How to securely erase an iPhone

Summary:Before you hand over your old iPhone to someone else to enjoy, you want to make sure that all your data has been securely erased.

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With a release of the new iPhone 5s and 5c only days away, we can expect a lot of older handsets to be flooding the secondhand market or making their way into the hands of family members who are lower down the tech totem pole.

But before you hand over your old iPhone to someone else, you want to make sure that all your data has been securely erased. You want to hand over the hardware, not your entire digital life!

Fortunately, Apple has made securely wiping the iPhone easy. All it takes is a few taps.

  • Plug your handset into a power source (you don't want the battery dying mid backup or during the wipe process)
  • Back up your data (either using iTunes or to iCloud)
  • Tap Settings > General > Reset
  • Tap on Erase all Content and Settings
  • Confirm that you actually do want to wipe the handset
  • That's it!
How to securely wipe an iPhone

If you have an iPhone 3GS or later, any iPad, an iPad mini, or a third-generation iPod touch or later then the wiping process will be very fast. This is because on these devices the flash memory is encrypted using 256-bit AES, and all the wipe process needs to do is to securely delete the encryption key and all the data is gone.

On older devices that don't support hardware encryption the wipe process overwrites the storage area. This takes considerably longer but the end results are just as good.

Topics: Mobility, iOS, iPad, iPhone


Adrian Kingsley-Hughes is an internationally published technology author who has devoted over a decade to helping users get the most from technology -- whether that be by learning to program, building a PC from a pile of parts, or helping them get the most from their new MP3 player or digital camera.Adrian has authored/co-authored technic... Full Bio

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