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How to wipe your phone, laptop or tablet

You should always factory reset any gadget before you sell it online or donate it to a charity, friend or family member. This not only wipes any potentially sensitive data, it puts it back into the state you’d find when first unpacking the thing.

Before you begin, have you uploaded to the cloud any photos you want to keep? Have you forced WhatsApp to perform a chat backup? Have you double-checked you’ve backed up any files you want to keep from your laptop?

Windows laptops

A laptop is one of the most important devices to reset correctly, because in many cases it will hold even more sensitive information than your phone. And it may be stored in documents rather than email logins you can disable remotely.

Type “reset” into the Start search box at the bottom left of the Windows home screen. An item called “reset this PC” should appear.

If it doesn’t, open Settings in the Start menu and you’ll find this reset feature in the Recovery tab. Select Get Started under the Reset This PC section and then select Remove Everything.

Selling your PC on to a stranger? Click Change Settings on the next page and then flick the Data Erasure slider to “on”. This makes the reset process actively wipe all your storage drives, overwriting each kilobyte, so no data can be reclaimed easily through forensic-style recovery techniques.

Microsoft makes resetting a PC very easy.

MacBooks and Macs

Reset the system and press the Command and R keys together to enter the recovery menu. Select Disk Utility in this menu and you should see the drives inside your system.

We need to wipe all of the MacOS install partition, which is likely to appear at the bottom of the list. You do this by right-clicking and selecting Delete on each applicable drive.

Once this is done, go back to the Recovery menu or reset and use the Command+R shortcut from a fresh start-up and select Install MacOS.

iPhones and iPads

Resetting an iOS device is a much friendlier experience. Head to the Settings menu, then the General sub-menu.

There’s a Reset option here, home to the 'Erase All Content and Settings' control we are after.

You’ll need to input your Apple ID password here, which is the one potential barrier. You’ll need to recover your login if you can’t remember your password before prepping your iPhone or iPad for reselling.

Google Chromebooks

It calls the procedure Powerwash, because it’s not just for folks looking to sell their old Chromebook on eBay. A Powerwash every few months can keep your Chromebook feeling snappy.

There are a few ways to start the procedure. Press Ctrl, Alt, Shift and “r” together from the login screen to bring up the Powerwash box. This one is handy if you can’t even get to the Chrome OS home screen.

Alternatively, from your home screen click the clock part of the dock at the bottom right of the screen and then click the Settings icon, which looks like a cog. Select Advanced towards the bottom of the main pane and scroll down to find Powerwash.

Android phones and tablets

The standard spot in an Android phone is in the System part of Settings. It’s usually called Reset Options. Here you’ll find a set of reset styles, most of which are designed to solve problems if your phone starts misbehaving.

We want Erase All Data (Factory Reset), or similar. Android will throw up a prompt or two to make sure you aren’t doing this accidentally, and you’ll need to input your unlock PIN.

Is Reset Options not where you expect? What we tend to do when resetting an Android is to tap the search button in Settings — usually a magnifying glass at the top-right of the screen — and then type in “reset”. This should bring up the relevant shortcut. Then just select the Factory Reset option in the menu that follows.


Prepping a Kindle to sell on is a little different to most other gadgets. While there is a “reset” option in the Settings menu under the Device Options sub-menu, the most important part of the process is elsewhere.

You need to “deregister” it. This untethers the Kindle from your Amazon account. The Register Device control lives in the Your Account area in Settings.

Perform both a reset and deregister to get your Kindle back to its box-fresh state. Can’t find the Settings menu? Tap towards the top of the screen, then tap Settings and All Settings in the pop-up that should appear.


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