Are You Selling Your Android? Here’s How to Wipe It Squeaky Clean

Joel Lee 23-11-2012

wipe history on androidNot so long ago, James wrote an article about all the things you should do before you sell or give away your computer 4 Things You MUST Do When Selling or Giving Away Your Old Computer, Phone or Tablet Here’s a fun thing I like to do: buy an old hard drive on eBay, then run recovery software on it. It’s a little data treasure hunt, and you’ll be amazed at what you can... Read More or tablet. The general principles were fantastic, but what if you’re planning on selling an Android device? What steps should you take to ensure that every trace of you has been wiped clean before someone else takes possession?


If you’ve never considered this before, you should. Privacy invasion is a big deal and it’s never been easier than it is today. You could have some sensitive data on your Android–any at all–and the next person could release it out into the public without you knowing. Photos? Contacts? Private text messages? You probably want to keep all of that on the down low.

So if you’re about to pull the trigger on selling your Android, here are the steps you should take to wipe history on your Android and make sure that none of that happens to you.

Before we begin, please note that I’m using Android Jelly Bean for the screenshots. If you use a different version of Android, the general idea will be the same but the actual menus and options will be slightly different.

Step 1: Backup Your Data

wipe history on android

The very first step is to backup your data before you wipe it. Sure, you don’t want anyone else to access sensitive details, but I’m sure you still want access to it. A decade or two ago, backing up data might’ve been a pain in the rear procedure, but thankfully it’s gotten much easier.


Here are some great tools you can use to backup your Android.

Step 2: Remove SD & SIM Cards

wipe all android

The SIM card is what holds your carrier information and subscription information – and in some cases, your contacts list and photos. You’ll need it for your next phone, so you don’t want anyone getting a hold of your SIM card. Make sure you take it out of your phone before you sell it.

Along the same lines, make sure you remove any external SD cards from your device. If you have an SD card, then you know that it works like extra storage space. When selling a phone, it isn’t expected to include the SD card, so take that out and keep it with you.


wipe all android

If you want to clear your SD card before you remove it, then you can do that through the Android settings. Navigating to Settings, then Storage, then Erase SD.

Once the SIM and SD cards are removed, the only thing left in your phone should be the battery. At this point, all you have left to do is to clear the internal data and settings.

Step 3: Reset To Factory Defaults

wipe history on android


Clearing the internal data of a phone is the most important step. That’s where you’ll find most of your app data, app settings, search history, personal files, and more. Can you imagine what it would be like if you sold your phone and they had your Facebook login details? Let’s avoid that.

The quickest and surest way to wipe out everything is to return your phone to factory default settings. As the term indicates, doing this will reset the state of your phone’s software back to when it was first shipped from a factory.

You may have to search around your Android settings for this feature, but it’ll always be called Factory Reset. After you perform the reset, your phone will reboot and you should see that your phone has returned to how it was when you first got it.

If you’ve customized your Android phone’s ROM, then a Factory Reset will not reset it to the factory-shipped ROM. In this case, it’ll be up to you and the buyer to decide if you’d rather sell it as-is or return it to the original ROM.



And that’s it. Give your device a look over and determine if there are any remnants of your personal data on it anywhere. Once you’re satisfied that your device has been wiped clean, then you can proceed with selling it or giving it away or whatever else you plan to do with it.

Do you have any questions or remarks? If so, feel free to share them in the comments.

Image Credit: Android Phone Via Shutterstock, SIM Card Via Shutterstock

Related topics: Online Privacy, Smartphone Security.

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  1. Avenger Mobile
    February 23, 2013 at 8:13 pm

    Personal data can be recovered with forensic tools after a factory reset. To perform a secure delete of your Android device use Nuke My Phone – [Broken Link Removed]

  2. Joel Lee
    November 26, 2012 at 7:12 pm

    It might be possible if you go from the same model to the same model, but otherwise, I think the differences in hardware and manufacturer may make it difficult or even impossible. I'm not entirely sure.

  3. Raj Bhag
    November 23, 2012 at 4:33 pm

    Lol. Selling your Android device is a downgrade to no matter whatever phone you get afterwards. Nice one ^.^

    • Joel Lee
      November 26, 2012 at 7:11 pm

      Haha. I might agree with that sentiment. ;)

    • Easton Wiki
      November 28, 2012 at 5:06 am


  4. Kris
    November 23, 2012 at 3:50 pm

    Good tips for a advanced user but step one assumes the individual has a rooted phone in order for them to backup their data. I'm sure it's safe to say the majority of Android users do not root their phones. If that were the case their time would be better utilized flashing a clean ROM which requires wiping all of the cache. I'm glad you mentioned removal of the SIM card because more often than not I have found old SIM cards in phones and remove it before $$$ is exchanged. As an option something like Astro or ES File Manager or the like would enable them to look through the folders and delete any sensitive data that was not wiped when performing the Factory Reset.

    I apologize for sounding harsh but many of the Android and iPhone's I've come across on Craigslist, eBay and so-on are sold by folks that either don't care to learn how to root/jail break or plain don't know and don't care. It might be worth adding to your article what the average user can do when they choose to part with their phone. Which as a side note should also be performed if possible if you are trading in your phone because I don't trust mobile employees much either.

  5. Adrian Rea
    November 23, 2012 at 10:33 am

    Sorry for seeming a bit dim here but surely when you reset the factory settings you are just telling the unit to forget the data it had on there previously. It does not wipe it, write/wipe or destroy the data that has been previously recorded. Sure, for an honest buyer, the phone will be fine, but more devious persons could scan the internal memory and restore the data within.

    • Joel Lee
      November 23, 2012 at 3:41 pm

      Technically, I believe it would be dependant on the ROM itself. Depending on the version and ROM that you have, the Reset Factory Defaults setting may or may not actually wipe the data from memory rather than just setting it as "deleted." In later versions, I do think it is a real wipe.

  6. Vampie C.
    November 23, 2012 at 8:38 am

    Simple but good tips. :-)


  7. Jon Smith
    November 23, 2012 at 3:07 am

    is there a way to remove the OS key like what you can do with windows?

    • Easton Wiki
      November 28, 2012 at 5:07 am

      There is no key to android that needs to be saved. If you enable the "backup" feature in settings it will allow u to restore ur settings and software on any other device you just login.