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Erase data before selling and stay secure

New smartphone? Here’s how to make the old one safe for sale

Got a new smartphone? Then you should think about selling your old one or giving it away. But before you do, be sure to erase every ounce of personal data.

Found a smartphone lying under your Christmas tree? Then why not turn your old one into good old hard cash instead of leaving it to gather dust in some drawer? But before you sell it on ebay or some other platform, be sure to remove every ounce of personal data. After all, why should you let some random buyer you don’t know view your personal photos or get to know your contacts? Resetting your smartphone back to its factory settings is a good start, but far from enough. This is because it’s often easy to restore data using recovery tools. Simply deleting the data merely allocates the file storage space for other purposes – the actual files themselves are still there until overwritten with something new. If you own a smartphone made in 2014 or earlier, you should be particularly careful as these old devices are not encrypted automatically. This was done starting with version 5.0 of Android or iOS 7. However, if you follow these steps, you can be absolutely sure that your data will never see the light of day again.

1. Delete unwanted data

Before creating a backup (see step 2), delete all unwanted data. First remove apps you don’t use.

If you have an Android device, just go to Settings (under General and) Apps. Select any apps you don’t need any longer and tap Delete or Uninstall.

As an iPhone user, simply keep your finger on the app’s icon until it starts to jiggle. Then tap the little x on the top left-hand side of the app icon.

Once done, you can then delete all those photos and videos you don’t need. You do this via the playback apps directly.

2. Create a backup

The most convenient way is to perform an automatic cloud backup. All your data including apps as well as contact and calendar info is stored on the provider’s servers and can be transferred really easily to your new smartphone.

If you’re an Android user, open Settings and then tap Backup & reset. First enable Back up my data and Automatic restore. Then under Backup account select your Google account and the data you want to back up.

If you’ve got an iPhone, create an iCloud backup as follows. First be sure that your device is connected to a Wi-Fi network. Open Settings and then iCloud (tap your name at the top of the list). Now enable the function iCloud Backup and tap Back Up Now.

You may be restricted in what you can do such as if you have insufficient cloud storage space (if you’re only using your free allowance) and you may stumble across some data-protection provisos. If you do, back up your data on your PC or an external storage device. Many smartphone producers offer dedicated apps for this purpose; Apple users need to rely on iTunes.

3. Reset back to factory default settings

Deleted all your unwanted data and created a backup? Great! Now reset your smartphone back to its factory default settings. This will erase all your settings, apps, and personal data from the smartphone’s internal memory (don’t forget to remove the memory card).

On Android, you’ll find this function in the Settings under Device management or General management and then under Backup & reset or Reset. Tap Factory data reset and follow the on-screen instructions. Important: Despite doing this, some data may still remain. If so, when you next restart the device do not set up a Google account, place it camera-side down on the desktop, and start recording video until the memory is full. Following that, reset the smartphone back to its factory default as described above.

If you’re an Apple user, things are a lot easier. Reset your iPhone back to its factory default settings by going to Settings, General, Reset, Erase All Content and Settings. Once done, all of your data will be gone for good – plus, it only takes a few seconds.

This post is also available in: German