Are you planning to sell your Android smartphone or tablet? Make sure that you delete all data. If you do not do this, your private data and photos may fall into the wrong hands. Many people think that they only need to return their device to the factory settings. However, such a ‘factory reset’ is not enough. Do you really want to collect all data from your Android device? Read here how to do this in a safe and effective way.
Back to factory settings is not enough
You might ask: What do you mean, resetting to factory settings is not enough? That seems to be the perfect solution. In practice, this is not true at all. Research by the security software vendor Avast demonstrated in 2014 that the ‘factory reset’ option of the Android operating system does not permanently delete all your personal data.
For the research, the company bought twenty used Android smartphones on eBay. With little effort, more than 40,000 photos, 750 e-mails and text messages and 250 contacts from these smartphones could be restored. The identity of four of the previous owners was also traceable. A complete loan application even came up. The most shocking part of this story is that the Avast researchers achieved this with simple data recovery software. This software is very easy to find and use: even people without too much technical knowledge could handle it.
So you have to take extra steps if you really want to delete the data from your Android device. We give you a solution. To make it easy, we have prepared a step-by-step plan with which you can thoroughly erase the data from your Android smartphone or tablet.
Step 1: Encrypt your data
Before you try to delete all data from your device, we recommend that you encrypt your data . This encrypts all data on your phone or tablet. Even if the deletion of the data turns out not to be thorough enough, a special key or password is still required to view the data. With encryption you put an extra layer of protection over your photos, files and apps.
Before you encrypt your data, don’t forget to remove your SD card. If you have an SD card in your device, but you don’t want to encrypt the data on it because you still need it, remove the card from your device before you encrypt everything. Some devices also automatically encrypt the data on your SD card, so that you can no longer see that data without a password. Other devices have the option to only encrypt your SD card, as you can see in the screenshot below.
Do you have Android version 6.0 (Marshmallow) or higher? Then the encryption function of Android is often already on by default. If this is not the case, you can code it yourself. To do this, go to Settings . Tap Security. Here you see the Encrypt device option . Depending on the type of telephone, this option may have a slightly different name ( Encrypt the telephone or something similar). The process works basically the same.
The encryption process can take a long time. So take at least an hour or two for this. To ensure that your device’s battery does not run out halfway, it is best if your device is fully charged. You can also leave your phone or tablet powered.
Note: Encrypting your data is not reversible. Once you’ve done this, there’s no turning back. You can at most undo encryption by returning your phone to its factory settings. This way your data is also gone. It can then take a lot of effort to retrieve that data.
Step 2: Return to factory settings
Now that your data is encrypted, you can do a ‘factory reset’. To do this, go to the Settings of your Android device again. Select the Backup and restore option and tap the Restore factory data option at the bottom .
Note: This option deletes the data from your device. Do you have important videos, photos or other files that you absolutely do not want to lose? Then make sure you have a backup of those files. Put them on your computer or in the cloud.
Step 3: Place dummy data
Great, you have securely encrypted your data and deleted it from your Android device. Is this enough? Not if you want to be absolutely sure that nobody can access your data. After all, it is still possible to retrieve data from your phone or tablet with simple software. The best thing to do to prevent this, or at least make it more difficult, is to place dummy data .
If you fill the entire memory of your device with dummy data, your original data will be much harder to find. After all, why would people look beyond all the data they already see once they use data recovery software? Moreover, the dummy data ensures that the memory of your device is overwritten. This makes old data more difficult to restore.
What to do for this? Very easy. Put a lot of files on your phone. Make sure that no personal information is stored here. Taking photos of your house and logging in to your bank’s app is not such a smart idea. Use anonymous files and fill the entire memory. There are many websites that create dummy data for you to make this step a lot easier.
Step 4: Reset to factory settings again
Now that you’ve filled your device with ‘fake data’, it’s time to delete them all. You can do this by again using the option Factory data reset . To do this, repeat step 2 again. The dummy data is hereby deleted. If someone now tries to retrieve your data, he or she will first see the dummy data. Any other data, and therefore your real data, is much harder to retrieve.
The more often you repeat steps 3 and 4, the higher the level of security that you provide to your data. This process is called ‘layering’, which actually means that you put new data on a device time after time to make the old data virtually untraceable. In general it is enough to repeat this four or five times.
What about your SD card?
With this step-by-step plan you can remove the data from your Android phone or tablet in a good way. Now you can safely sell or pass on your device. Please note that these steps only ensure that your phone no longer contains any information about you. This does not always apply to possible microSD cards that you have in your phone.
So don’t forget to remove your SD card from your device before you give it up. This may contain photos or other files of yours. You can use this as a backup or put it in your new phone. Do you not want this and do all your data also have to disappear from your card? First encrypt your data by repeating step 1 for your SD card. Then insert the card into your laptop or computer and delete the data. Again you can secure your data with the help of dummy data and layering.