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Here’s how to erase your Android phone before selling or trading it in

Are you looking to buy the latest Samsung phone or want to save some cash with a Google Pixel 4A? Whether you want to trade your old Android phone for a discount on your new phone, sell it on eBay, give it to a friend, or send it in for recycling, you’ll want to erase all of your data by doing a factory reset first. Fortunately, it’s pretty easy.

Before you begin, note that these instructions were originally intended for a Pixel 3 XL with Android 9 and were recently reviewed on an original Pixel with Android 10. However, the process for most current Android phones should be largely the same. First of all, make sure that all of your data is transferred to your new phone, backed up, or both. Once your old phone has been reset, there is no going back.

  • Go to Settings
  • Choose System> Advanced> Reset Options
  • You have three options. “Reset Wi-Fi, Mobile & Bluetooth” is sometimes useful when you have connectivity issues. With “Reset app settings”, among other things, all default settings for your app and notification are restored. Neither of them will erase the data on your phone. This is the third choice task, “Erase All Data (Factory Reset),” and this is what you will select.
  • You will get a warning screen reminding you that your data will be deleted, as well as any accounts that you are currently signed into. Choose Reset Phone.
  • If you have a PIN or other security setup, you will be asked to enter it
  • Another screen will ask if you are sure you want to do this. Are you sure? Then click the “Clear All” button.

That’s it! The process usually only takes two or three minutes. Your phone will reboot and start with the usual opening questions like language, account, network, etc. Once you see these you will know it worked.

There are a few things to consider. If you have a Samsung phone, it will first ask for your Samsung account password before you can reset it (assuming you’ve created one and added it to the phone).

If you have an Android phone that is using an earlier version of the operating system (e.g., prior to version 8), the reset may prompt you to sign in after the reboot. This can be inconvenient if you’ve already sent the phone to someone else. So if you have an older phone, it’s a good idea to turn off the screen lock (by going to Security> Screen Lock and selecting “None”) and deleting your Google Account (which you can find in “Settings”)> Account > Google) before starting the reset.

There are indications that some data may remain on a phone even after a reset. To be extra careful, you can encrypt the phone before resetting it:

  • Go to Settings> Security> Advanced> Encryption and Credentials and select “Encrypt Phone”.
  • Go back to Settings and start the reset process

Of course, if you want to be Really Sure, and you don’t mean to hand the phone to anyone, you could always pick up a hammer.

Update September 3, 2020, 10:50 a.m. ET: This article was originally published and updated on May 22, 2019 to mention newer phones and update a menu selection.

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