How To Wipe Your Smart Gadgets Before You Get Rid Of Them

Image: Thomas Kolnowski, Unsplash

You probably know you have to wipe your old computers and smartphones clean before you sell, donate, or recycle them. After all, you don’t want to give whoever ends up with your secondhand gadget access your documents, login credentials, or any personal information.

The same is true for smartphone gadgets—and even more important, we’d argue, given how much time they probably spend listening to your requests or watching you go about your life. But deleting the data on your smart speaker or camera isn’t as simple as unplugging it or disconnecting it from your wifi network.

Most of these devices require a factory reset, which deletes your custom settings and some of your data. It’s not a difficult process to do, but it might be unfamiliar to you if you’ve never done it before. If you are ready to let your gadget go, here’s how to wipe clean three of the more popular smart home devices:

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Amazon Echo

To reset your second-generation Amazon Echo or Echo Dot, press and hold the Microphone off and Volume down buttons on the top of your device. You’ll have to hold them down for about 20 seconds until the light ring turns orange. After that, release, and the light ring should turn blue, switch off, and then turn orange again to indicate the device is back to its factory-default setup mode.

If you have an older Echo with a volume ring, you’ll find a reset button at the base of your device. Press and hold using a paperclip or pin until the light ring turns orange and goes through the same rotation as listed above.

Screenshot: Emily Long

Before you give away an Alexa-enabled device, you’ll also want to deregister it from your Amazon account. Pull up the Alexa app and open up the sidebar, then tap on Alexa Devices, tap on your device’s name, scroll to the “Registered to” section, and hit Deregister. You’ll have to confirm your choice in a popup.

You can also find all of your connected gadgets via Amazon.com. Go to Accounts & Lists > Your Content & Devices, click on the Devices tab, click on the actions button to the left of the device you want to disconnect, and click Deregister.

Echo devices with screens deregister as part of their factory reset process. Follow these instructions for your Echo Spot or Echo Show.

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Google Home speakers

Reset instructions vary slightly depending on which Google Home speaker you own. In all cases, however, you should get verbal confirmation from your device when it is factory-resetting itself. If it doesn’t say so, it didn’t reset.

  • Google Home: Press and hold the microphone mute button the back of your device for about 15 seconds.

  • Google Home Mini: Press and hold the Factory Data Reset (FDR) button for about 15 seconds. This small circular button is located on the bottom of the device below the connection for its power cord.

  • Google Home Max: Press and hold the FDR button on the back of your device for about 12 seconds.

Google has a similar process for unlinking devices from your account. In the Google Home app, tap the device’s icon in the app’s top-right corner and open the settings of the device you wish to disconnect (the triple-dot icon in top-right corner a device’s card). Click on Linked account(s) and remove the user you want to unlink — likely yourself.

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Nest Cam

If you have a regular Nest Cam, there’s no reset button. You simply remove the device from your account via the Settings section of your Nest app. Scroll to the bottom of the screen, tap “Remove camera,” and hit confirm.

For Nest Cam IQ, both indoor and outdoor, you have to reset the device in addition to removing it from your account. Find the pin-sized reset button—on the front of the outdoor camera and the bottom of the indoor camera—and press and hold until the camera’s light ring spins blue.

Image: Nest

Open your Nest app and check to see that the camera is listed as offline. Then Open its settings, scroll to the bottom, click Remove camera, and confirm. This disconnects the camera from your Nest account.

For every other smarthome device (and there are many)...

It’s worth taking a few minutes to consult online manuals (or help forums) to look up factory reset and unlinking instructions. And keep in mind that resetting your physical device doesn’t always delete your data from its manufacturer. For example, if you have a Nest Aware subscription, which allows you to continuously record, keep, and rewatch your Nest Cam videos, you’ll want to cancel it before you wipe your camera. Doing so will permanently erase your video and photo history.

But with your smart speakers—and any devices that have built-in Alexa or Google Assistant capabilities that connect with your Amazon or Google accounts—Google and Amazon store your queries in the cloud until you manually delete the recordings regardless of what happens to your device. (And here’s how to remove your saved voice data, if you don’t want to keep that around after you’ve gotten rid of your smart-whatever.)


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