How to wipe out devices before selling

Your grandparents used the same TV for 10-20 years. Things have changed since then. You upgrade your phone, smart TV, and buy the last-gen gaming consoles much faster.

What about your old phone or laptop? Do you plan to sell or donate it?

Before you go ahead and sell or donate it, think through the consequences! Imagine logging into your social media accounts only to find someone else has access. Worse, someone’s logging into your bank account!

That’s why you need to wipe your data from your old devices.

Is it that bad, though?

No matter what device you use, make sure to install CyberGhost VPN on it. This way, any programs or apps you use, your data cannot ever be spied upon or collected. Surf the web and use any app with complete anonymity and privacy.

Your Devices Know Everything about You

That little smartphone you carry in your pocket never sleeps and never forgets. It registers your messages, steps you take, location, loved ones’ location, and accounts.

You rely on it for meal planning, transportation, password management, and banking. You’d use many handy apps but every app you use collects as much data as it can to serve you ads.

That doesn’t mean other devices, like your laptop or smart TV, shy away from siphoning your data. It’s just you don’t carry them around as you do with your smartphone or wearables. This data trove is a disaster for your privacy!

That makes second-hand devices the weak link for data breaches and identity theft, specifically when you don’t wipe them. Get proactive and wipe your personal data, so no one has free access to it.

Let’s start with some preemptive steps before the full sweep.

Before You Let Go

Your data is valuable and not just to ad companies and cyberattackers. It practically spells out your life, so you wouldn’t want to lose it.

Apply these 10 steps before wiping your data.

  1. Save a physical or online backup.
  2. Transfer your data to your new device using services like iCloud or Smart Switch.
  3. Log out of all accounts.
  4. Change the primary device for your banking or social media accounts.
  5. Change your device’s two-factor authentication (2FA).
  6. Unpair your device from other smart devices.
  7. Remove any memory or microSD cards.
  8. Disconnect your device from your iCloud, Google, and Microsoft accounts.
  9. Unpair any wearables, like Apple watches.
  10. Exclude the device from your trusted devices list.

In a nutshell, you want to keep and transfer your valuable data and simultaneously cut all ties to your accounts, network, or other devices.

Now, you’re ready to erase your data.

Reinstating a Clean Slate

Before you let your device go, make sure you have zero personal files left on it. That doesn’t mean you need to manually delete every app, document, or photo you own.

The best and easiest way is to use your device’s Erase all Content and Settings or Factory reset function. The exact feature’s name and restore instructions will depend on your device.

The process will restore your device to its default state, as if you never owned it, preventing anyone from stealing your information.

Get started with our step-by-step device wipe guide.

Step-by-Step Guide for Wiping Common Devices

Each device is different; that’s why I’ve compiled a guide on the steps you’d follow to wipe your device. Jump to your device in the following list for a step-by-step guide.

Windows Devices

Get started with our step-by-step device wipe guide.

  1. Type reset into the Start search box at the bottom left of the Windows home screen
  2. Choose Reset this PC
  3. Click Get started
  4. Choose to remove all your data

MacBooks and Macs

  1. Turn on your device
  2. Press and hold Command (⌘) and R until you see the Apple logo
  3. Select Disk Utility from the utilities window
  4. Click continue
  5. Choose Macintosh HD in the sidebar
  6. Click Erase Volume Group

Android Phones and Tablets

It depends on your device and Android version, but the options should follow this sequence.

  1. Go to Settings
  2. Choose System
  3. Select Reset Options
  4. Choose, Factory Reset, Erase All Data, or something along those lines

Phones and iPads

  1. Go to Settings, then to the General sub-menu
  2. Choose the Reset option or the Erase All Content and Settings function
  3. Enter your Apple ID password and continue

Apple Watches

  1. Go to Settings, then to the General sub-menu
  2. Choose the Reset option or Erase All Content and Settings function

WearOS Wearables

  1. Flick down from the top of the screen
  2. Tap the Settings button from the pull-down menu
  3. Scroll down and select System
  4. Scroll down and select Disconnect & Reset

Chromebooks

  1. Press Ctrl, Alt, Shift, and R together on the login screen
  2. Select the Powerwash box
  3. Follow the on-screen instructions to wipe your device

PlayStation 5 Consoles

  1. Go to Settings
  2. Select System, then System Software
  3. Find Reset Options and choose Reset Your Console
  4. Follow the on-screen instructions

PlayStation 4 Consoles

  1. Go to Settings
  2. Search for Account Management
  3. Deactivate the console as your primary PlayStation 4. If you don’t, you’ll have trouble signing in on your new console or the PlayStation network.
  4. Find the Initialization option
  5. Here you’ll find two options:
  • Restore Default Settings (this option wipes your saved settings and returns your PlayStation 4 to factory settings without erasing the data from your hard drive.)
  • Initialize PS4 (this wipes both your saved settings and your PlayStation 4’s hard drive. That includes games, account details, screenshots, and social media accounts tied to your PlayStation 4.)

PlayStation 3 Consoles

  1. Select Settings and scroll down to System Settings
  2. Scroll down and choose Restore PS3 System
  3. Confirm the next step
  4. Choose between Quick Format and Full Format (remember that quick formatting might not delete everything off the drive, so it’s best to go with Full Format.)
  5. Follow the on-screen instructions to return your PS3 to factory settings

Xbox Series X and Series S

  1. Press the Xbox button on your controller to open the guide
  2. Move over to the Profile & system tab using your D-pad
  3. Scroll down and select Settings, then scroll down to System
  4. Look for the Console info tab
  5. Select Reset console and follow the instructions

Xbox One

  1. Press the Xbox button on your controller
  2. Select the cog icon and go to the Settings menu
  3. Go to System and select Console Info
  4. Choose Reset console and follow the instructions

Xbox 360

  1. From the dashboard screen, choose Settings and select System
  2. Go to Storage
  3. Select Highlight your Hard Drive or Memory Unit
  4. Choose Device Options and Format
  5. Follow the on-screen instructions to erase all data

Nintendo Switch

  1. Go to the System Settings menu
  2. Scroll down and select System
  3. Scroll down and select Formatting Options (here you’ll find the factory reset controls)

Kindle eBook Readers

  1. Deregister the Kindle from your Amazon account
  2. Go to Settings then Your Account
  3. Find registered devices in the Your Account area in Settings
  4. Check the Settings menu
  5. Find the factory reset option under the Device Options sub-menu

Amazon Firesticks and Fire TVs

  1. Go to Settings
  2. Scroll down to My Fire TV (Device on older Fire Sticks)
  3. Scroll down and select Reset to Factory Defaults
  4. Enter your PIN to confirm this step
  5. Click Reset

TizenOS Devices

  1. Go to the General menu and select Home
  2. Go to the Settings icon and select General
  3. Choose Reset and follow on-screen instructions to reset your device

If you still have issues after applying these steps, check your device’s manual for instructions to reset to factory settings.

You might also want to buy a second-hand device. That doesn’t mean if you’re on the buy-side, you shouldn’t also wipe it.

Buying a Second-Hand Device

If you’re planning to buy or trade-in for a second-hand device, you can wipe it before using it to make sure it isn’t infected with malware.

If the device starts up and takes you through the booting process, and not a setup one, it’s a clear sign the previous owner didn’t perform a factory reset.

First, make sure the seller signed out from all accounts. If not, inform the seller that they could be facing a security breach. Sign out of all services, and get ready to wipe the device. You’ll find step-by-step instructions for most operating systems above.

Next, you’ll want to ensure the device is malware-free. Install an antivirus and run a full scan. A factory reset gets rid of viruses, worms, and different malware types, but it’s better to be 100% sure. If the antivirus doesn’t flag anything, you’re good to go.

The Bottom-Line

You wouldn’t want to deliberately expose your data to a breach. That’s why you have to think through wiping your data before you sell your old devices. Now you have a detailed step-by-step guide to use if you’re planning to sell your devices or buy second-hand ones.

Questions? Concerns? Leave them in a comment below!

FAQ

Should you wipe your phone when you’re trading it in?

Yes. That way, no matter what happens to it, no one can ever get their hands on your private accounts, files, GPS information, or financial details. The easiest way to quickly wipe your private details is through a factory reset. That’ll delete everything and revert your phone to factory settings. It doesn’t matter if you use an iPhone, Android phone, Blackberry, Huawei, or Librem; they all have a factory reset option. Remember to wipe any second-hand devices you buy as well to ensure it doesn’t have any malware.

Does a factory reset remove your Google account?

No. If you reset your device to factory settings, your device will restart with a clean slate. That means it won’t have a Google account associated with it. Your Google account is still active, though, and you can easily log back in with your username and password.

Does a factory reset remove your operating system?

A factory reset deletes all the information from your hard drive and reverts all the settings to their default. That includes your files, photos, messages, or contacts. It’ll never delete system-critical elements. For example, formatting a Samsung device won’t delete Knox Flag, or formatting a Windows device won’t delete System32.

Does a factory reset remove accounts?

No. Resetting a device to factory settings will log you out and might delete the apps associated with your account from your device’s memory. Factory reset won’t delete your Google, Facebook, Instagram, or any other accounts. If you choose to backup your info, you can access your important data from these services’ cloud storage.

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