How do I wipe a bricked smart phone?
September 10, 2012 5:16 PM   Subscribe

How do I wipe the memory of a bricked Android phone before returning it to the manufacturer?

My Motorola Atrix stopped working about ten days ago. For a couple of days it would not always turn on and would sometimes turn itself off. Then one day it would not turn on at all. No light when I plug in the charger, no luck changing batteries, dead.

No problem, I bought insurance from Asurion through my ATT store when I go the phone. I fill out the online form and they ship me an Atrix 2. But now I am supposed to return my old phone, "or a replacement charge will be made against your account."

I want to make absolutely sure that none of my personal data is recoverable from the phone, but how do I do that when it won't turn on? I could smash it with a rock but am afraid they might charge me if it is obviously broken on purpose. Do I put it in the microwave for a minute? Rub a magnet back and forth? Any ideas? Or am I worried about nothing, and should just send it back as is?
posted by LarryC to Technology (3 answers total)
I don't think there's any way to erase it through software if it doesn't power up at all, and physically it's not very easy to physically erase flash memory without opening it up and destroying the chip. If they refurb it they are supposed to securely wipe any customer data on the device, it's a big deal if they don't and I think AT&T charges something like a million dollars per incident if they find a refurbed unit that comes back with customer data on it. If you don't trust them to do that and really want to make sure nobody is going to see your data, dunking it in water should prevent them from salvaging any of the internal components, because there is a water detect label inside and if that is triggered then they will scrap it rather than fixing it and giving it to someone else (although that's way more wasteful obviously). Also make sure your insurance actually covers water damage if you go that route, a lot of warranty plans specifically exclude water damage from being covered.
posted by burnmp3s at 5:52 PM on September 10, 2012

Mine had a factory reset when I got a call from the buyer asking "do you want your pictures back?" so beware.
posted by usermac at 7:16 PM on September 10, 2012

Make sure you take your memory card (microSD) out if you had one in.
If the phone itself can be refurbished, the internal memory will all be wiped when the OEM software ROM is reloaded onto it. Even if it's not, for some reason, the most anyone will be able to see is what apps you had installed when it died, and maybe your stored WiFi and Bluetooth pairings. All your login info for Google and other accounts should be encrypted so that even if someone does a raw data dump off the chip they can't find/use that sensitive data.
posted by trivia genius at 7:31 PM on September 10, 2012

« Older Advice for a solo kayak trip down the Mississippi   |   How do I use "New Game Plus" in Arkham City Newer »
This thread is closed to new comments.