How to format Android: Before selling any computer, smartphone or tablet it is essential to protect your privacy by formatting the device. Formatting, as you surely know, is a procedure by which all the files on a storage drive are deleted and made usable again.
Be careful though, because the simple formatting of a drive in some cases is not enough: to be sure that the old data is 100% deleted and cannot be recovered even with software suitable for the purpose (such as the ones I mentioned in the tutorial on how to recover the photos on Android), all empty areas of the disk must be overwritten through a process called wiping. Wiping is an activity that deletes the information currently on the disk – in this case the memory of the smartphone or Android tablet – and overwrites it several times so as to make it unrecoverable even using software suitable for the purpose.
I know, said this may seem like a difficult thing for the exclusive prerogative of more experienced users, but it is not. To prove it to you, now I’ll explain how to format android and how to wip a smartphone or tablet using some free apps. I bet you will be surprised at how simple it is!
Preliminary operations: backup
Before proceeding with formatting your device, please save a copy of backup of all files and applications present in it.
The backup can take place either locally, by copying the data on an SD card or on the computer, or on the cloud, i.e. on the Internet. I advise you to take advantage of both solutions in order to have a copy of your data in a safe place and to be able to easily restore the information through the online synchronization systems. Here are some of the applications and features I recommend you use to save your data.
- Titanium Backup – the best app for backing up Android devices, thanks to which it is possible to save applications and their data on external cards or on the device memory. To take full advantage of all its features, you need to root Android. I have explained to you in detail how the app works in my guide on how to make Android backups.
- EasyBackup – another backup app, in this case dedicated only to SMS, MMS, contacts, calendar and call history etc. You can find all the instructions on how to use it in the post on how to make Android backups. It does not require root to function.
- SMS Backup & Restore – excellent free app that allows you to save all SMS saved on your phone. I explained how it works in my tutorial on how to recover deleted SMS.
- Google Photos – Google’s excellent service for automatic backup of photos and videos to the cloud. It’s completely free and has no space limitations (at least for shots with a maximum resolution of 16MP and videos with a maximum resolution of 1080p). To find out how it works and how to save photos and videos to the cloud with this app, check out my tutorial on how to upload images online.
In addition to the aforementioned apps, I highly recommend that you go to the Android settings and check that all the online data synchronization are active. In this way you will have contacts, emails, calendar appointments and other very important information synchronized with Google’s servers and ready to restore in case of reinstallation of Android (or of switching to another device animated by the operating system of the green robot).
To verify that the backup functions are active, open the settings Android (the gear icon), go to the menu Account> Google, select yours Gmail address and make sure the toggles are placed next to the items Contacts, Calendar, Chrome, App data etc. are all active. Otherwise activate it yourself.
Staying on the subject of backups on Google’s servers, I remind you that too Whatsapp, the hugely popular messaging application, allows you to save data to the cloud and restore it when needed. If you use WhatsApp and do not want to lose your conversations, be sure to create online and local backups of the application by following the instructions you find in my tutorial on how to save WhatsApp messages.
After you have backed up your applications and data, take care of transfer everything to the computer, otherwise after formatting Android you will also lose the backup copies of the files you just created! If you need help connecting your Android device to computer, check out my tutorial on how to connect Android to PC.
Format the device
Now you can get to the heart of the procedure by carrying out the standard formatting of your smartphone / tablet, the one that deletes all applications, most of the data on the device (at least superficially) and returns Android to the factory state.
Then go to the settings system (by pressing the gear icon in the list of apps installed on the device) and select the items Backup and Restore> Factory data reset from the menu that opens. Then type the PIN to unlock the device, press the button Reset phone and press on Erase everything to start formatting the internal memory.
If you use a smartphone or tablet with expandable memory and you want to delete the contents of the microSD, put the check mark next to the item related to erasing the SD card.
If the above option is not available, go to the menu Settings> Storage and USB> SD card of Android, “tap” on the button (…) located at the top right and select the option Format or Format as portable memory from the menu that opens. This will format the memory card and, if set as primary memory, it will be reset as secondary memory.
After starting the Android recovery, the device will restart and you will have to wait a few seconds for the formatting procedure to be completed. At this juncture, a screen may appear on the device screen with the green Android robot in the background and a series of English writings in the foreground.
Formatting via Recovery
If your smartphone freezes during the standard format process (or earlier), you can try to force it to shut down (hard reset) and to delete the data present in it via Recovery.
If you have never heard of it, Recovery is a software external to the operating system (therefore external to Android) that allows you to perform various advanced operations, such as restoring Android and deleting the data on the terminal. There are various types of Recovery, the most complete ones are the customized ones that are downloaded from the Internet and installed “manually” on the device. I told you about it in more depth in my tutorial on how to root Android.
To force shutdown your smartphone or tablet and start Recovery, hold down the keys Volume +, Power And Home or the keys Volume – And Power simultaneously until the device restarts. Then go to the menu of Recovery and start a Wipe Data / Factory Reset selecting the appropriate item from the screen that opens. To move in the Recovery menu and to select the options present in it you have to use the keys Volume – And Volume +.
After carrying out the operations described above, select the item Reboot from the Recovery menu and wait for the device to restart.
Wait for the procedure to format Android finish (this should take a few minutes) and get ready to go through the initial operating system setup procedure.
Now, considering that you have to leave as few traces as possible on the terminal but you have to install the application necessary to carry out the wiping, you have three avenues at your disposal.
- Activate the Wi-Fi, create a fictitious Google account by deactivating the option to synchronize data and download the application normally from the Play Store (and then delete everything at the end of the wiping).
- Activate the Wi-Fi, do not set up any Google account and download the apk package of the application from third party sites.
- Do not turn on Wi-Fi, do not set up any Google account and transfer the apk package of the application from the computer.
The simplest procedure to follow – and also the safest I would say – is the first, as downloading the apk package of the wiping application and installing it manually means running the risk of running into unsafe sites and therefore, possibly, also in some Android malware.
Therefore, proceed to connect to a Wi-Fi network and follow the initial Android configuration procedure by creating a new Google account ad hoc (to be used only for this purpose) by refusing automatic data synchronization.
Finally, you need to wiping the free space left on the device memory. In this regard, I recommend that you install the application iShredder which uses the most advanced technological standards and carries out its work quite quickly.
iShredder is available in three versions: the free one which allows you to “clean up” only the internal memory of the device and offers fewer options for wiping (however sufficient in most cases); that Pro which costs 3.79 euros, offers more options for wiping and allows you to “clean up” even the SD cards and that Enterprise (€ 6.49) which also supports the deletion of SMS and temporary files.
Once the installation is complete, put your device in charge, start iShredder, press on Start, select one of the 3-pass wiping options (ex. 3 cycles US AR380-19) and presses the button SHRED to start the “cleaning” procedure of your device.
At the end of the “reclamation” operations, go to settings of Android, delete your Google account and disassociate the Wi-Fi network you used to connect to the Play Store first.
Mission accomplished! Now you can sell the device without running the risk of someone recovering your data. If you need a hand in selling used phones, read my tutorial dedicated to the subject: I bet you will find many interesting tips in it.