If you think that sending your Android phone to its manufacturer’s official repair center means your data will be safe, think again.
Sure, it’s a seemingly safer option than choosing the sketchy phone repair shop with the broken, flickering neon lights behind the abandoned mall, but official repair centers still have curious humans tempted to look at the contents of their device like anywhere else.
Fortunately, there are steps you can take to protect your data while your phone is being repaired.
Your phone data is not safe while it is being repaired
Most of us assume that when we send a device to the manufacturer’s official repair center, our data is safe. But a 2022 study from Cornell University titled “No Privacy in the Electronics Repair Industry” indicates that this is not the case. In the study, the researchers sent sixteen Windows laptops with “dummy data” that secretly recorded how technicians interacted with the devices.
The doc is worth reading, but if you don’t have time, Register has a great summary of the study findings. The main takeaway is that out of the sixteen laptops, six of the laptops had technicians going through the files. And of those six, two laptops had personal files uploaded to an external device.
Therefore, protecting your Android device is a must every time you send it in for repair, regardless of the company doing the repairs. People are curious. Who wouldn’t be tempted to copy images of that seafood dish that their inner circle is still raving about years later?
Fortunately, Google makes it reasonably easy to lock down your Android phone before sending it in for repair. So let’s do it! First, let’s back up your data.
Back up your data
Android has its fair share of backup solutions, such as Titanium Backup For advanced users with a rooted device. But if you want to keep things simple, your best bet is to use Google One to back up your phone.
Every Google account comes with 15 GB of free cloud storage, so depending on how much data you need to back up (and how much space you currently use on the other Google services you use), you may need to upgrade. to a plan with additional space. To back up your data:
- install the google one app if you don’t already have it.
- Open the app and tap Storage.
- Select the gear icon next to Device Backup.
- Faucet Manage backup to clarify the contents that will be supported.
- Choose Copy now.
Google backs up most of your essential data, like your device settings, photos and videos (as long as you manage them in Google Photos), and even text messages and call logs. But you won’t get it all.
So, if you have vital data in individual apps that you don’t want to lose, you’ll need to use each app’s backup feature (if applicable) to back up your data and restore it once your phone is fixed.
Do you have a Samsung device? Use maintenance mode instead
If your Samsung phone needs repair, please put it into maintenance mode before sending it in. This will make your Samsung phone look like it has been reset to the factory settings of the device, except for a “Maintenance Mode” icon on the status bar.
That is! You can skip the rest of these steps (unless you have an SD card in your phone) and send it in for repair. More importantly, your data is inaccessible to technicians operating on your device.
Delete your eSIM profile or remove the SIM card
To avoid the threat of SIM swapping, you’ll want to remove all traces of your SIM profile. To remove an eSIM profile from your device:
- Open the Settings application
- Faucet Networks and Internet > SIM.
- Choose remove sim card.
For physical SIM cards, simply remove the card from your phone. To do this:
- Turn off your phone.
- Insert the end of a small paper clip into the small hole next to the SIM tray on the side of the phone.
- Pull out the SIM card tray once it comes out.
- Remove the SIM card and put the tray back in the device.
Unmount and remove the SD card (if applicable)
Since we’re having fun removing cards from slots, let’s take this opportunity to remove the SD card from your device, if you have one. First, unmount the SD card. For most devices, you can do this by going to Settings > Storage > Unmount SD card > OK. Then, remove the SD card from your device’s SD card slot. Easy!
Factory reset your phone (if you can)
For non-Samsung owners, you will have to factory reset your device. Although the process of factory resetting your Android phone differs from model to model, the process looks something like this:
- Open the Settings application
- Choose reboot options.
- Faucet Erase all data (factory reset).
Your Android phone will be reset to its factory settings, just like when you bought it, so make sure you have properly backed up your data first. But what if your phone is so messed up that you can’t completely factory reset it? You still have some options.
Factory reset a broken phone
While there’s more than one way to factory reset an Android phone that’s truly unusable, the easiest solution is to remotely reset the phone via Google’s Find My Device app. Of course, you can also access Find My Device through any web browser. To remotely reset your phone through Find My Device:
- Opened find my device in a web browser.
- Choose your phone icon at the top of the page.
- select ERASE DEVICE.
- Please read the disclaimer about what will happen to your data once you choose to erase your device.
- Faucet ERASE DEVICE again to remotely wipe the device.
Alternatively, you can factory reset your device via recovery mode. Access to recovery mode may differ depending on the Android phone you are using. But normally it looks like this:
- Turn off the phone.
- hold the Can Y volume down (or the Volume Up button in some cases) simultaneously.
- Press the volume buttons to navigate through the menu that appears until you highlight recovery mode.
- press the Can button.
At this point the phone will reboot, then a screen will appear saying “No command”. Some phones will automatically load into recovery mode; others may require you to hold down the Power and Volume Up buttons simultaneously to load recovery mode. Again, check with your phone manufacturer to boot into recovery mode if you have any questions.
Once in recovery mode, use the Volume buttons once more to navigate through the menu. After:
- Stand out Wipe data / factory reset.
- press the Can button.
- Highlight and select Yes to reboot the phone and enter recovery mode again.
- Stand out reboot system nowthen press the button Can button to boot the phone as usual.
Your Android phone is now factory reset.
You never know who is trading on your phone
You would never let a stranger go through your photos, videos, and financial information, so why give repair technicians a chance? Lock down your Android phone before sending it in for repair and avoid unwanted malicious surprises.