Wiped clean

We wipe out a Nexus 7, so you don't have to wipe yours if you're curious

With the new Android Device Manager pushing out all over, we just had to have a look at the new remote wipe feature. I said goodbye to my game progress, made sure any pictures were safely uploaded to Google+, and got to work.

It's simple, both in theory and in practice. Locate your device through the Device Manager webpage, then send the "Erase Device" command. You'll be warned about losing all your important stuff, and that once you wipe the device you can no longer locate it. This makes sense, as you're not signed into Google on it anymore.

After making that all-important click, your device will shut down and reboot into recovery and preform a factory reset. If the device gets shut off before it can reboot, it will reboot into recovery the next time it's restarted. This makes us wonder how Android Device Manager's device wipe utility will work with a custom recovery, and we're guessing not very well. That's a project for another day.

For now, hit the break and have a look at the process. This should satisfy your curiosity without wiping your own precious data away.

 

Reader comments

Hands-on with the Android Device Manager remote wipe feature

96 Comments

That's too bad, I was hoping that you could still secure your data without losing access to tracking the damn thing. :(

But i guess we'll see improvements down the road.

A remote lock feature would be way better IMO. Then I can still track it without worrying about somebody getting into all my stuff or even erasing it themselves.

I've got to say, I'm really disappointed in Google's Android Device Manager.
For one, it looks like it can't ease the SD card, for two, you can't just lock the device down, instead of ease, and three, all someone has to do if they find your device is go immediately to settings and deselect Android Device Manager, and then you can't ease anything. Android Lost from the Google Play store allows you to ease your SD card,lock you phone, and still track it, and now it even completely hides the app, so no one can uninstall it. Nice try Google, but this feature is not ready for prime time.

I currently have this feature unchecked. Too nervous about someone else being able to remotely wipe my One. I know the chance is slim, but still....

If you're worried just enable two step verification for your Google account. That means that they'd have to have access to a computer you use or your actual device in hand to wipe it without hitting a major block and if those situations happen then that's just bad luck! I don't have enough "permanent" information that I'd be worried about but I considered it.

That's funny. I just activated 2step verification today. I feel a whole lot better!

Via Android Central App from a Galaxy Note 2

but if you had two step verification (i do), and you needed your device in hand to do the second step of verification to wipe it...

then you couldn't do a "remote" wipe. you could only wipe it while it is in hand, which seems a teensy bit silly since it defies the added security of being able to do a remote wipe when lost.

oh well... i am sure my custom recovery completely negates all of this wiping business... i can't even get it to ring (THE RINGING JUST STARTED AS I WAS TYPING... 10 minutes later).

but I've already had it so if i text a secret phrase to my phone, it automatically texts back the gps coordinates (which conveniently the returned gps coordinates can be opened with Maps if tapped in the stock SMS app)

Making my own remote "self data destruct" shouldn't be too hard... :) Good idea google!

If your device is lost or stolen, you use the recovery key codes you printed out or saved to a secure and offline-accessible location.

There shoul've been an option of "Lock The device". like in Windows Phone, you can ring, Erase and Lock up the device.

Yeah, I agree. It would be very nice to have the lock ability. I really hope this ability is added soon. This is a step in the right direction, though...

Posted via Android Central App

I think that must be coming. In the settings on my One, it has options to:

1) Erase all data
2) Change the screen-unlock password
3) Lock the screen.

In google settings, Security / Administrators / tap the administrator named Android Device Manager.

It lists those three options.

Lookout lists many more options.

Ahhhh... ok. Those are the permissions it has access to. Interesting. I wonder if they will also declare those as MAC policies with SELinux.

Got a question say someone linked there google acct to mine or hack my password whatever the case may be now i got all these apps running in background my calls arw being recorded she has complete control over my device ive tried to factory rest the phone multiple time how can i get rid of these hacks or stop that device nanager withput know how she has it encrypted

Ah, good looking out! I got the service on my phone a few days ago, looked at it, and activated it. I forgot the details, but looking at it again, you're right. So hopefully locking is something that is coming soon.

Posted via Android Central App

I agree with you. I am also hoping that in the near future Google will implement all that Cerberus does in its native implementation. When that time comes, Cerberus will become my backup option.

I wish android had a program to let you back up your device easily like iTunes. Thanks for showing us though :)

Posted via Android Central App

Helium is probably the closest to that right now. Personally, I don't WANT all my stuff backed up like how iTunes does it. I like to pick and choose. Plus, there are apps that will do backups from device->PC (Moborobo and others).

Android lives in the cloud.

There is very little reason to back it up.

Other than photos, I don't have much of anything on my phone that I would even bother to back up, and the only reason I don't have photos synced to drop box is because I take a lot grab shots I never intend to keep.

The only things I back up are games, since most of them store scores locally and don't back up. Once Google Play Games is more heavily adopted, I'll stop giving a shit about backups, probably.

So.. if you do wipe your device arent you pretty much just gifting it away if it was stolen? i know its how you prevent personal and private content, passwords and the like, but chances are the person who took your phone wants to wipe it so they can have/sell it like new anyways.

Its a good option to have but id like more functionality like Locking and being able to track. with the option of eventually wiping if that is the last option.

[Bonus idea]

What if they could make the phone go into super hibernate (working title) and only used pinged GPS once an hour for a moment so that they couldnt get into or use the phone but you could find it/ report it. saves the battery as long as possible for best chance of recovery. can still make it ring or wipe if need be.

Once you report your device lost or stolen to the carrier it can't be used again. It can be sold privately but never used again.

That depends.

Tablets: won't work. Its a gift to the thief at that point.
Phones: You would be surprised at how easy it is to change the imei on a device.

I know wiping is good so that ppl wont have ur information, but now they have a brand new freshly reset device to use. So kinda a catch22.

This only applies to data plan devices, but if you lose your device and decide to remote wipe it, contact your carrier and inform them. They can block your IMEI (and I believe, but not 100% certain) can also prevent SIM activation on a blocked IMEI.

Once you've decided to let the thief keep it, you might as well brick it.
But better would be if they had implemented the lock/password change feature like Lookout did.

Tell that to all the LG Optimus users who found out it's not true the hard way.

Unless you're confident you can restore the partition table, don't be the guinea pig. Let me do it first. I can cry until Phil gives me another something to replace the one I break. 

Dan's morning rofl in 3... 2... "I can cry until Phil gives me another something to replace the one I break"

Yup.
When you pay full price for a 600 dollar easy to drop device insurance is worth it.
Saved me buying a new phone for my son.

The only problem with insurance is that they give you a REFURB as your "new" phone. I take care of this phone way too much to then have to resort to a Refurb. IMO.

I had than happen once with my OG Evo and it totally killed me when i noticed all the screws were stripped on their insurance replacement phone. Thanks to modern technology i replaced it within weeks of getting the refurb but still.

It still cannot find my phone. Also I tried to ring my device, it says device was rung but my phone did not ring. Everything is checked in location services and both boxes are checked in device manager in google settings. Nexus 4 never rooted running stock 4.3

Perhaps try un checking Android device manager in your devices settings then rechecking it. Also, maybe try logging out on the device you are accessing the tracking page on and logging back in. Otherwise it might not be fully active on your account on Google's end.

Posted via Android Central App

My note 2 is rooted and it fails to locate it. I see a pattern emerging...

Posted via Android Central App

I'm running a custom TW based ROM on a GS3, and have no trouble tracking it.

I think wiping it is sort of the last resort, if being able to track it doesn't help you recover it. The best things about this, though, is that it will be there by default, on every modern Android phone. I can't count the number of posts here from people who have already lost their phone, and only now want to install software to track it.

On, those of you who can't track your phone, do you have Location reporting turned on (in settings of the Maps app)? I suspect that's necessary for tracking to work.

I think allowing the enabling of a pin code at the bootloader level would be better then giving a thief a clean device. Another option is with the new adb requirements you can't reactivate the device without plugging it into an authorised computer. PC's have a BIOS level password options or USB security keys which means no password or match no boot.

Jerry: Thanks for testing this for us.

Not may of us are in a position to nuke a device just to test something.

Indeed,also I want to restore the stock recovery on my n7. Of course issues with that arise. but if I just leave it with a custom recovery it will be the "end game" option on it should it be stolen..

Posted via Android Central App

Until this survives an unwanted wipe, keeps tracking after a wipe request and give the options to simply lock the device, I will still be using cerberus

Posted via Android Central App

curious what happens on custom recovery.

the locating service works fine on my rooted galaxy S4. i also have 2 step authentication turned on so even if i did use this i wouldnt worry about people getting into my account wiping my shit

So does this mean to bypass this all the person who steals your device needs to do is sign you out of Google on your phone?

Posted via Android Central App

Don't you have to factory reset to "sign out" of the primary Google acct? ;-)

Splattered for your amusement... via the AC App

D'oh! You didnt need to nuke your data....! Helium...!

I have this function, and much more, with Cerberus, but it's great to see this baked into Android. B-)

Splattered for your amusement... via the AC App

Can someone advise that if a device is locked via cerberus or such software can the thief still plug your device into a windows PC using USB and pull any data off it?

'Location Unavailable' for all of my devices at the moment. All set up with options checked etc. Perhaps it is still rolling out towards full functionality.

Ehh i like this feature, but i was hoping that it wouldn't just wipe it, but brick it.

Honestly i feel that they[theifs] still benefit from this.

Well the remote ring feature is working but it won't pull up my location data.

Posted via Android Central App

Works perfectly on locating (within 10 to 80 meters)and ringing both my registered devices. Tried it with both GPS on and off. GPS on - within 10 meters in mere seconds. GPS off - within 80 meters in about 15 to 20 seconds.

Device 1 is my Galaxy S3 SGH-I747 on AT&T running stock 4.1.1 rooted (no trip flash counter method) with stock recovery.

Device 2 is my Tab 2 10.1 GT-P5113 running stock 4.1.1 rooted with stock recovery.

The update hasn't pushed yet to my Tab 2 7.0 yet.

For obvious reasons I didn't try remote wipe but I'll assume it works.

This application is pretty basic but I expect Google to add more features down the road. Plus it's better than nothing at all.

Locate and Wipe are great features. I'd like them to add a lock feature of some sort in the future. My devices are set to lock by default; but I'd like to be able to force it into some crazy (read 12 digit) passcode to unlock, just to be safe.

Also, I thought the video was informative, but hard to listen to with a headset; his voice was only coming out my right earpad.

Wow.....they copied that for sure. Looks identical to iCloud and Find my iPhone thats been out for years!! Did they copy and get the feature down packed so only your Google ID can unlock it after its erased?? They might as well copy that and get the full set of features.

The setting to activate the device manager appeared on all 3 of my Android devices, but the device manager only showed 2 of the devices. My Sprint GS3 does not appear on my device manager list. I have tried various things to try to activate it without success. Hopefully it will appear in a day or two because my phone is the most likely thing I'll lose.

Ok so for what its worth to anyone, the Android Device Manager showed up today on my Hisense Sero Pro 7 today and it works!

Just installed it on two att GS4s working perfectly. Same on my new nexus and htc one.

Posted via Android Central App

Gps and Google location services has to be enabled on the phone. Which sucks because it should be able to remotely activate those functions but obviously can't. I had the same problem until I enabled both. Can't just have gps enabled on the device.

Posted via Android Central App

Why not? The GPS doesn't use any battery unless it's actually talking to satellites. I keep mine on all the time so I don't have to activate it manually every time I open maps (or want to knock on the door of the person who stole my phone).

For now I'll stick with avast security. I installed the rooted version which even after a wipe I can still track it.

Via Android Central App from a Galaxy Note 2

Personally, I'd rather it overheat, leak acid and dissolve into goo. Why in the hell would I want to lose tracking it and wiping it clean for the next user? Project Meltdown! If I can't use it, neither can YOU!

But this works only if you have WIFI/3G on? That's the only way i managed to locate it. If that's so than it's pretty useless :).

It can't locate my device, which sounds about right... I just hope if I do lose it or it's stolen it happens in an area Google actually covers.

I'm really hoping this functionality gets integrated into the next version of Android in such a way that it works like the Activation Lock feature on iOS 7, where even if you wipe the device or the thief does a hard reset, the device still detects it belongs to someone else and will not work until the user signs in correctly with the previous account.

As things stand right now, wiping your device with Android Device Manager is handing the thief your device on a silver platter, freshly reset and ready to use or to be resold.

The first thing I noticed is how bad and off the location is. It's only using the current cell tower your connected to. With Avast, my location is dead on, even in a building.

My Nexus 7 is being located, but my Nexus 4 isn't. I went into Google Settings on the N4 and everything is activated for the Android Device Manager, but it's not appearing on the map...anyone have any ideas?

Since connection to the apps and the Google Play store/services is driven by my Google account, what happens if I change my password from my computer and then try to send the remote lock/wipe command? I recently lost my Nexus 7 and in a panic went and changed all my passwords. Only then did I remember that the Android Device Manager would allow me to track and lock/wipe the device. Now that my Google account has a different password than when I was using the Nexus, will it be able to receive the Lock command?