How to securely wipe your private data from an iOS, Android or Windows device

Selling your phone or tablet on eBay? You’ll want to completely wipe your private data first, to ensure no one can recover your emails, photos and other sensitive bits – something that’s still a serious problem. Here’s how to safely wipe an iPhone, iPad, Windows or Android device.

The first step before wiping your device should be to copy off any photos, messages and other bits that you want to keep ahold of. You can backup your photos by connecting to a computer or saving them to the cloud using services such as Google Photos.

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If you already have your new phone and want to copy across your messages, contacts and other important content from your old mobile, we recommend apps such in the vein of Motorola Migrate. Apple’s iPhones now have a built-in feature to help you move stuff from an Android handset, and offerings like the Google Pixel include adapters and native software to switch in the other direction easily as well.

How to securely wipe all of your data from an iPhone or iPad

Luckily iPhones and iPads are designed to completely wipe automatically when you reset them. Therefore, all you need to do is head to the settings, and then General > Reset > Erase all content and settings. When the phone reboots to the welcome screen, all of your data will be impossible to retrieve.

How to securely wipe all of your data from an Android phone or tablet

Nowadays most Android devices, once wiped/reset are safe to pass onto new owners or recycle, however, there are some exceptions and some older versions of Android software that don’t include encryption by default. Thankfully it’s easy to switch this feature on and ensure that data can’t be recovered from your device after a reset.

First, head to the Security section of your Android device’s settings menu. You should see an option called ‘Encrypt phone’. Give that a tap and agree to the subsequent dialogue. Note that this process could take a long time, perhaps an hour or so, depending on how much junk you still have on your phone or tablet.

Once it’s complete it’s then just a matter of wiping your Android device like normal. Go back to settings and find the ‘Backup & Reset’ section, under which you’ll find the option to perform a ‘factory data reset’. Make sure you tick the option to Erase Internal Storage if present.

Wait for this to complete and the phone or tablet should then boot back up to the initial setup screen, just as it did when it was initially purchased. We’d recommend going through the setup process and checking that all of your media has indeed been wiped. Occasionally some Android phones (especially older Sony phones) fail to wipe your photos, for instance. When you’re satisfied that no data remains on your device, it doesn’t hurt to perform another factory reset just to be sure.

How to securely wipe all of your data from a Windows 10/10 S or Windows Phone handset or tablet

Similarly to iOS devices, Windows Phone handsets are also easy to securely wipe. All you need to do is head to the settings and then About > Restore. This should completely securely erase your phone’s storage, wiping all of your private data.

If your device is running Windows 10 (including desktop PCs, laptops and tablets) open settings by heading into the Start menu, select Update & Security and on the subsequent screen choose Recovery. Under the Recovery tab, you’ll find multiple options including Reset This PC. Click on the relevant Get Started button and you’ll then be presented with a pop-up dialogue with two options, Keep My Files or Remove Everything. Choose the second option, then click Next and finally Reset to initiate the wipe.

Once your machine has finished restarting all of your personal files should be gone and you can pass your device on.