How do I securely wipe my iPad for resale?

How do I securely wipe my iPad for resale?

Summary: There are two ways to erase an iPad. There's the right way and the wrong way.


Today's mailbox question:

I'm pretty sure that Apple is going to announce the iPad 3 tomorrow and I want to sell my old iPad as soon as possible so I've got the funds to put towards a new one. How do I securely wipe my iPad so that the data can't be recovered by the next owner?

There are two ways to erase an iPad. There's the right way and the wrong way. Both ways will wipe your iPad securely, but the wrong way will leave you tearing your hair out when you get your new iPad. I'll show you the right way first.

  • Fire up your iPad and go Settings > General and then scroll down to Reset
  • Now tap on Erase All Content and Settings
  • Enter your passcode (if you have one ... and if you don't, you really should set one! Do it now -  Settings > General > Passcode Lock)
  • Click Erase
  • Wait (it won't take long) and then the job's done!
  • Restart your iPad to confirm that it has been wiped

Now here's the wrong way.

  • Connect your iPad to your PC or Mac and fire up iTunes
  • Select your iPad and click on the Summary tab
  • Click on Restore
  • Now wait for the restore process to finish where you'll be given the option to Set up as a new iPad or restore from a backup
  • Choose Set up as a new iPad
  • When completed, disconnect your iPad from the PC or Mac
  • Restart your iPad to confirm that it has been wiped

Why is this the wrong way? Because doing it this way will overwrite your iTunes backup file for your iPad, and that means when you do buy your new iPad, you won't be able to restore it to the current configuration and have to set it up manually. And trust me, that's both a real pain and an enormous time-suck.

Another thing worth checking before selling your old iPad is whether your iTunes backup file is encrypted (the Summary tab will show you). If it is encrypted, do you remember your password? I've lost count of the number of people who get to this stage of restoring a new iOS device only to realize that they've not only forgotten the password, they've forgotten they ever password-protected the file in the first place.

Topics: Hardware, Data Management, iPad, Mobility, Storage

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  • Reinstall iOS

    Would reinstalling the latest version of the OS not achieve the same thing too?
    • LOL

      Totally agree, my wifes iPhone 3GS was toasted by the IoS5 upgrade, and my daughters iPod Touch suffered total app purging which required a re-download from the AppStore.
  • smash it

    with a hammer. That will prevent anyone from stealing your information.
  • Gomer37

    Now you tell me! Is there a way to get it back from Time machine?
  • Completely wrong.

    After restoring iOS, "Setup as new iPad" will NOT overwrite your existing backup. That's what "new" means, leave the "old" configuration alone.

    The only difference between the two is how much time it takes. And of course, if the device is jailbroken, you will want to do an iOS restore to get it back to factory condition.

    Furthermore, you forgot to mention the MOST IMPORTANT part. A final sync/backup to iTunes before wiping. Otherwise, you lose whatever may have changed since the last backup.
  • How do I securely wipe unused file sectors?

    $sudo dd if=/dev/zero of=/tmp/ bs=16M

    Wait for the drive to fill up (will return to prompt)

    $rm /tmp/
    Dietrich T. Schmitz *Your
    • How do you securely wipe the contents?

      Doing the way in the article will only restore the defaults not overwrite the data 7 times required for secure deletion.

      Dietrich how do you do the way you have said?
  • With an app ?!

    Thank you for these tips, it's very interesting and most importantly, very useful! To back up my data from my iPad I go through Beesy. My notes, files are stored in Dropbox and I can even find them on iTunes for loss which is also very useful.
    Melan Dit