Getting your smartphone ready to sell isn’t as straightforward as it was when phones were simpler. Backing-up contacts, photos and deleting messages is one thing, but you’ll also want to disconnect your online accounts and wipe any digital trace of yourself from the device.
Read on to find out how to erase all stored passwords, emails, online store and banking log-ins, and personal data from your phone.
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Backup your phone
A great way to backup photos and files is by using free cloud storage from the likes of Dropbox, Microsoft’s OneDrive and Google Drive (it’s probably best to do it over a wi-fi connection if possible). Alternatively, you can use your phone’s own cloud backup feature, or connect it to a computer and use your phone manufacturer’s software.
Android – if you’ve enabled syncing, your contacts, photos and data may be backed up – but you’ll need to check. Go to Settings, Sync, and check if any items are set to be backed-up (or just backup everything here now). If you get a new Android phone, you can transfer contacts, calendar, Drive, and other settings to it from your Google account.
Using a PC instead? Check your phone manufacturer’s website for the correct software to install. If you’re on a Mac and find there’s no software, installing Android File Transfer will let you access many files.
iPhone – Apple’s own cloud service, iCloud, is even easier to use and will quite possibly have already backed-up much of your data and photos automatically. However, to transfer specific settings for apps via iCloud you might have to manually enable it.
First go to Settings, iCloud and move across the sliders so that everything you want to backup is green. Then tap the Storage & Backup option, enable iCloud Backup via the slider (if you haven’t already) and tap Back up now to fully backup everything you selected on the previous page.
We’ve also put together some tips on securing your iCloud after the celebrity nude photos hack, including how to delete data from your iCloud account.
Using a computer instead? Use iTunes but disable its ‘sync’ option before connecting your phone to avoid accidentally wiping anything before it’s been backed-up (syncing will ‘re-image’ it to the last-known state).
Windows Phone – you can sign-in to your Microsoft account and backup your phone’s contents to your cloud (Drive) account. Go to Settings, Backup, Apps + settings, then turn on Settings backup by moving the control icon, and tap Back up now. Note: These steps are correct for Windows Phone 8.1, but may be named differently in version 8 or 7.
Alternatively, you can sync photos, music and videos to your Mac or PC using Windows Phone apps. Windows Phone 7 users need to use the Zune PC software.
Make a note of your apps
It’s worth noting your apps as you’ll likely be getting a new mobile and want to continue using them. There’s a chance some won’t be available if you’re moving to a newer OS version of the same platform, or between OS platforms. Otherwise, installing apps on the same platform is a breeze, and iTunes and Google Play accounts remember what you’ve downloaded previously so you can simply log-in to the app store, locate this list and reinstall apps from there.
If you’ve backed up your old iPhone via iCloud before you sold it, you should find that your new iPhone synchronises with the very same data and resembles your old iPhone down to the last app.
Log out of your accounts
It’s sensible to do this for all apps and accounts, especially any you access through automated passwords. This could be anything from email to iTunes accounts. You should also deauthorise your old phone from the likes of Google Play Music and iTunes which you can do by logging into your account via a PC. For iTunes, this ensures that any purchased digital media won’t be locked to that device.
Perform a factory reset
Unlike many computers, phones don’t contain a data-retaining hard drive. However, it might be the case that on Android phones especially, a ‘factory reset’ is not quite sufficient to entirely wipe your data. To help protect yourself completely, the best solution is to encrypt your data before running the factory reset.
For Android devices, go to Settings, then Security, and Encrypt phone. Once you run this it will mean that all your data is only viewable with the correct PIN – a number only you will know. Next, if you’ve backed-up your phone, go to Settings, Backup & reset and select Factory data reset.
By encrypting before you run the factory reset your data will still be password protected, even if if your old files are restored by a future owner with nefarious intentions and a data recovery tool.
Note: iPhones (from the 3Gs onwards) do the above by default, so all you need to do is run the factory reset to protect your files. go to in Settings, General, Reset, Erase All Content and Settings.
Retain your memory card and SIM
If you’ve added a memory card (or SD card) to your phone, be sure to turn off your phone and remove it before you pass the phone onto its new owner. Even if you want to format it and include it with the phone the best way to secure your data is to keep it; your data is important and memory cards are cheap. Finally, remove your SIM card.
Factory reset checklist by phone
Follow the below instructions for performing a factory reset:
Android – go to Settings, Backup & reset / Backup & restore then Factory data reset.
iPhone – go to Settings, General, then Reset and tap Erase All Content and Settings.
Windows Phone – go to Settings, About, then tap Reset your phone. You’ll see two warnings – tap Yes, then Yes again.