How to Wipe Personal Info from Electronics

Do you have a bunch of gadgets gathering dust in your home? Want to make some extra cash by selling your old devices? You can – just make sure to clean all your personal info before selling them. Tech Talker teaches you how!

Eric Escobar
5-minute read
Episode #63

How to Erase Personal Data from Your Tablet and Smartphone

Next, let’s move on to those pesky phones and tablets. Phones and tablets contain a ton of sensitive information. After all, we cart these devices everywhere we go. We keep our contacts, emails, Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, Foursquare, Pinterest, and well a majority of our lives on these devices! This is even more of a reason that you want to make sure that your device is securely wiped clean before you sell or donate it.

For anything with iOS installed on it, (that means Apple products like iPods, iPhones, iPads, and iPad Minis) you can simply click Settings, General, Reset, and Erase All Content and Settings. This will completely wipe your iOS device, and basically take it back to factory conditions. I like to do this twice, even though once is generally accepted as good enough.

For an Android device, the process is a little bit different, but still pretty easy. You’ll need to navigate to Settings, then to Privacy and then select the option for Factory Data Reset. Just like that, your device will be set back to brand new! The only thing about this is that it doesn’t clear your phone’s SD card as well. I recommend deleting everything off of the SD card such as the files or music stored on it, then formatting it, and erasing it by filling it in with random data or all zero’s using one of the programs I mentioned.

For phones it is also important to remember to take out the SIM card. A SIM card is a slim little piece of plastic that carries the information which connects your phone to your mobile service provider. Simply consult your user manual on how to do remove the SIM card from your specific device.

Tech Talker’s Final Trick to Wipe Your Devices Clean

Here’s another little trick that I always use to make sure that everything personal has been wiped from my devices. After formatting the device’s internal drive, I write a bunch of large files to it (such as large movies that contain nothing personal). Then I format the drive again and conclude by either writing zeros or random impersonal data to the drive.

Why do this? Well, if someone gets their hands on your device and wants to pull personal data, they can use software which would look for patterns in erased data. This clever software looks for remnants of files that were once located on the drive after it had been erased. These files are pretty easy to recover if all you’ve done is format the drive. Recovering any data after it has been erased and recorded over by zeros or random data would be next to impossible. However, if those fancy data recovery algorithms do detect the remnant of a file, it will be of something that has no personal information related to you at all!

This may seem pretty crazy, but it’s a little extra step that I feel is worth it to safeguard my data.

Here are your 3 Quick and Dirty Tips for wiping all of your devices clean:

  1. Formatting a hard drive does not erase all of the information on the drive.

  2. In order to fully get rid of personal information on a hard drive, format it, then write random zeros and/or random data to the drive.

  3. Phones and tablets should always be reset to factory settings and the SIM card should be removed.

Well, that’s it for today! Be sure to check out all my earlier episodes at techtalker.quickanddirtytips.com. And if you have further questions about this podcast or want to make a suggestion for a future episode, post your comments on the Tech Talker Facebook page.

Until next time, I’m the Tech Talker, keeping technology simple!.

Laptop and Tablet images from Shutterstock


About the Author

Eric Escobar

Tech Talker demystifies technology and cutting edge devices so that even the most tech illiterate can understand what's going on with their computer or gadget — and what to do when something goes wrong.