What to Do BEFORE You Sell Your Phone

by Sandra Henshaw - , Last Updated on March 9, 2015, How To Guides

Selling or trading in your old mobile phone before  you get a new one can be a sensible financial decision. However, unless you’re careful you could find that you’re passing along more than a hand set to your buyer. Mobile phones contain a lot of very personal data these days, which is why it’s important that you wipe your phone properly before selling it on. Not sure how to do that? That’s why we’re here. Follow these steps and you’ll be good to go.

Before You Start

The instructions for properly wiping your phone will vary depending on the kind of phone that you have. But before you start, there’s something that all phone owners need to do. The first thing is easy: back up all your data. Whether you choose to use your manufacturer’s software or an online storage system you need to back up everything, including your contacts, so that your data can safely be transported to your new mobile.

You’ll then need to go into each of your email accounts, as well as any app that requires a log in (such as Facebook, Twitter, Skype) and physically log out of each account. Some of these apps will also allow you to clear data, and if this is an option, go for it. Removing your SIM card is a no brainer, but also don’t forget to remove any SD cards that you may have added for additional storage. Once you’ve done all this you’re ready to get down to business. So follow the instructions below depending on which phone operating system you have.

For iOS Users

If you’ve got an iPhone you’re probably taking advantage of a whole bunch of Apple services, and you’ll need to sign out of these. Your first step is to sign out of the Find My iPhone service (you can do this from Settings, iCloud, Find My iPhone, and you’ll need to enter your Apple ID). Then log out of iCloud completely (again, Settings, iCloud and you’ll find a sign out box at the bottom of the page).

Two more things to sign out of before you’re done. The first is iMessage (which you’ll find under Settings, Messages and then switch the iMessage button to off). The second is your Apple ID (Settings, iTunes & App Store, click on your Apple email address and then sign out).

You can now wipe your phone. Head into the Settings menu, select General, then Reset, then Erase All Content and Settings. You’ll need to confirm your selections. Last but not least, if you were smart enough to register your iPhone with Apple then you’ll need to visit supportprofile.apple.com, log in with your Apple ID and remove your phone from your list of Apple devices. This will prevent it as being shown up as stolen later. And you’re all done.

For Android Users

Contrary to popular belief, a simple factory reset is not enough to completely clear all your data from an Android device. It is possible to bring data back from a factory reset phone using commonly available tools, and that’s not good- especially if you’ve got things like bank account details on your phone. However, there is a way that you can wipe your Android and get a little more security.

First, you’re going to need to encrypt the data on your phone. This means that even if data is recovered it will be encrypted, and therefore fairly useless. Encryption is easy. Head to Settings, hit Security and then choose Encrypt Phone. This can vary a little by model, and in some cases you might find the encryption option under the Storage menu, for example. If you can’t find it, have a look around, it’ll be there somewhere!

Once your data is encrypted you can then perform a factory reset. Again, this is simple. Go to Settings, choose Back Up and Reset, and then click on Factory Data Reset. Once you’ve done this you should be good to go, and can hand your empty phone over to anyone you want!

For Windows Users

Windows users have a very similar problem to that of Android users in that a simple factory reset just isn’t enough. Unfortunately, Windows customers have an added disadvantage in that the average Windows phone has no encryption possibility. If there’s not too much personal data on your phone you might want to opt for the simple factory reset option. But there is another safer (though more time consuming) option. By resetting and adding “dummy data” you make your phone more secure.

First, go to Settings, choose About, and then click on Reset My Phone. This is a simple factory reset. If you want to add dummy data you’ll then need to connect your phone to your computer. Open your phone on your computer (it should show up as a removable device, just like a flash disk does), and then drag and drop files into your phone until the memory is full. It doesn’t matter too much what kind of files you fill it with, though nothing with personal info. Video and music files work best since they contain little personal information and are big, therefore filling your phone up faster.

Once your phone is full of data again, perform another factory reset as explained above. Should anyone try to recover data from your phone they’ll be recovering the “dummy data” that you just added, rather than the personal data that was originally on your phone. You can even go through the process a few more times if you want to be extra safe.

Considering the vast amount of personal info we all keep on our phones it is important that you take the time to properly wipe your mobile before selling it. And whilst this might take you a few minutes, the processes are all relatively easy and don’t require any great technical know how or special tools. Completely wiping your phone is the only way to ensure that your personal data doesn’t fall into the hands of the wrong people, so consider that time spent a good investment. Once you’ve wiped your mobile you can then safely sell it on, and use that cash to fund your next great hand set!