5 Best Ways To Permanently Wipe Android Data

By | May 9, 2022

Sometimes it’s still possible to recover files after you delete them. And here’s how you can permanently delete unwanted data.

When you delete files from your Android phone, they actually remain in your device storage until they are overwritten with new data. This used to be a major privacy concern, as it meant that deleted files could be retrieved using data recovery software.

Since Android 6, all Android phones are encrypted by default, which should prevent recovery tools from accessing their content. But if you’re still worried about sensitive files falling into the wrong hands, we’ll explain how to permanently delete your data.

Delete Items Using File Manager

The worst way to delete private files from your Android phone is from within the associated app. This risks the item being moved to the Trash or Bin folder rather than permanently deleted, or continuing to exist as a synced cloud copy.

The Google Photos app, for example, keeps deleted pictures and videos for 60 days, unless you empty the trash manually. Even if you get past this by choosing Delete from device, the item will remain in your Google account.

Select an item in your file explorer, then tap the trash button or press the three-dot menu and select Delete. Confirm that you understand that the deletion cannot be undone and tap Delete again.

Wipe Data With File Shredder (file shredder)

If your phone’s encryption doesn’t convince you that deleted files can’t be recovered, or if you’re running an older version of Android, consider installing a file shredder. This will safely remove any “free” space on your device that may still contain deleted data.

File shredder like iShredder, Shreddit, and Data Eraser offers a choice of demolition algorithms. This lets you decide how many times the data is overwritten with random characters. Each overwrite is known as a “pass” or “cycle”, and the more passes, the less chance the deleted data can be retrieved.

You’ll need to give these apps permission to access your files (and optionally your contacts, which we don’t recommend), but they won’t break anything without asking you for confirmation.

Erase Free Space Using Data Eraser

Here’s how to make deleted data unrecoverable using Ad-free File Shredder Data Shredder. Confusingly, it’s called Android Eraser in the app itself.

  • Tap Freespace on the home screen (be careful not to select Complete Erase!) and select Internal Storage. The application will calculate how much free space to delete.
  • Tap Continue and select the destruction algorithm. NATO Standard and BSU TL-0342, who made seven and eight passes, respectively, was the most thorough. However, they also take a long time.
  • Confirm that you want to continue, and Data Eraser will delete all available free space on your phone, so that the files you have deleted cannot be recovered.
  • Your phone will be slow while the wipe process is in progress. You can leave it at any time by opening the notification at the top of your screen and tapping Cancel.

While Data Eraser doesn’t charge for wiping free space on your phone, you can only destroy 100MB of individual files for free per day. Upgrade to the paid version to remove this limit.

Shreddit is a completely free alternative, but the ads can be annoying and don’t work on Android 11.

Delete Android Files From Your PC

If you don’t want to install an app to permanently delete files, you can connect your Android phone to a PC and delete data via Windows. This method makes it easy to quickly find and confidently remove specific items, using File Explorer.

Connect your phone using a USB cable and select Open device to view files from the AutoPlay option. Or, open File Explorer, select This PC, and double-click your phone’s drive icon.

If the drive looks empty, pull down the notification tray from the top of your phone screen, tap USB charging this device and select File transfer or Transfer files. Or open Settings > Connected devices > USB and enable the option there.

Browse the folders on your phone to find the file you want to delete. If it’s a photo or video, it’s most likely on DCIM > Camera folder.

Right click the item, select Delete and confirm that you want to delete it permanently. Note that the files will not be sent to the Windows Recycle Bin, but will be lost forever.

Delete Sensitive Files From SD Card

If the personal file you want to delete is located on the SD memory card, not on your phone’s internal storage, there are several ways to delete it.

First, open Settings > Storage > SD card. Find the file and delete it from there. However, this will not make it unrecoverable, so you may want to format the card as well. This will completely erase its contents, so make sure you move any files you want to save to your phone first.

Tap on the three-dot menu in the top right corner and select Storage settings. choose Format, then tap Erase & Format or Format SD card to erase and format the card.

Alternatively, you can connect your phone to a PC, as described above, or insert an SD card into your computer’s card reader. You have to “remove” the card first by selecting Unmount or Eject before you disconnect it from the device.

Browse the contents of the SD card in File Explorer, locate the file, right-click it, and select Delete.

In addition, some Android file shredder apps can delete and overwrite data stored on the SD card, including Data Eraser (see second tip, above).

Restore Your Phone To Factory Settings

The most drastic way to permanently delete personal files is to do a factory reset. This will erase all data on your phone, so it’s best to use it before selling or recycling your device. You must back up any android data that you want to save beforehand.

To ensure that data cannot be recovered after a factory reset, double check that your phone is encrypted. open Settings > Security > Advanced and tap Encryption & credentials. choose Encrypt phone if the option is not already enabled.

Next, open Settings > System > Advanced and tap Reset options. choose Erase all data (factory reset) and press Delete all data.

Enter your security code or pattern when prompted, then tap Delete all data to restore your phone to factory settings. You can wipe the free space with a file shredder if you are still afraid of having your data recovered.

Erase Your Data Permanently

No one wants their personal files to fall into the hands of snoopers and hackers. While Android’s built-in encryption should make your deleted data unrecoverable, trying the other methods we’ve outlined should put you at ease.

Of course, this all works both ways. Sometimes you accidentally delete files. If you act fast enough, and get the right tools, you can still recover those deleted photos and other data, for that see how we recover deleted photos on android device.

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