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How to Secure Erase an Android Smartphone

Over the past several years android smartphones storage has grown from fewer MBs to massive GBs. For this specific reason, the need of SDcards is slightly vanishing. Whenever you sell or donate your phone then you simply factory reset the phone after taking an entire backup of your data. You simply wipe the phone which deletes all of your personal data. But are you sure that simply wiping any android phone deletes your data permanently?

If your answer is Yes, then it is wrong. Whenever we factory reset an android phone then the system only deletes the file references. A file reference is a particular address in the storage for accessing that file. A thorough wipe only removes these file references and all the files are still present on your android smartphone’s internal storage. Whenever a file is deleted some storage space is released which is equivalent to the size of that deleted file. Now that deleted file still exists in the internal storage and will only be removed when new files are added to the internal storage. This is the physical working principle of any storage device existing around us today.

So if you are selling or just planning to donate your android cell phone after performing a factory reset then beware. Your deleted data can still be recovered from your phone by using several android data recovery software. These type of software has an ability to access the internal storage of an android phone by gaining root access. After gaining root access any android data recovery software can recover data from phone including all of your personal data like photos, videos, emails or WhatsApp chat history. So, in this tutorial, we will teach you how you can secure erase your android phone so that you can sell it and no one can recover your data by any means.

Warning: Never wipe an android device from recovery mode when there exists a Google account on it. If you reset the device in recovery mode then factory reset protection will be activated and your phone will be locked for 24 hours. Read more about factory reset protection.

How to Secure Erase an Android Smartphone

  • First of all backup entire data stored on your phone’s internal storage. A PC or an external hard drive is a good option for data backup.
  • After backing up your photos, videos, emails, contacts, call logs and WhatsApp folder we are ready to factory reset the phone.
  • You should only factory reset the phone by going to “Settings>Backup & reset”. Tap “Factory data reset” and draw the unlock pattern or enter PIN to confirm the deletion.
  • Now your phone is completely wiped and reset to its factory state. Nothing exists on it except some apps and your previously deleted data.
  • Now, I told you earlier that deleted data can be recovered by scanning the internal storage with help of a recovery software after gaining root access. We have to make your previously deleted data completely unrecoverable and inaccessible.
  • We can only do this by overwriting random data in the internal storage by copying random files to the phone’s internal storage until its completely full.
  • You can just copy junk files or your favorite movies or game ISOs or any file that has specifically no important use.
  • In my case, I will copy movies or large files like game files that have random extensions and bigger size. You can find these files in your PC games folder.
  • Once you have copied multiple unknown files to the internal storage then again perform a factory reset from android “Settings”.
  • Repeat the overwriting and factory reset process 3-4 times to completely delete your personal data from the phone’s storage. If possible use different random files each time.
When you do this 3-4 times then there would be no chance of your deleted data recovery because it doesn’t even exist on the storage because you did secure delete data. And it is not possible to recover data that doesn’t even exist on your phone because it was replaced by the junk files that you had copied 3-4 times earlier. If someone gets to recover the data then it will only find the junk files and nothing else.

Using the Android Encryption For Even More Security

If after performing 3-4 overwriting operations on your android phone you are still not convinced then you can use android encryption. Believe me, this is an overkill for this situation and after full encryption, nothing can be recovered, not even the junk files. To enable full disk encryption android first connect the charger to your phone then go to “Settings>Security>Encrypt Phone”. Make sure to remember the PIN or password that you enter during encryption setup. Now let the phone encrypt itself. Once the encryption completes just switch off the android smartphone. It will ask you to enter PIN or password to decrypt the phone when you power it.

Enter the PIN/password to decrypt then again go to “Settings>Backup & reset”. Here tap “Factory data reset”. After this, you will achieve the highest security level where nobody can ever recover your personal data since it was non-existent on the internal storage. You can now sell or donate your phone to anyone.

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