How to Wipe Your Smart Devices Before You Throw them Away

How To Wipe Smart Devices Featured

Despite only being around for a relatively short time, smart devices already seem like they’re everywhere. You might have tried an Amazon Echo only to realize you prefer Google Home, or it could be the other way around. You might have bought a first-generation device, then upgraded to the second generation a year later.

We’re only starting to get to the point where we’re getting rid of smart devices, which means we aren’t as used to disposing of them as we are phones or other electronics. Because of this, you might not be sure what to do before selling or throwing away your older smart devices.

Why Wipe Your Smart Devices?

This may seem strange because it’s a relatively recent problem. When you got rid of your old stereo, you didn’t have to worry about giving somebody access to all of your music along with the stereo, but that’s a very real problem with smart devices.

Not only may these devices have licenses to your content, but your personal data as well. Devices like Amazon Echo and Google Home have recordings of your voice on them and may have access to more personal information like photos. You don’t want someone getting their hands on this sort of data.

Wipe Your Amazon Echo

For an Amazon Echo device, you’ll want to start by deregistering it from your account. Open your Alexa app and find the Devices icon in the lower-left corner. Here, go to the “Echo & Alexa” menu, then select the device you want to wipe.

How To Wipe Smart Devices Echo Spot

For Echo Spot and Echo Show devices, you’ll see a “Factory Reset” option at the bottom of the screen. This will both erase and deregister the device, so once you select this, you’re finished. For other devices, you’ll see a Deregister option instead. Select this, but you’re not finished yet.

This part varies by hardware. Older devices have a reset button on the bottom that you must depress with a paperclip or pen. For second-generation devices, hold the microphone and volume down buttons for twenty seconds. For third-generation devices, hold the action button for twenty to twenty-five seconds, depending on the device. You’ll know the device has been reset when the blue light ring turns orange.

Wipe Your Google Home

As with Amazon devices, you’ll need to start by unlinking your account. Open the Google Home app, and select the device you want to wipe. Press the settings gear in the upper-right corner, then tap “Remove Device.”

How To Wipe Smart Devices Google Home

Again, this varies by hardware. For the Google Home, press and hold the microphone mute button for at least fifteen seconds. The Google Home Mini and Home Max both have a factory data reset button near the power cord on the back that you need to press and hold for fifteen seconds. For the Google Home Hub, press and hold the two volume buttons for ten seconds. You’ll know you’ve done any of the above correctly because Google Assistant will let you know that it’s resetting the device.

Wiping Other Smart Devices

We can’t cover how to reset everything here, simply because new devices come out all the time. That said, there are a few general tips that will get you pointed in the right direction.

To start, many devices have an app they rely on for you to interact with them. For these devices, try opening that app and finding the settings. You’ll often find a way to reset or at least unlink the device here. Barring that, try looking in the manual. If you’ve already thrown it away, you can almost always find it online.

Conclusion

While this article mainly focuses on AI assistants and smart hubs, it’s worth keeping this in mind about all sorts of smart hardware. For example, you should take care to dispose of Wi-Fi security cameras properly, as these could still have access to cloud recordings of you and your family.

If this gives you pause, you might be interested in reading more. We recently examined whether you can count on Wi-Fi cameras being secure .

One comment

  1. When disposing of smart devices, think of them as a smartphone or a computer (because that is what they basically are) rather than as a stereo or an air-conditioner.

    “You’ll often find a way to reset or at least unlink the device here.”
    Let’s not forget that if the smart device has any internal storage, any type of a “delete” operation is only logical, not physical. IOW, no data is actually removed from the storage device, only your access to it is removed. So anybody with the right tools can retrieve the data.

    After you wipe the smart device, how do you wipe the information that device sent home to mama?

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