Sending your Android for repair? Learn how to keep your data safe with our expert guide on how to secure your Android phone. Protect your privacy now.
If you think sending your Android phone to the manufacturer’s official repair center means your data will be safe and protected, think again.
Sure, it seems like a safer option than picking a patchy phone repair shop with broken flashing neon lights behind an abandoned shopping mall, but official repair centers still have some nosy people trying to look at the contents of your device like nowhere else.
Fortunately, you can take steps to protect your data while you get your phone repaired.
Your phone data is not safe while it is being repaired.
Most users assume that sensitive data and information are safe when the device is sent to the manufacturer’s official repair center. But a 2022 study from Cornell University titled “No Privacy in the Electronics Repair Industry” suggests this is not true. In the study, researchers sent sixteen Windows laptops with “mock data” that secretly recorded how techs interacted with the devices.
The paper is worth a read, but if you don’t have time, The Register has a great summary of the study’s findings. The main takeaway is that of the sixteen mobile devices; six file-searching techniques were used. Of the six, personal files were uploaded to an external device from two computers.
Thus, securing your Android device is mandatory whenever you send it in for repair, regardless of which company performs the repairs. People are naturally curious. Who wouldn’t be tempted to copy photos of the seafood dish your inner circle still raves about years later?
Fortunately, Google makes it reasonably easy to lock your Android phone before you send it in for repair. So let’s do it! First, let’s back up your data.
Backup your data
Android has its fair share of backup solutions, like Titanium Backup, for power users with root access. But if you want to keep things simple, your best bet is to use Google One to back up your phone.
Each Google account includes 15GB of free cloud storage, so depending on how much data you need to back up (and how much space you’re currently using across your favorite other Google services), you may need to upgrade to a plan with extra space. To back up your data:
- Install the Google One app if you don’t already have it.
- Open the app and tap on Storage.
- Click the Settings (gear) icon next to Device Backup.
- Click Manage Backup to indicate the contents to be backed up.
- Choose Back Up Now.
Google keeps most of your essential data backed up, like your device settings, photos and videos (as long as you manage them in Google Photos), and even text messages and call logs. But it will only catch some things.
So, if you have vital data in individual apps that you don’t want to lose, you’ll want to use the per-app Backup feature (if applicable) to back up your data and restore it once you’ve fixed your phone.
Do you have a Samsung device? Use maintenance mode
If your Samsung phone needs repair, you can activate maintenance mode before sending it to the technical center. It will make your Samsung phone appear as if it has been reset to the device’s factory settings, and the Maintenance Mode icon will be saved in the status bar.
Maintenance mode is a way to create a separate user account when a person hands in their device for service or repair, so that they can run basic functions while ensuring that none of the private information is accessed. The user must choose the maintenance mode in the “Battery and Device Care” menu within “Settings” and restart the smartphone. After that, access to all personal information, including photos, documents and messages, will be restricted.
That’s it! You can skip the rest of these steps (unless you have an SD card in your phone) and send it in for repair. Most importantly, every tech working on your device cannot access your data.
Delete the eSIM profile or remove the SIM card.
To avoid the risk of SIM card swapping, you must remove all traces of the eSIM profile. To remove an eSIM profile from your device:
- Open the Settings app.
- Click Network and Internet -> SIM Cards.
- Choose Delete SIM Card
You must take the card out of your phone for physical SIM cards. To do this:
- Turn off your phone.
- Insert the tip of a small paper clip into the small hole next to the SIM card tray on the side of the phone.
- Pull the SIM tray out as soon as it appears.
- Remove the SIM card, then put the tray back into the device.
- Unmount and remove the SD card (if applicable)
Since there is a clip to remove the SIM card from the slot, 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.
Next, remove the SD card from your device’s SD card slot. Easy!
Factory reset your phone (if you can)
You will have to factory reset your device for everyone who does not own a Samsung. Although the process to factory reset your Android phone varies from model to model, the process looks like this:
- Open the Settings app.
- Choose reset options.
- Tap Erase All Data (Factory Reset).
Your Android phone will be reset to factory settings, just like when you bought it, so properly back up your data first. But what if your phone is in such a mess that you can only partially reset the device? You still have some options.
Factory reset a broken phone.
While there’s more than one way to factory reset an Android phone that can’t be used normally, the easiest solution is to factory reset the phone remotely via Google’s Find My Device app. Of course, you can also access Find My Device via any web browser. To factory reset your phone remotely via Find My Device:
- Open Find My Device in a web browser.
- Choose your phone icon at the top of the page.
- Select Erase device.
- Please read our disclaimer about what will happen to your data once you choose to erase your device.
- Click on Erase Device again to erase the device remotely.
Alternatively, you can factory reset your device via recovery mode. Accessing recovery mode may vary depending on the Android phone you are using. But it usually looks like this:
- You have to turn off the phone.
- Press and hold the Power and Volume Down buttons (or the Volume Up button sometimes) simultaneously.
- Press the Volume buttons to navigate the menu that appears until you highlight Recovery mode.
- Press the Power button to confirm.
At this point, the phone will reboot, and then a screen will appear saying, “No command.” Some phones will load recovery mode automatically; Other devices may require you to press the Power and Volume Up buttons simultaneously to load recovery mode. Again, return to your phone manufacturer to boot recovery mode if you have any questions.
Once in recovery mode, use the volume buttons to navigate the menu again. Then:
- Select wipe data/factory reset.
- Press the play button.
- Select Yes to reset the phone and enter recovery mode again.
- Highlight Reboot now and then press the Power button to turn on the phone as normal.
You never know who will be working on your phone.
You should never allow a stranger to comb through your photos, videos, and financial information—so why give repair technicians a chance? Power off your Android phone before sending it in for repairs, avoiding unintended and malicious surprises.