Refurbish PDA: How to remove stored data

Guide to Digital Data Removal


Removing Data from a Personal Digital Assistant (PDA)





While personal digital assistants (PDAs) are unlikely candidates for normal reutilization, it is important to treat the information stored on them as potential causes of harm to the previous users. Like personal computers, PDAs may contain confidential information that could be used in fraudulent ways. All data needs to be erased from PDA.





Removing any remaining data should be a priority upon receipt.




Information on a cell phone is stored in the same way that it is stored on a personal computer. A delete action by the user deletes the shortcut to the information, not the information itself. The data can still be recovered by a knowledgeable person with software tools. PDA information is stored in “flash memory” and is retained even if the battery is dead or if there is no battery. Data erasure requires overwriting the data, just as it does on a computer.




The following will be useful:

ü      Locked storage for donated devices

ü      Work area with a computer connected to the Internet

ü      Procedure for tagging devices with manufacturer/model number and matching to user manual or documentation (perhaps all items kept in a plastic bag together)

ü      Access to the Internet




Before beginning data removal, wipe the external surface of the PDA, including keys, carefully with a moist, but not wet, alcohol or anti-bacterial wipe to sanitize the surface.


Option 1:  If the user manual is available and includes RESET information


Follow the instructions for a HARD RESET. This erases all data and user preferences by returning the PDA to the original factory settings. Some devices have a RESET feature that is easily identifiable. Others neither have the RESET feature, nor provide instructions in the manual.


Option 2: If the user manual is not available, or does not include RESET information


Identify the manufacturer and model of the PDA. Go online to the manufacturer’s web site. Locate the support documentation for the specific model of PDA. If the information is provided, follow the instructions to perform a HARD RESET to restore the default settings and remove all personal data.


If the RESET information cannot be located, call the manufacturer’s help desk for instructions. Some manufacturers require that a hard reset be performed only by a technician.




“How to Erase Data on Your Cell Phone.” Retrieved February 14, 2008, from



Please note that by selecting an Internet link you will be directed to an external site, and the Pass It on Center does not control the content of the site.



This work is supported under a five-year cooperative agreement # H235V060016 awarded by the U.S. Department of Education, Office of Special Education and Rehabilitative Services, and is administered by the Pass It On Center of the Georgia Department of Labor – Tools for Life.  However, the contents of this publication do not necessarily represent the policy or opinions of the Department of Education, or the Georgia Department of Labor, and you should not assume endorsements of this document by the Federal government or the Georgia Department of Labor.







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Other Information

Title: Refurbish PDA: How to remove stored data
Module: Program Operations
Author: Trish Redmon
Audience: Implementer
Sub Title:
Organization Source: Pass It On Center
Last Reviewed: 10-25-2009 5:45 PM