How To Comprehensively Wipe Your Android Device Clean

Why would you need to wipe your Android phone or tablet clean - I hear you ask? In my experience, there are usually two possible reasons. You are selling / getting rid of the device and don't want others having access to your personal data on the phone - or you have a problem with the device.

The problem could be a glitch in the operating system or, as discussed in detail on this website, you could have spy software on the device and you want it Gone! The Factory Reset part is foolproof when removing monitoring software.

But Let's say you are just selling your phone or tablet - for the purposes of this article.

how to factory reset

In this day and age it has become quite the norm to “trade in” or sell our old electronic devices whenever the new “toys” come out on the market. You know who you are - queuing up or counting the days to the new release of the xPhone yps967 (made up obviously).

The problem I want to highlight isn't the fact that you are too involved in corporate consumerism (yeah!) but that most people don't stop to think about their personal data on the cell phone or device they are selling or passing on.

Think for a moment about all the juicy stuff on your phone - those cute snapshots, the loving texts .... you get the message. But wait, that isn't really the problem either, it can be much worse.

How many different accounts have been linked in some way to your device? Synced with Google? How about Facebook Twitter and all the others. Have you saved your passwords - your banking details - Amazon? Can you see how this picture is starting to look a little darker.

Our mobiles contain so much information these days and we don't always stop to consider the risks of someone getting their hands on it.

You should never undermine your digital privacy with blatant negligence, especially since it is now easier than it has ever been to invade an individual’s privacy. You literally leave your fate in someone else’s hands if you happen to leave even a trace of any sensitive/private data on you Android device when it passes hands to your prospective buyer/recipient.

Your emails, your text messages, personal photos, your contacts; all of these and more are fair game to people who seek to invade your privacy.

Don’t worry, if you are really thinking about selling your Android device then we’re here to provide you with a few essential tips and guidelines that you can follow to clean your device and safeguard your privacy.

Disclaimer: This guide is written with Android Jelly Bean in mind; however, the general idea still remains the same for different Android versions, only the options and menus will vary slightly.

Backup Everything - Carefully

While this might seem like a no-brainer, it still needs to be mentioned. Of course you don’t want to give anyone unsolicited access to your personal data and/or sensitive information; however, that does not mean that you should inconvenience yourself by not having access to it. In the past, the process of backing up data may have been a tad too tedious and tiresome, thankfully that is not the case today.

There are quite a few backup tools free and paid, which are fully Android compatible, that make this process a breeze. Here are just a few:

  • Titanium Backup
  • Helium
  • ​Ultimate Backup
  • App Backup & Restore

Titanium Backup is an app that has been on the scene for more than a few years now and during this time it has earned an excellent reputation. Titanium Backup offers a wide and comprehensive range of options and it is definitely one of the most advanced backup utilities in the Google Play Store.

Conversely, if you are looking for an app that is much more accessible and easier to use, then App Backup & Restore may be just what you are looking for. This app does just what it says on the tin; it gives you the ability to backup applications. However, this easy usability sacrifices the ability to backup data as well.

Helium stands in the middle of the spectrum, it is easy enough to use right off the bat while still having an adequate range of features.

The main reason for this backup is so that you still have access to everything that was on the phone - since we are going to wipe it clean soon. Next step ....

Remove SD & SIM Cards

A no brainer, but you'd be amazed how many people forget that they even had an SD card!

When selling your phone the only item that should be in it is the battery, unless you have specified some special conditions with the buyer.

First, let’s explain the terminology a bit. Your phone’s SIM card is where both your subscription and carrier information is housed; in some cases it may also be where things like you pictures and contacts are found.

Your SD card is simply additional storage space that you put in your phone (if you have an SD card then you should already know this).

You will probably need your SIM card to use with your next device so make sure that you remove it before you sell your device (and even if you don’t want it you should not sell a device with a pre-owned SIM card).

Likewise, the average phone buyer does not expect a SIM card with the phone that they are purchasing, so take it out already.

You should remove any SD cards unless you have agreed to include it in the deal. If it is staying, you need to wipe it clean. Remember you can completely clean the SD card without actually taking it out of the device. Simply make your way to Settings; Storage: Erase SD.

I prefer to remove both the SIM and any SD cards - make no mistakes and keep things simple. Next up is the wiping bit!

Reset to Default Factory Settings

Sometimes referred to as a Factory Reset or Hardset - this step is arguably the most important – removing your internal data and resetting your phone. This entails clearing off your personal data, application settings and data, search history, saved login information, and much more.

This does exactly what it suggests - returns the device to the state it was in before it left the factory (before you started personalizing it with all your stuff!).

Just think of home many social networks or online accounts you have connected to your phone; now think of what could possibly happen if you sell your phone to someone with all of that information on it – scary right?

Resetting your device to its default factory settings is not only the easiest way to clear off everything on your phone, it is also one of the most efficient ways as well.

It is also a foolproof way to remove spy software - check out my Guide to Cell Phone Spying Software - Lots of detailed information there.

After a reset is performed your device will then boot up as if it was brand new. This option is usually found under Settings; Backup and Reset; Factory Data Reset. However, this may vary slightly between Android devices. You know how they love to move some menu items around - just to keep us on our toes!


That’s really all there is too it – see, it’s not that difficult after all. To be on the safe side you should always double check your device after you have reset it, just to make sure that all of your personal data and sensitive information is truly gone.

After you are one hundred percent sure that your device is clean, you can then give it away or sell it without having to worry about anything.

Make sure you read my main Internet Safety and Security Guide here - lots of good tips and information.

Do you have any other tips related to cleaning an Android device that we may have missed? Do you know of any other notable backup app for Android phones? Do you have any queries? Feel free to share them with us!

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