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.