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Ask Deemable Tech: Wiping Your Smartphone

Josh Miller / CNET

Trent writes, "Hey Deemable Tech guys, I am giving my old phone to a friend. How do I make sure I’ve gotten all my private data off it first?"

That’s a great question, Trent, and one that everyone who owns a smartphone probably needs to know the answer to. Our smartphones hold all kinds of personal data, like our contact list, browser history and even our credit card information. Before you give your phone to someone, exchange it for a different model or even throw it away, you need to make sure you wipe all of this information off of it first.

Fortunately, every smartphone comes with the ability to reset it to what the manufacturers refer to as “factory settings”. This wipes the device completely, and turns it into a blank slate just like the day you bought it. Of course, you need to make sure you perform a full backup of your phone before you even think about wiping it.

To do a factory reset on an iPhone, you’ll need to open the “Settings” app, tap “General” and find the “Reset” button at the bottom of that screen. Tap this and you’ll see a few options including “Erase All Content and Settings,” which is the one you want. If you tap this, a message will pop up asking you to confirm that you really want to do this because it will erase everything. Hit yes and the reset begins.

The process for resetting Android phones can differ from model to model, but most of them are pretty similar. For example, to wipe a Samsung Galaxy smartphone, you would just go to the “Settings” menu, tap “Backup and Reset” and hit the “Factory Data Reset” option. Be sure to read through the manual of your specific smartphone to find the directions.

Your phone will take a minute or two to reset to factory settings. Once it’s done, it should be just like you’re turning it on for the first time. Now you can give away your phone without worrying about your private information falling into the wrong hands.

There’s one more thing we should mention if your smartphone has a removable SD card. Resetting the phone to factory settings will not erase the data on that card, so you’ll need to erase the files off of it separately. If your phone comes with a file manager app, you can do it through that. You can also connect your phone to your computer, open the SD card and drag the files to the trash. Or you can keep it simple and just remove the SD card from the phone.

For more great tech ad?vice, download the Deemable Tech app (for iPhone and Android), and listen to Deemable Tech's full length podcast at You can also follow them on Twitter @Deemable.

Ray Hollister can be reached at, 904-358-6341 or on Twitter at @rayhollister.
Tom Braun is a writer living in Jacksonville, Florida. In addition to writing about tech and co-hosting WJCT’s Deemable Tech, he writes content for websites and blogs, ghostwrites ebooks, writes short fiction and has written a woefully unpublished dystopian young adult novel that is no doubt his ticket to fame and fortune. Before realizing his true calling as a writer, Tom worked for over a decade as a software developer. He enjoys board games and traveling and once spent a year living in The Netherlands.