Android Reset

With the news today that Motorola accidentally shipped out 100 refurbished Xoom tablets without properly wiping the previous owners' information, it's worth a reminder of what you need to do when selling, returning or otherwise disposing of an Android device.

With any electronic device -- computer, tablet, smartphone or whatever -- it's important to keep your personal data secure. That means within your control, not just floating around for anyone to see. And that means not just tossing something in the trash when you're done with it. Or selling a device in the same state as it was when you finished with it.

You must remember to wipe.

Android makes it pretty easy to wipe -- or hard reset -- though it can vary slightly from device to device, hiding the rest option under strange menus. The best thing to do is to go to your settings menu and look for a reset option.

  • On the Galaxy Nexus with Ice Cream Sandwich, it's under the aptly named "Backup and Reset" option. Choose "Factory data reset," and you're done.
  • On recent Motorola phones, look under the "Storage" option in the settings menu. That's also where it is on the new LG Spectrum.
  • On Samsung phones, go to Settings>Privacy and choose factory reset.
  • On Honeycomb tablets (like the Xoom), it's under >Settings> Privacy.

Point is, the option to hard-reset is there, you might just have to look for it. (Note to manufacturers and carriers: Let's standardize that, shall we?) If you'd prefer, you can also wipe from the stock recovery, but that really happens when you reset from the menu. (Read our Android A to Z listing for recovery for more on that.)

And this is important, too -- don't forget your microSD card. Data on it -- including pictures and videos, as well as some application data -- generally isn't erased with a factory reset. Some phones give you the option to format the SD card at the same time you erase the rest of the device. If not, you'll want to connect the device to a computer and format the card. If you're really paranoid, use one of those overwriting formatting programs. Or at the very least, just take it out of the device you're getting rid of.


Reader comments

Erase your Android device before getting rid of it [Android 101]


I can't even imagine not wiping a device. If you have a Xoom, you know better than to send it anywhere without wiping. They must not have been too worried about their info.

One note of caution is that with most ROMs if you access this option it may brick your phone. Make sure you are running stock when doing this. Or as Robbzilla points out, flashing back to unrooted stock will take care that.

I would like to see various recoveries like Amon RA, or Clockwork, etc. to start adding a DOD level(or similar) format and over writing capabilities. I know whenever I finally get rid of my N1, I'll wipe it and then flash the latest CM for the new owner. I would feel better knowing that the data had not only been erased, but fully written over at least a few times so there is almost no chance of recovery. My whole online life is in my Google account and I do not want anyone to get it.

Furthermore, unless an "obsolete" device has failed entirely and will not power-up or, in any way, function, an older Fone or Tablet will make an excellent music or media player/streamer in a WiFi environment. When I recently retired my OG Droid for a ReZound, I did a Factory Reset to clear-out the device and then re-installed select Music Streaming sites as well as loading the SD Card with 16GB of personal music files. Attached to a Bookshelf Music System or accompanying me to the Gym, it works wonderfully well, sounds superb and preserves the battery in my ReZound for all other activities.

Carefully inspect what you buy at places like Walmart, Best Buy, etc.

Sometimes these places will re-shelve quick returns (those looking like new) without even bothering to check if the user entered info into it.

Its illegal, but it happens.

Actually, on the Xoom it's also under "Back up and reset" since it's now an Ice Cream Sandwich device as well (at least the WiFi only model).

That'd be good chance to try out the wipe function in Cerberus, or whatever security app you're using. Seriously, how else can you test that particular function?

Thank you for the information on factory reset. I have a Samsung Galaxy 7" Tablet and the Factory Reset is under the "Privacy" tab in "Settings." I also have a Droid Incredible but can't find anything showing a Factory Reset. Does anyone know if the Droid Incredible has that option.

How do you erase your phone number on CDMA devices (specificlly Sprint)? After I wipe my phone and it's been deactivated, my phone number is still there.

You'll need to perform a Master Reset. Call Sprint, and just tell them you're getting rid of your old phone and need to do a master reset to wipe out your phone# from the phone.

I learned the hard way by not doing this. I sold my old HTC Hero to a co-worker... and my old phone was still receiving text messages from whomever sent them to me. So, needless to say, I took the phone from him for a day to master reset it.

Okay, so the real question is: how do I get rid of all my data WITHOUT bricking my device, AND keep Cyanogen 7 as a selling point for the next guy?

OG Incredible, BTW.