Wiping Your Android

How to Completely Wipe Everything from Your Android Phone

About a month ago, one of my dearest friends called me in tears. My mind immediately began conjuring images of the worst-case scenarios, because she is not easily distressed, but she quickly went straight to what had her so upset. She thought she had accidentally deleted vacation photos from her camera. This put my mind at ease.

Deleted data from a hard drive is rarely permanent; a most of the time there is hope of recovering at least some of the information. (Just ask Edward Snowden.)

Sure enough, her photos were still retrievable. This worked quite well in her favor, and she was happy she was happy she didn’t lose all of her vacation memories.

What if you really want to delete data from your Android?

In most situations, performing a factory reset will suffice. However, it’s still quite possible that the data you thought you deleted is still lurking within your phone. Whether you’re interested in selling your phone or hiding your criminal activity (which we do not condone), we will cover the best way to ensure no one will be able to access any of your secure information. Conversely, read about retrieving deleted texts and finding hidden files if you are more interested in recovering deleted data.

Backup First

Backup First

If you are selling your phone because you’ve upgraded to a better one, it’s quite likely you are more excited about the new phone and all it has to offer. That’s totally normal. However, it’s probable that your old phone still contains a wealth of personal and customized information that you actually might miss when it’s totally gone. Obviously, you don’t want your account information in the hands of someone else. The question is, however, are you still going to be able to log in easily?

Google offers its own service to retain information about your Contacts, Calendar, App data, Wi-Fi passwords, some phone settings, and Chrome bookmarks. These backups are done through the “Backup and reset” option in the “Settings” menu.

This is not a catchall backup. You might want to look into supplemental backup apps to ensure that your photos, SMS, videos, and other data are not lost forever. Remove your SIM card and any external storage.

Encrypt Your Data

Once you’ve backed up your important data in a safe place, (or places, preferably—redundancy is best for backup) you are ready to encrypt your information. In doing so, you will be converting stored data into an unreadable code that will be very difficult to crack without the PIN or password.

Like most things in life, encryption has potential downfalls. Slower performance is not outside the realm of possibility; however, it’s negligible on most newer devices. Also, much like the inconvenience you might experience when you lock yourself out of your car or house with no spare key, reversing the encryption could cost you time and temporary or permanent loss of any information on the device.

Computers tend to be unforgiving even if the password you provide is really, really close to being correct. You will have to perform a factory reset to undo the encryption. In true Android fashion, Google has decided to let you make the decision to encrypt or not encrypt. It can be a wise choice that deters thieves from deciphering your data.

1. Schedule Some Time

The encryption process can take a little while. Be prepared to set aside up to an hour. In all likelihood, it will probably only take about 30 minutes, but it’s entirely possible for it to take longer.

2. Connect Your Phone to its Charger

Charge your phone continuously throughout the encryption process.

3. Set Up Your Lock Screen PIN or Password

  • Open the “Settings”
  • Select “”
  • Tap on “Screen Lock.”
  • Choose your PIN or password.

4. From “Security” Select “Encrypt Phone”

Read the information provided.

**Note that if you interrupt this process, you can lose data.

5. Wait While Your Phone Does the Work

You will have a little time to waste. Feel free to enjoy a refreshing beverage if you’d like.

Perform a Factory Reset

When you perform a factory reset, your phone will return to a clean slate, at least in appearances. It will be like the first day you got it, before you had an opportunity to fill it up with countless selfies, apps, and reminders of why you dumped your ex. Don’t worry. By the time we’re done we will have obliterated all of his or her photos and dumb text messages.

1. Navigate to the “Backup and reset” Menu from “Settings” Again

Remember when we went to the “Backup and reset” before? We are going to pay another visit.

2. Select “Factory data reset”

Factory Reset

3. Read the Disclaimer and Tap on “Reset Phone”

Perhaps it can be a bit misleading to say that your information will be erased. Instead, at the very least, your phone will develop amnesia in regards to where this information is stored and retrieval will become difficult.

Over time, it should naturally be rewritten because this storage space is marked “empty” and available for use. We are going to take matters into our own hands, however, in the next few methods. Some might call it paranoia; we’ll call it being super-careful.

Reset Phone

4. Confirm Your PIN or Password

Authentication is an important part of security. Do you have your credentials?

Overwrite with Dummy Data

I can still remember writing primarily in pencil in elementary school—probably because I’m old. At times, it seemed like my pencil eraser was defective. It would leave a faint trace of words instead of making them completely disappear. What proved to be far more effective was to erase what I wanted to remove, and scribble it out. I am not sure I even own a pencil, but if I want to ensure my electronic data is erased, I’m going to take a similar approach.

1. If You Like To Do It Yourself, Fill Your Phone With Junk Data

You could add fake photos and contacts, but filling up space with video files might be easier and faster.

2. If You Prefer to Utilize Apps, Search for One in the Google Play Store

Google Play

Dummy file generator apps do exist. Use the search bar in the Google Play Store and take your pick. We cannot endorse a specific app because we have not tested any yet.

Search for an App to Do Everything for You

Perhaps you like the idea of being able to skip many of these steps, and you are okay with entrusting the removal of your data to a third-party app. If this is you, these apps are out there.

1. Visit Google Play

This is the Android app-equivalent of Amazon. According to Statista, at least 1.6 million apps are available here.

2. Search for and download your new app

Some search terms you might find useful are “file shredder” or “secure erase.”


Electronic privacy and security breaches are becoming more common. Usually, it is far more worthwhile for hackers to target large companies with troves of customer or business information. However, sometimes, ease of access wins. If they can easily access the information on your device and get a credit card or other useful personal information, you might be a better target. You probably do not want to hand over the keys to your home or car to a stranger, why would you do that with your private information.

If you were an employee or owner of a business that stores sensitive information on Android devices, why would you even risk proprietary information or that of your customers? If nothing else, make the person who wants to exploit you work for it. Most of the time, they will look for an easier target.

How do you wipe everything from your Android when you need to?

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