How do I delete my data?

Question: How do I delete my data?

Detailed information about deleting your personal data safely from smart devices.

IMPORTANT: Destroy your data, don’t just delete it.

Before passing your device on for reuse or recycling, you should permanently delete your personal and private data.

And it’s not just computers we’re talking about: you need to wipe tablets and mobile phones. Games consoles, printers, hard drives and even digital camera memory cards can store personal data too. 

Think about all the devices where you store photos, forms, financial records and documents with information such as addresses, date of birth and even passwords.

Your information could still be recoverable from an old device if you only delete it and empty the trash bin. Just because data has been deleted from the hard drive on your devices, this doesn’t mean they are gone forever.

So it’s important to follow the instructions here, or on your manufacturer’s website, to permanently delete your data. This will ensure it can’t be retrieved by anyone else. 

Alternatively, you could download specialist data deletion software, or employ a reputable professional to do the job for you.

Did you know? Destroying your data means permanently deleting your data from any device with your personal data – not just wiping it from one device.

Which? has a guide to wiping a hard drive. The Information Commissioner’s Office also has detailed information on data security if you’d like to know more.

How do I permanently delete my data on my devices? Overview

Some people choose to download specialist data deletion software, or employ a reputable professional to do the job. 

However, you can permanently delete your data on devices yourself by following these four simple steps:

  1. Back up important files, such as documents and photos, and transfer them to your new computer, an external hard drive or the cloud. Record the licence numbers of any software that you might need to reinstall on new devices.
  2. Sign out of all accounts on your device.
  3. Destroy your data.
  4. Remove any SIM or memory cards.

Now read on for more specific information about your particular device.

How do I permanently delete my data on Apple computers and laptops?

Permanently deleting your data is as easy as 1, 2, 3:

  1. Back up important files, such as documents and photos, and transfer them to your new computer, an external hard drive or iCloud.
  2. Sign out of iCloud:
  • If you’re using macOS Catalina or later, Apple menu > System preferences > Apple ID > Overview > Sign out.
  • If you’re using macOS or earlier, Apple menu > System preferences > iCloud > Sign out.
  • Sign out of iTunes: Open iTunes > Account > Authorisations > Deauthorize this computer > enter your Apple ID > Deauthorize.
  • Sign out of iMessage: Open Messages > Messages > Preferences > iMessage > Sign out.
  1. Destroy your data by erasing your hard drive to remove any files and programmes you’ve added:
  • Restart Your Mac > Open in Recovery Mode > Hold Command + Q until you see the Apple logo > Erase your data.

Apple has more detailed information on erasing data from Apple computers.

That’s it! Your old device is now ready to be passed on, sold or recycled.

How do I permanently delete my data on iPhones and iPads?

Permanently deleting your data is as easy as 1, 2, 3:

  1. Back up your device through iCloud:
  • Plug in your device and connect it to WiFi > Navigate through Settings > Apple ID banner > iCloud > iCloud Backup > Back up now. (The steps may vary slightly depending on model.) Your device is now backed up.
  1. Turn off Find my iphone:
  • Go to Settings > [your name] > iCloud, tap Find My iPhone, then turn it off.
  1. Return your device to factory settings:
  • Navigate through Settings > General > Reset > Erase All Content and Settings. Complete the process by entering your passcode and taking out the SIM card, leaving a blank set-up screen for the next user.

Apple has more detailed information on deleting data from your Mac, or here if you’re backing up and deleting directly from your iPhone.

That’s it! Your old device is now ready to be passed on, sold or recycled.

Remember: Record the license numbers of software you may need to reinstall on your new devices.

How do I permanently delete my data on Windows computers and laptops?

There are just three steps to deleting your data:

  1. Back up important files such as documents and photos you want to keep, and transfer them to your new computer, to an external hard drive or to the cloud (eg Dropbox).
  2. Use data shredding software to destroy your data.
  3. Do a factory reset to remove and files and programmes you’ve added, leaving only the basic operating systems and pre-installed programmes:
  • Go to Settings > Update & Security > Recovery > Reset this PC.

Which? has more detailed information and support on deleting data from Windows devices.

That’s it! Your old device is now ready to be passed on, sold or recycled.

Remember: Record the license numbers of software you may need to reinstall on your new devices.

How do I permanently delete my data from my Android device?

Deleting your data is as easy as 1, 2, 3:

  1. Back up your device:
  • Plug in your device and connect it to WiFi > Navigate through Settings > Backup & Reset > Back up my Data> Accounts > Google. (The steps may vary slightly depending on manufacturer/Android version.) 

2. Sign out of your Google account.

3. Destroy your data by returning your device to factory settings:

  • Go to Settings > Security > Encrypt Phone. Once this has been completed, go to Settings > Backup & Reset > Factory Data Reset > Erase Phone Data.

4. Remove SIM card. If your Android device has a microSD card remove it by flipping open the little hatch covering it, using your fingernail to press and release the card and then sliding the card out.

Google has more detailed information and support on deleting data from Android devices.

We also recommend checking the manufacturer’s support site if you want more specific information.

That’s it! Your old device is now ready to be passed on, sold or recycled.

Remember: Record the license numbers of software you may need to reinstall on your new devices.

How do I permanently delete my data on games consoles, cameras,  printers, and external hard drives?

Permanently deleting your data is as easy as 1, 2, 3:

  1. Back up important files such as documents and photos you want to keep, and transfer them to your computer, to another hard drive or to the cloud (eg Dropbox).
  2. Remove any SD or memory cards from the device. Please visit the manufacturer’s website for more detailed information on how to perform a factory reset.
  3. Return your device to factory settings:

For hard drives a factory reset is performed by connecting to a computer. More detailed instructions and support on deleting data from external drives.

That’s it! Your old device is now ready to be passed on, sold or recycled.

Remember: Record the license numbers of software you might need to reinstall on your new devices.

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