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Is All Your Data Actually Gone If You Wipe Your Phone Clean?

As an Android user, the answer to this question might shock you. It turns out, the Factory Reset button doesn't actually delete all of your data.

If you’re thinking about selling your old Android cell phone, you need to be extremely careful about wiping your phone clean. If a new user with bad intentions retrieves your personal information, it would be very easy for you to fall victim to an identity theft.

Back in 2014, a startling discovery was made: performing a factory reset on many Android models didn’t permanently clear the users’ phones. To an untrained observer, these cell phones would appear free of apps, texts, and other data. However, when researchers used some digital forensic methods, they effortlessly retrieved emails, messages, contacts, and photos from 20 previously-owned Androids. Turns out, the flash storage drive, which acts like the phone’s master key and gives full access to the previous user’s data, can be recovered.

Read More: How to Properly Dispose of an Old Smartphone

Unfortunately, the factory reset feature hasn’t improved much since then. The good news is that deleting your data (for good!) isn’t actually that complicated. You’re simply missing one step between the Factory Reset button and a fully clean phone, which you can then sell with a carefree mind. Keep reading to find out what you need to do.

How to Properly Delete your Data

Before you begin, there are a few steps you need to take. First, make sure to remove your Android’s SIM card and its micro SD card (if applicable to your model). These cards are, unfortunately, easier to destroy by hand than to reconfigure.

Now, you need to move on to deleting the data from your cell phone’s SD card and internal memory. You should plug your Android into its charger before beginning, because this process can take awhile. This will allow you to perform that one crucial step, which most users are oblivious to; it’s now time to encrypt your phone’s data.

How to Encrypt Your Phone’s Data

Encryption is a vital tool for ensuring that your data won’t be retrievable by future users. This step is performed by going into “Settings,” then choosing “Security,” and finally “Encrypt Phone.” Now, you’re going to want to watch a TV show or do a load of laundry, because encryption takes around an hour (or more, depending on how much data you have on your phone). After the encrypting process is complete, you hit the “Factory Reset” button, which makes your phone 100% clean and ready to sell.