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How to wipe your Android phone before selling or trading it in

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Shreya Christina
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Are you about to buy the latest Samsung phone or are you more of a Pixel person? Whether you’re planning to trade in your old Android phone for a discount on your new phone, sell it on eBay, give it away to a friend, or drop it off for recycling, you’ll want to wipe it of all your data first. by resetting it to factory settings. Fortunately, that is quite easy to do.

Before you get started, keep in mind that these instructions were tested on a Pixel 3 running Android 12, but the process for most current Android phones should be pretty much the same. Needless to say, the first thing you need to do is make sure all your data is transferred to your new phone, back it up, or both. Once your old phone has been reset, there is no going back.

  • Go to Institutions
  • Select SystemReset options
  • You will be presented with four choices. Reset Wi-Fi, Cellular and Bluetooth is sometimes useful if you have problems with the connection. Reset app preferences will restore all your app and notification defaults, among other things. Clear downloaded SIM cards will help you get rid of all the digital SIM cards you no longer need. However, none of these will delete the data on your phone. That’s the job of the last choice, Clear all data (factory reset)and that’s the one you’re going to select.
  • The next screen will show you what will be cleared and which accounts you are logged into. Select Delete all data
  • If you have a PIN or other security setting, you will be prompted to enter it
  • You will get another screen asking if you are sure you want to do this. Are you sure? Then press the Delete all data knob.

That is it! The process usually only takes two or three minutes. Your phone will reboot and start with the usual opening questions such as language, account, network, etc. Once you see those, you know it’s working.

There are a few things to watch out for. First, if you have a Samsung phone, you may be prompted for your Samsung account password before you can reset (provided you created one and added it to the phone).

If you have an Android phone that uses an earlier version of the operating system (for example, before version 8), the reset may ask for your login after it reboots. This can be tricky if you’ve already sent the phone to someone else. Therefore, if you have an older phone, it’s a good idea to disable your screen lock (go to Securityscreen lock and select No) and deleting your Google account (which you can find at Institutionsaccountgoogle) before starting the reset. (In fact, at least that might be a good idea.)

There are indications that some data may remain on a phone even after it has been reset. To be extra careful, you can encrypt the phone before resetting it:

  • Go to InstitutionsSecurityEncryption and Credentials and select Encrypt phone
  • Go back to your settings and start the reset process

Of course, if you want to be Real sure, and you’re not going to give the phone to anyone, you can always grab a hammer.

Update September 3, 2020, 10:50 AM ET: This article was originally published on May 22, 2019 and has been updated to list more recent phones and update a menu selection.

Update March 24, 2022, 11:40 AM ET: Updated to include more recent phones and Android 12 update instructions.

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