Planning to sell or give away your Windows Phone 8 device to someone? You should make sure that all your personal data has been wiped securely from the device. We’ve previously covered how to do this on iOS and on Android.
In both those articles, we emphasised on the fact that your data should be encrypted before it is erased. This makes it harder for others to access your data after you’ve erased it. While both Android and iOS support encryption, Windows Phone 8 does not. This doesn’t mean that your data on Windows Phone 8 is completely unprotected, but it just means that someone determined enough might be able to salvage parts of your personal data from your phone.
Before we get to securely wiping your personal data, let’s take a look at how to create backups on Windows Phone 8.
How to save data on the cloud
1. If you have an Internet connection, Windows Phone 8 lets you save backups online. For this you’ll need a Microsoft account. If you’ve been using a Windows Phone 8 device, you should have created this during setup or while downloading apps, so this should not be a problem.
2. You will also need a OneDrive account for saving photos and videos. You can go to onedrive.com or just download the app to create this account.
3. To backup your settings, Internet Explorer favourites, and a list of installed apps, head to Settings > Backup > App list + settings > Backup > On. Tap back up now to start the backup immediately.
4. To backup text messages, head to Settings > Backup > Text messages > Text message backup > On.
5. To save your photos and videos, go to Settings > Backup > Photos. Under both sub-heads – Photos and Videos – pick either Good quality or Best quality. Photos will back up good quality on your cellular Internet connection, but best quality photos and all videos need WiFi to upload.
How to save data on your PC
1. If you prefer a local backup, you can copy paste data manually. This method doesn’t save text messages or app data or settings.
2. Plug in the phone to your PC. Go to My Computer (Windows key + E) and the device will show up as a removable drive titled Windows Phone. Open it, double-click Phone and copy pictures, music, ringtones and videos from their respective folders.
How to securely wipe data
If you’ve locked your phone with a passcode, then it can’t be unlocked by anyone who doesn’t know the passcode. If someone tries to access your data, they will have to reset the phone to factory settings – which erases all of your personal content. You can also manually wipe all your data by resetting your phone. While this removes all the files it is still possible for someone to restore the deleted files. With just a few simple steps you can prevent this too.
1. Go to Settings > About > Reset your phone. Tap Yes twice to start the process.
2. When the process is complete, connect the phone to your PC and open it via My Computer as described earlier. When you double-click Windows Phone, you’ll see an empty drive labelled Phone that will show the amount of free space on the device.
3. Copy large files such as HD movies and fill up the internal storage on your phone. This is similar to copying files to a pen drive.
4. Once you have filled the phone completely, delete those files. Repeat this a few times to offer yourself greater protection against someone recovering deleted data such as photos from your phone.
5. If your phone has a microSD card, repeat steps 3 and 4 with the card. When you double-click Windows Phone as described in step 3, the microSD card will show up as a separate drive labelled SD Card.
How to recover your data
To recover the photos, app settings and other files you backed up to the cloud, you need to do the following:
1. Boot your recently wiped or new Windows Phone device. Sign in with your Microsoft account.
2. Wait for some time while your Microsoft account data synchronises with the device.
3. You’ll be prompted to restore your phone and be shown a list of backups available. Select the backup you want and tap Next.
4. Key in the security code, then tap Next.
5. Now just wait for the restoration to complete. Tap Next.
6. You’ll be asked to enter passwords for your email and social accounts. Tap Skip (you can do it later) and then tap Done.
7. To find your saved photos and videos, just open the OneDrive app and sign in.
Transferring media files from your PC back to the phone is also simple:
1. Connect the phone to your PC via the USB cable.
2. Go to My Computer on your PC and open the Windows Phone drive as described earlier, and copy the various media files you had backed up.
That should securely wipe your data on Windows Phone. Were you able to delete all the data on your Windows Phone 8 device by following these instructions or did we miss anything? Let us know via the comments.
For more tutorials, visit our How To section.