When you delete files from your Android phone, they don’t get deleted completely since they remain in your phone’s storage until it is overwritten with new data. This means that in a special event, data recovery software can be used to retrieve deleted files and this was a significant privacy concern until the release of Android 6 since then Android devices had their content encrypted by default.
Are you still interested in protecting your sensitive files from getting into the wrong camps by taking matters into your own hands? Then read on to learn about the best ways to delete data on your Android devices permanently.
1. Use a File Manager
The typical way to delete files is via the context menu within the app. While this is not incorrect, it is not the safest because doing so leaves what is done to the data to the specific app. For example, media deleted in the Google Photos app are held in the trash for 60 days until when they’re automatically deleted.
It is for this reason that a safer approach is to use a file manager to manage all your device’s files. There are several file managers available for Android devices and you’re at liberty to choose the one that appeals to you the most.
While in the app, select the items you want to delete and click on the trash icon or choose the Delete option from the context menu. Confirm that you understand the deletion can’t be undone and tap Delete again. Voila!
2. Use a File Shredder
Taking inspiration from trashing documents in the good ol’ days, digital shredding ensures that files are not just rid of their memory addresses but jumbled up into unreadable formats as well.
Some efficient file shredder applications for Android include Data Eraser and iShredder. With these apps, you can decide how many times your data is overwritten with random characters with more “cycles” or “pass” reducing the chance of data retrieval.
Here’s how to shred (make unrecoverable) your device’s unwanted data using Data Eraser.
- On the home screen, Tap Freespace and select Internal Storage. Be careful not to choose ‘Complete Erase‘ so that the app will calculate how much free space to wipe.
- Tap Continue and choose a shredding algorithm. Although they are slow, NATO Standard and BSU TL-0342 are the most thorough because they perform as many as seven and eight passes respectively.
- Next, confirm that you want to proceed and wait till the process is complete.
- Your phone’s performance will become poor while shredding is happening in the background. You can cancel the process anytime from the notification menu.
The free (ad-free) Data Eraser limits shredding to a total of 100MB per day and charges $4.99 for the premium version.
3. Use Your PC
Does installing a new application sound like too unnecessary stress? Then just connect your phone to your PC and choose the specific files you want permanently deleted using the Windows File Explorer or Linux File Manager.
If you don’t want to install an app to permanently delete a file, you can connect your Android phone to your PC and wipe the data. This method makes it easier to quickly find and confidently remove specific items, using File Explorer.
Here are the steps involved:
- Connect your phone to your PC with a USB cable and choose Open device to view files from the AutoPlay options. Alternatively, you can open File Explorer, select This PC, and double-click your phone’s drive icon.
- If the drive looks empty, pull down your notification tray and tap USB charging this device to select File transfer or Transfer files. Alternatively, go to Settings > Connected devices > USB and enable the option there.
- Browse the folders on your phone to locate the file you want to delete. If it’s a photo or video, it’s likely to be in the DCIM > Camera folder.
- Mark all the items you want to remove, click on Delete and confirm your decision. As opposed to going to your recycle bin, they will be deleted for good
4. Deleting from SD Cards
This method is ideal for deleting private files stored not on your phone’s internal storage but on an SD memory card. Simply deleting the file from Settings > Storage > SD card will get rid of the file but not make it unrecoverable so you want to format the SD card as well.
Do this from choosing Storage settings in the context menu. Select Format, Erase & Format (or Format SD card).
Alternatively, you can connect your phone to your PC using a USB cable or insert the SD card in your computer’s card reader. Browse its contents for the items you want to delete using File Explorer, select them, and choose Delete. Alternatively, you can use the File Shredder app in #2 to format your SD card.
5. Restore to Factory Settings
The most secure way to permanently delete the files on your phone is to restore the device to its default factory settings with its encryption option enabled. This will erase all the data on your device as well as make them unrecoverable and this is why this method is typically used prior to reselling or recycling devices.
Here are the steps involved:
- Confirm that your device is encrypted by going to Settings > Security > Advanced > Encryption & credentials. Select Encrypt phone if the option isn’t already enabled.
- From Settings > System > Advanced, tap Reset options and select Erase all data (factory reset) and tap Delete all data.
- When prompted, enter your passcode or pattern and confirm that you want to Delete all data.
So there you have it, al the ways to delete files from your Android devices and make sure that they stay deleted. You can now rest assured that your sensitive data is safe from anyone snooping around or trying to recover content from previous delete cycles.
If you’re looking to go the other way around and recover some files that you accidentally deleted then do a quick search on the site for the data recovery tools you can use.