Android: Wipe device clean, restore factory settings

Whether you just upgraded your Android smartphone to another device, your organization is finally replacing that old Android with something newer and shinier or you've decided to trade devices with a friend, it's a very smart idea to wipe any and all sensitive information from your smartphone before passing it off, not just to ensure that your personal data remains private, but to also make sure your device runs like new for its next owner.

The following four steps will guide you through the Android device-wipe process, and show you how to restore your Android to its factory settings.

But before the wipe, you should backup any personal data you wish to move over to your new device or your information will be lost. To back up your personal data to your PC, mount the device as a USB drive and save all data to a folder on your computer's hard drive. You can also backup your personal information and application data on Google's servers--more details on online backup below.

(Note: The process described below relates specifically to Android v2.3 [Gingerbread] handhelds, but the steps for erasing all data from any Android device are similar regardless of your software version. You should also backup any personal data you wish to move over to your new device, before wiping it, or your information will be lost. To back up your personal data to your PC, mount the device as a USB drive and save all data to a folder on your computer's hard drive. You can also backup your application data online using Google's servers.)

1) To initiate the Android device wipe process, first tap your Android Menu key to bring up a number of on-screen options.

2) Next, choose the Settings option within the on-screen menu, and on the following screen scroll down to and tap Privacy.

3) Within the Privacy Settings menu, tap the Factory Data Reset option, and on the following screen choose whether you want to wipe all data on your device, all data on your external microSD memory card or both, by filling in the appropriate check boxes. Then confirm the action by tapping Reset Phone.

4) You'll be prompted one more time to confirm your Android device wipe on the Factory Data Reset screen, and if you're sure you're ready to erase your device, tap the Erase Everything button to complete the process.

(Note: The Android erase cycle may take 10 minutes or more to finish, depending on how much data is stored on your device and/or memory card.)

If you seek additional Android quick tips, read "Android Security: Six Tips to Protect Your Google Phone" and "Android Battery Basics: How to Make Your Google Phone Last Longer."

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