Ready to upgrade to a brand-new iPhone or the latest Android handset? Or maybe you’re trading in your smartphone for a good old-fashioned “feature” phone.

If that’s the case, good for you—and you’re also probably thinking of selling your existing handset on Craigslist or eBay, trading it in for cash, or even giving it to a (very lucky) friend or loved one.

Well, here’s the thing: your old iPhone or Android device is simply brimming with all kinds of personal data, like usernames, passwords, phone numbers, photos, email … you name it.

How to wipe everything off your iPhone or Android phone

Just tap “Erase All Content and Settings” to wipe your iPhone’s memory clean.

Now, you’d never hand over family photos, your checking account numbers, or a stack of email to a perfect stranger, would you? Of course not—but that’s essentially what you’d be doing were you to sell or give away an old iPhone without wiping it first.

Luckily, you can erase every last bit of personal data off your iPhone or Android phone in just a few taps.

For the iPhone:


  • Tap the Settings icon on the main home screen, then tap General.
  • Scroll down to the bottom of the screen and tap Reset.
  • On the next page, tap the second button on the screen—the one that reads “Erase All Content and Settings.” If you’ve locked your iPhone with a passcode, you’ll have to enter it before proceeding.
  • Now, a little dialog box will appear at the bottom of the screen that reads: “This will delete all media and data, and reset all settings,” along with a big red button marked “Erase iPhone.” If you’re really, truly ready, press the button—and keep in mind that it could take anywhere from several minutes to an hour for your iPhone to completely wipe all your data. Indeed, you might want to plug in your iPhone’s AC adapter if its battery is running low.

For Android phones:


How to wipe everything off your iPhone or Android phone

The option to wipe your Android phone’s memory may sit under the “Privacy” or “SD & phone storage” headings, depending on the make and model of your handset.

  • Tap the Applications icon at the bottom of your phone’s home screen, then find and tap the Settings icon.
  • Unfortunately, this is where things get a tiny bit tricky. You’re looking for the “Factory data reset” option, but different Android phones list it under different headings. Tap the “Privacy” heading first; if you don’t find the “Factory data reset” option at the bottom of the list, hit the Back button, and try “SD & phone storage” next; you’ll probably find it there.
  • Once you’ve found and tapped “Factory data reset,” you’ll jump to a page that describes what happens when you hit the “Reset phone” button: your Google ID info will be erased, your installed applications will be wiped, and all your system settings will be reset. There may also be the option to erase your phone’s removable microSD memory card, where photos, music, and videos may be stored; if you’re not planning on keeping the microSD card for yourself, go ahead and check the box.
  • OK, ready? Tap the “Reset phone” button. Android will give you one last chance to change your mind; if you’re all set, tap “Erase everything.”
  • As with the iPhone, it could take several minutes or longer for your Android phone to erase itself—and again, if your handset is low on power, you should connect the AC adapter.

Have more questions about erasing an iPhone or an Android phone? Let me know!

Note: This updated and revised post was originally published July 2011.

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