How to Delete Data From Cell Phones

By Candace Benson

Whether buying a new phone and recycling that old cell phone, selling a cell phone or giving it away, you'll want to delete all of your personal data, contacts, passwords, pins, credit card information and other information before you hand the phone over to a new owner. While pulling the SIM card is a good start, clearing the data may require several minutes and a number of thumb-clicks, or it may be as simple as engaging a master reset. Due to the variance between cell phone manufacturers and models, please consult your manual or support documentation for precise instructions on how to navigate your cell phone.

Step 1

Back up your data prior to deleting the information by using your cell phone network's backup service, through data manager software included with your cell phone or through a third-party data manager such as BitPim.

Step 2

Eject your cell phone's microSD card.

Step 3

Remove the SIM card, if you have a GSM phone. Most manufacturers place the SIM card near the battery and require that you remove the back cover to access the card. Other cell phones, such as the iPhone, require that you eject the card with a paper clip.

Step 4

Perform a master reset on your phone, if applicable. Only certain phones include this feature. Please consult your cell phone documentation if you are unsure if your phone features master reset.

Step 5

Navigate to each data category and select "Erase All" or "Delete All." This list should include your contacts, contact list, or address book; any saved media (sounds, music, videos, photos); sent and received text and video messages; dialed, received, and missed phone call lists; email data; and any other information you may have saved while using your phone.

Tips & Warnings

  • Wireless Recycling's Data Eraser program features step-by-step instructions for a number of cell phone models (see Resources).