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iPhone 101: Don't forget to wipe... your iPhone's data

Kevin Harter

Stepping up to a shiny new 3GS? Thinking about selling your old iPhone on eBay or craigslist? Don't forget to wipe!

I buy iPhones from time to time to unlock and offer to our local customers. One such phone arrived today and I eagerly opened the box to get things prepared. After charging the dead iPhone for a while, I powered it on and was greeted with tons of personal information about the previous owner.

The phone was loaded up with three accounts full of literally thousands of emails, 107 contacts, 974 songs, a few dozen photos and a handful of apps -- all still happily filling the 8GB. There were faxed checks related to the previous owner's sales position, visual voicemails available to anyone's ears, and a huge log full of text messages.

The previous owner hadn't deleted anything before sending his iPhone off to a complete stranger! While I was taking care of that important step for him, I thought "This is a perfect opportunity to save some TUAW readers from this sort of embarrassment, not to mention potential ID theft, with a quick reminder."

Clearing all of the data from your iPhone was made simple with the 2.0 firmware update last year.

  1. Go to Settings
  2. Tap on General
  3. Scroll all the way down and tap Reset
  4. Choose Erase All Content and Settings
  5. Confirm (twice) that you REALLY want to lose everything
Make sure you have it plugged in, as the process will take quite a long time, "about an hour" according to the warning. But, believe me, it is time well spent!

Once the process is complete, you'll be left with a "factory fresh" installation of the iPhone OS with no trace of you or your data, and you can safely sell it and upgrade to the latest and greatest model. Oh, and do me a favor -- if I'm the auction winner, include a working sync cable this time!

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