Out with the old, and in with the new
For many of us the annual renewal of our mobile phone contract means the chance to change and more often than not upgrade our handset. The lovely shiny new device we took delivery of just 12 months earlier is already dated it seems. There are already bigger, better, faster, sharper, shinier options that our phone provider can deliver to us in record time, in exchange for just a few more pounds per month!
With a new handset comes the question of what to do with your old one – sell it? Pass it down to a family member? Trade it in with your mobile provider? Throw it away?
Note: if you decide on the latter, please don’t throw your mobile out with the trash. Phones contain chemicals (including bromine, chlorine, lead, mercury) which are damaging to the environment so please use appropriate recycling facilities.
Whatever option you choose be sure to remove all your personal data from the device before parting with it. We’re not talking about simply deleting a few apps and some selfies, this is a thorough, deep-clean that will remove any trace of your existence from the device.
Mobiles are built for convenience and synchronicity, functionality that ticks away behind the scenes ensures we enjoy a personalised experience but it is this personalisation that needs to be removed before you turn off your old device for the last time.
Research carried out by security firms revealed that deleted files can sometimes be recovered from devices even after a factory reset. Restoring a phone to factory settings ‘should’ return the device back to the original manufacturers settings, however in doing so it won’t necessarily overwrite or destroy any remaining files and therefore won’t guarantee that all residual data is removed.
Prior to wiping your presence from your phone you’ll want to back up any personal data that you need moving forward: contacts, photos, music… Whether using the Cloud or a physical storage device, be sure to use a secure solution, and check, check and double check that you’ve saved all valuable data before wiping your device.
How to effectively wipe your old mobile
When you’re happy that all your personal information has been backed up it’s time to remove any trace of your existence from the phone…
- Sever links between your phone and the likes of Google and Facebook by going into the sites’ settings and removing your device (normally appears as your model number). Doing so will terminate the connections between your device and synced calendars and email through Google and other social logins and APIs (Application Programming Interface) via Facebook.
- Remove SIM cards and any storage cards (e.g. SD, MicroSD cards) from the handset. Ensure data is backed up and cards are stored safely in case you need to access the data in the future.
- If you’ve paired your mobile with devices such as laptops, tablets, smart watches, fitness trackers, the Cloud make sure you un-pair them to avoid the paired device trying to sync with the phone resulting in information you’ve already removed being updated.
- Having successfully unpaired all devices it’s time to do a factory reset. To achieve the best result you’re advised to search for the official manufacturers reset instructions – procedures DO vary by manufacturer so check first. This reset will return your device to a state closest to when it was first purchased.
- Check AGAIN! Take time to go through your phone (image galleries, contacts, etc) one more time to ensure that ALL personal information has gone. If any personal information is still present repeat the factory reset process, and if necessary find an app that can help fully wipe the device.
- Add some dummy data to the phone – take a few pictures, add a few bogus contacts… then perform another factory reset. Sounds like an odd thing to do but doing so will further bury your original data.
- If you’re disposing of your handset the last step is to make it unusable. Drill through the phone, right the way through, in several places (including the charging port) – then deposit it in a suitable recycling unit. If you’re paranoid about your data still being accessible you might wish to pop your phone in a bag and attack it with a sledgehammer, or for complete peace of mind use an industrial strength grinder to turn the phone to dust!
Take care when wiping a device as whilst the goal is to remove all personal data, you don’t want to delete data that you actually need, without having backed it up first. Unfortunately accidents do happen and in the event that you delete important information in error don’t panic. Lost data can typically be retrieved with the help of a data recovery service such as Data Resus.
Data Resus uses the latest generation software packages and hardware tools for recovering data from all types of media, including mobile phones. These services provide customers with a ‘DIY’ style recovery software, or as a custom service at our UK centre for very sensitive, large, or difficult to recover data.