How to Format Your Smartphone and Tablet Securely

4 June 2018

How to Format Your Smartphone and Tablet Securely

Formatting iPhones and iPads, as well as Android smartphones and tablets, in such a way as to make data recovery impossible is a simple and quick operation — thanks to the latest encryption tools.

When formatting the memory of a PC, a Mac, a smartphone or a tablet before selling it, the data is not completely erased. The software limits itself to making the disk “overwritable,” without proceeding with the physical removal of the data present. With the right programs, the next owner of the device could retrieve sensitive information.

On Windows and Linux PC you can use specialized programs for secure formatting, while on Mac you can select various options to rewrite data on the hard disk directly from the “Disk Utility” tool, integrated on macOS.

On the iPhone and iPad, the formatting procedure is already secure, while on older Android devices it may be necessary to go one step further to prevent data recovery.

Secure formatting of iPhone and iPad

On iOS devices, factory data reset is sufficient to safely delete data on your phone or tablet. To start, open the Settings and tap General and then Reset (at the bottom of the list). From this menu select, “Erase all content and settings.” Various subsequent messages will ask you to confirm the operation. To proceed with the formatting you will be asked for the credentials to access iCloud, so that the device can disable “Find my iPhone” before proceeding.

The procedure is quick because the disk is not actually overwritten. However, restoring makes recovery impossible, because iOS automatically encrypts all data on the device. Cancellation deletes the cryptographic key necessary for decoding, making it impossible to perform any subsequent attempt to read the information.

Safe formatting on Android

From version 6.0 of Android, the device’s encryption is a standard setting on all new smartphones. If a phone or tablet has been upgraded to Android 6.0 from a previous version, however, there is a good chance that the device is not yet encrypted. In this case, the factory data restore operation is not sufficient to ensure that the data cannot be recovered.

Before formatting your smartphone or tablet, make sure that the device encryption is active: open the settings and then the Security panel. From here, check the status of the “Phone crypt” or “Tablet crypt” option and if necessary start the encryption operation. You will be guided to set a password and then wait about an hour for the operation to conclude. Make sure that the battery level of the device is at maximum or, to avoid any risk, connect the device to the power supply.

Once the encryption is complete, you can proceed with the secure formatting of the device. The option is available in the menu General> Backup and Reset> Factory data reset. Of course, make sure you have backed up your device before proceeding.

Copyrignt: La Stampa(Italy) / Worldcrunch – Andrea Nepori.

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