How to Safeguard Your Privacy Before a Device Repair

Here are a few tips everyone should know in order to protect personal information while their device is on repair...

device repair

When you hand your device over to a repair professional, you may be wondering whether he/she will treat it properly. Most importantly, whether some of your personal information and important documents will fall into the wrong hands. Also, there could be some photos you would want to keep for your eyes only.

You have all the right in the world to be paranoid when it comes to repairs. Who knows what kind of a person will be able to get your files and sensitive data.

Heck, even Apple’s own technicians are not without flaws — in fact, the Cupertino-based giant has just recently settled a lawsuit for millions of dollars after a woman said an Apple repair contractor leaked her nude photos from her iPhone by uploading them to her Facebook account.

So what can you do about this next time you have a cracked screen or battery problems? In this article, we’ll give you a few ideas.

Surefire solution: Backup and factory-reset your device

This is the safest solution there is but it will also require more effort at the end, when your device is returned from the repair shop — as you will have to restore all your data back to the device. On the other hand, this method makes sure no sensitive data is still on a device when you hand it over to the repair centre.

The three-step process includes:

  1. Backing up the data – including files, contacts, calendar entries, images, movies and so on. You can do this locally on your computer or on some cloud-based service.
  2. Factory-resetting your device – which will wipe your device clean. Not a single item will be left on it after this process is completed.
  3. Restoring your data and files after repairs – this part comes at the end, after you get your device back from repairs. This could also be a good time to declutter your device and avoid installing apps you seldom use.

Good alternative: Encrypt your sensitive data

The second solution is also equally valid but it may require a bit of tech know-how.

Instead of deleting all the data, you can encrypt it and password-protect it so that it can’t be accessed without a passcode.

Some devices come with built-in encryption functionality, with — for instance — Samsung phones including the pre-installed Secure Folder that is password-protected. Other Android phones offer similar functionality.

For all devices, there are third party apps you could use to encrypt all the data on your device and even safely back it up on a cloud service like Dropbox.

At the end of the day, your goal is to hand out a device to the repair shop they can do little with – except repair it and test out that it’s working. But without being able to access any of your important information.

Basic method: Signing out of all your accounts

If everything above feels too much for you, the easiest thing you could do is just to sign out from all your key accounts.

These would include:

  • Email accounts
  • Google and iCloud accounts
  • Social media and messaging apps, like Facebook, Whatsapp and Messenger
  • Banking accounts
  • Work tools like Slack and Zoom

Ideally, you’ll want to manage all your passwords from a single password manager that will also let you easily create impossible-to-guess passwords.

So which of the three methods outlined above do you prefer?