you may forget to remove it from your old one before you dispose of it. Your SIM card may contain some personal information – particularly in older devices - such as the numbers you have called and who have called you, texts you may have stored and your contacts list. If you’re getting a new SIM, remove and destroy your old one by cutting it up into small pieces before putting it in the bin.

Step 2: Remove any external storage

While Apple phones don’t use external storage, Android and some other operating systems do. If your phone currently has external storage, such as a micro SD card, this will need to be removed before your phone leaves you. This is because external storage devices can be used to keep all sorts of personal data, including photos, music, games and documents that you don’t want falling into someone else’s hands.

You may want to use your external storage in your new phone if it has that capability. Alternatively, you can transfer the data to a computer or laptop, or destroy it altogether. However, when switching micro SD cards, it’s essential to correctly unmount or format the memory card beforehand. That way, you won’t lose any saved data, or damage the card and prevent further use.

Recovering data from SD cards and USB drives is possible. Make sure it doesn’t happen to your card.

For unmounting: the exact steps this will take will depend on the make and model of your smartphone, but typically involves going into the settings app and then visiting storage settings. This should have an option for your external storage device, which you can then select and choose to unmount. You can then manually remove the external storage and re-use or destroy it.

For formatting (to wipe the storage clean): you may be able to do this on your device in the storage settings area. Alternatively, you will have to manually remove the storage and plug it into your computer to do a full format, which permanently removes any data. Ignore any ‘quick format’ options as it is possible to restore data from these.

Step 3: Turn on device encryption

Again, this isn’t something that is necessary for Apple users since the encryption is built into their current models, but it is the next step in wiping data if your phone uses an alternative operating system. You should be able to find this option in the settings app on your phone.

Device encryption obviously encodes all of the data on your device, which is then protected using a passcode that you can choose and set and will be secure unless you share it.

Step 4: Perform a factory reset

Finally, perform a factory reset on your phone. This completely wipes all of the data on your device, including the key that you set as part of the encryption process. As a result, nobody; not even a data recovery specialist; can access the data that was previously on your phone.

For Apple users, it can be a good idea to erase your iPhone which you can do in your settings, and which will wipe all content and settings from your iPhone. If you are replacing your old iPhone with a new one, you may want to do a data transfer first. This enables you to move everything across automatically before you perform what is essentially a factory reset on your Apple device and could save you hours of manually downloading your usual apps, contacts and more.

Leaving data on your old device could expose you to security and privacy risks. Make sure that you are fully protected before you say goodbye to your old phone with these simple steps on how to wipe your data for good.

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