Android has never been bigger in the States (or globally) and, in all likelihood, many of you are looking to upgrade to a new phone at some point. Whether you give your old Android phone to a family member or friend or just throw it up on eBay, there are a couple important things you should do to protect your data and privacy.

  1. Back up your data for your new phone. Your apps will still be available for re-downloading, but not necessarily the data they save to your phone. (This changes in Android 2.2, which will back up your app data.) The easiest way to do this is simply mount your phone to your computer so that the microSD card and any internal memory can be read. After that, all you need to do is just make a copy of everything on your phone and save it in a folder on your computer and put it on your new phone when the time comes. Using AppBrain is the easiest way to get all your apps reinstalled on your new phone.
  2. Remove or reformat the microSD card and any internal storage, depending on if you are planning on moving it to your new phone or keeping it with your old one. You should be able to do this in Menu > Settings >SD card & phone storage but using your computer might be necessary (my option for "Format SD card" was greyed out). 
  3. Do a factory data reset. This should wipe your phone of all user data and restore it to how it came to you in the box. If you have custom ROM's or have your phone rooted, you might run into some issues though. You can find this by going into Menu > Settings > Privacy > Factory data reset. Just make sure you have everything backed up before doing this!

By following these steps, you will ensure than none of your emails, contact info, or browsing history can fall into the wrong hands when you move to a new device. 

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Reader comments

Easiest way to wipe your phone

18 Comments

Funny, I just did a factory reset this morning of my unrooted Droid running FRG01b. It could not be easier. If you select the right backup settings, your apps even automatically reinstall from the Market. Awesome.

Does this "factory data reset" remove any updates? For example, Nexus One came with 2.1 and I did the Froyo update to 2.2, does this wipe bring the phone back to 2.1?

No, you'll still be on 2.2. Even if you install a custom rom and do a hard reset you'll still be on that custom rom, just a fresh copy of that custom rom.

If you are feeling generous and want to give the new owner your micro SD card, formatting it is a nice start, but it's not a secure wipe. You probably trust who you are giving it to, but if you are selling it on Craig's List, you'll want to format and then do a secure wipe.

* In Windows, mount the microSD card so you can view the drive (say "G") in Windows explorer.
* Open an command window via Start -> run -> cmd.
* Type "cipher.exe /w:g:\" Remove the double quotes and replace "g" with whatever drive letter is appropriate. It means run cipher.exe in "wipe" mode on drive "g."

This will securely wipe the microSD card so nothing can be pulled off. I'll bet there are Android apps that can do recovery on non-securely wiped micro SD cards already. If not, maybe I'll make one...

My son works for a forensic data recovery company. Most of their clients are Fed. government and law enforcement. His specialty is phones and mobile devices. They sell software and services to do recovery on ANY device. He has only found one device (and he can't say which one) that actually does a secure delete/format of storage. They sell software that will do that. Believe me what I say 1) always keep your personal or important information on a removable SD card 2) find the best way to securely delete or format any data cache areas. Strangely, the utility I use most of the time is a free PC Utility from Piriform, one of the best I've seen, called CCleaner. Make sure you download from piriform.com. There are commercial products that are similar who pay Google quite well for their product to appear as CCleaner in your search.

Any bets on whether the phone is forensically clean or not?

I'm pretty sure Horatio Caine could wave it over his Surface table and be sorting thru your text messages and emails in two seconds.

I want to completely wipe my EVO, and start from scratch since I got the HTC leaked copy of FROYO. What steps can I take? Resetting the phone keeps the software version...

How do you see the internal memory when you mount the phone? All I see, I think, is the SD card.

I did this and all the original sample files, folders, pictures, music and htc sync is gone on my Sprint HTC EVO now the phone is acting glitchy

If I give this phone to my mom when we switch phones (She's getting Epic but I'm giving her my Hero to get that phone) should I wipe the phone after I get the phone numbers switched or before hand?

if I wipe out my android, is it affect my android os example before it is gingerbread 2.3.5 then after wipe. is it become 2.2 froyo?