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How to perform a complete data wipe on your smartphone

Privacy and security have become increasingly important on mobile devices, particularly in a market where smartphones are being endowed with greater access to your emails, contacts, calendar and even bank accounts, but when it comes time to upgrade your device, and give it to a family member or friend how do you know that you’ve truly deleted all personal information?

The most accessible way to remove all of the content from your smartphone or tablet is to perform a system wide reset, deleting all content including bookmarks, messages, call and browsing history, apps, photos, music, videos and games and resetting the device to its original state as if you’d just taken it out of the box for the first time.

For each of the leading mobile operating systems, the process if different, so we’ve created a simple set of instructions to take you through the process. Remember to back-up your photos and contacts first.

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The function on Android devices goes by the name of, ‘Factory data reset’, but the means with which a user accesses this function differs depending on the version of Android your device is running.

2.3.X Gingerbread – Head to the Settings application in your app drawer and scroll down to ‘Privacy,’ find the option to ‘Factory data reset’ tapping this should then present you with information on what the action will do, followed by ‘Reset phone’ to initiate the process.

4.0.X Ice Cream Sandwich/4.1.X Jelly Bean – Head to Settings in your app drawer and scroll down to ‘Backup and Reset’. From this menu, find the option to ‘Factory data reset’, tapping this should then present you with information on what the action will do, followed by ‘Reset phone’ to initiate the process.

It’s important to note that only Android and BlackBerry devices offer expandable memory, which usually comes in the form of a microSD card. If you plan on leaving the memory card with your tablet or phone, make sure it’s plugged into the device before starting the reset process. In some cases the ‘Factory data reset’ screen also offers the option to ‘Erase SD card’ which wipes files on the SD card as well as the device’s memory.


Thankfully iOS does not suffer from the same degree of fragmentation as Android. To perform the equivalent of a ‘Factory data reset’, whether you’re on iPhone, iPad or iPod Touch, simply head to your Settings application. From there, find the ‘General’ tab and at the bottom of the menu is an option to ‘Reset’. Hitting the ‘Reset’ button will then present you with a number of new options.

For a complete system wipe of your iDevice, including all downloaded content either from iTunes on your computer or from the App Store on your device, choose ‘Erase All Content and Settings’, the device will then restart, possibly more than once leaving you with a device devoid of your iTunes account or any of your previous content.

Windows Phone

As with iOS, the closed nature of Windows Phone means fragmentation isn’t really an issue. The process remains the same for all current handsets across all manufacturers. Firstly, enter the ‘Settings’ application and make sure you’re under the ‘Systems’ tab, (accessible by swiping left and right).

Scroll down the menu until you find the ‘About’ option which as well as providing you with information on your device, also contains the option to ‘reset your phone’. A pop-up warning with a yes/no dialogue appears, choose ‘yes’ if you’re happy to reset your Windows Phone device to its original out of box setup.

BlackBerry OS

RIM prides itself on security within their mobile handsets with multiple levels of encryption available across the many services on their devices. The wipe process differs from other handsets as it only allows for selective wiping. Hit the BlackBerry key to the left of the scrollball/optical scrollpad and open ‘Options’. Then proceed to ‘Security’, followed by ‘Security wipe’ at which point you’ll be presented with a list of checkboxes each covering a different set of information stored on your device.

To perform a full system wipe, tick all three boxes; ‘emails, contacts’, ‘user installed application’ and ‘media card’ (media card refers to any SD card within your device). To initiate the wipe, enter the word ‘blackberry’ in the corresponding box and press the ‘wipe’ button to confirm.


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