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Ask Slashdot: Preparing an Android Tablet For Resale? 113

UrsaMajor987 (3604759) writes I have a Asus Transformer tablet that I dropped on the floor. There is no obvious sign of damage but It will no longer boot. Good excuse to get a newer model. I intend to sell it for parts (it comes with an undamaged keyboard) or maybe just toss it. I want to remove all my personal data. I removed the flash memory card but what about the other storage? I know how to wipe a hard drive, but how do you wipe a tablet? If you were feeling especially paranoid, but wanted to keep the hardware intact for the next user, what would you do?
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Ask Slashdot: Preparing an Android Tablet For Resale?

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  • by Anonymous Coward

    I don't see how the machine can be wiped if it will not boot. My advice is to pry it open and physically destroy the memory chips. It isn't worth selling.

  • by Anonymous Coward

    It's the only way to be sure!

  • by Kenja ( 541830 ) on Monday July 28, 2014 @03:11PM (#47552125)
    There is 2GB of memory for the OS, personal settings, apps, etc. If you can not boot the device, you can not access this memory to clear it. You may be SOL.
    • When you say "it doesn't boot", do you mean it does nothing when you try to turn it on? If you can get into the bootloader menu it is often possible to wipe the device from there, or at least do a factory reset and make it bootable again.

      It might also be worth trying a USB connection. Even if the screen doesn't work it might get you an ADB connection, which can be used for wiping.

      Otherwise the only option is a hammer. You could possibly remove the motherboard and sell the screen, battery and other bits. The memory chips have to die though.

      • by Zmobie ( 2478450 )

        I agree, not sure if you could jury rig it to get an active connection to a PC (potentially it may be booting just the screen is out or loose etc.? I have seen that with other devices before such that it looks like it won't boot). A lot really depends on why it is doing this. If it just flat won't come on at all (100% know that it is never getting there) I don't believe there is a way to wipe the data.

        If OP just really wants to, best bet I would say is open it up and try to fix it. Not really losing anyt

      • by hermitdev ( 2792385 ) on Monday July 28, 2014 @04:08PM (#47552651)

        Otherwise the only option is a hammer.

        Only option? I beg to differ. My preferred method is thermite.

        • Re: (Score:2, Funny)

          by Anonymous Coward

          Nah. Nuke it from orbit; it's the only way to be sure.

      • Is Volume-Down--Power the universal Android boot to firmware/bootloader? It has been on everything I've ever used. Can the original poster get to the bootloader or fastboot?
  • may be easy to fix so you can wipe it or keep it.

    But if you can't fix it do a office space beat down to it!

  • by jeffmeden ( 135043 ) on Monday July 28, 2014 @03:19PM (#47552217) Homepage Journal

    Do you get the ADB device to register if you plug it in to a PC via USB and turn it on? That would be your only hope to wiping it assuming the screen is damaged but the SoC/flash still works to some extent. Also, have you tried opening it up? A similar thing happened to my Nexus device, and after popping the back cover off it turns out that the drop caused the battery to slide to one side, and come unplugged. Relocating the battery, adding a little more double sided tape, and snapping it all back together had it good as new in under 5 minutes.

    • Exactly what happened to my first Nexus 7 though I didn't realize it at the time. Same thing happened to its replacement but, I opened the replacement and fixed the sliding battery problem with some foam. Has not been a problem since.
  • If you really want to sell it for parts, disassemble it and destroy the main circuit board, or at least grind or pry off the chips with nonvolatile storage.

    Any general treatment (heat, overvoltage, etc.) will surely destroy the rest of the phone before you can be sure it's cleared the nonvolatile storage.

  • 5 options (Score:3, Funny)

    by Andrew Lindh ( 137790 ) on Monday July 28, 2014 @03:20PM (#47552237)

    If it won't boot and you can't erase the on-board flash then try:
      1) Sell it for parts and hope someone does not fix it and access your data (use a sticky note to kindly ask them to erase it for you)
      2) Dump it at your local E-waste center and hope some does not pick it up out of the pile (and see #1)
      3) Microwave it to fry the chips and hope you don't burn down your house (please upload the video)
      4) Use it for target practice (9mm or larger please, full auto would be best) and then crush it with a steam roller (once again, please upload the video)
      5) To meet your non-destruct goal, if you have skills: unsolder the flash chips, erase them in a programmer, reinstall the blank chips.

    Or as pointed out from before (but it's too late), encrypt your data from the start and reset the keys.

    • I guess one more... try to access it directly from the USB using a computer and special drivers and software designed to reflash a non-booting tablet... (ie. rooting your system).

      • I guess one more... try to access it directly from the USB using a computer and special drivers and software designed to reflash a non-booting tablet... (ie. rooting your system).

        Access via ADB doesnt require root to get to the point where you can confirm/deny the existence of functioning memory. It looks like the Transformer line has an out of band update method by installing a microSD card with the flash zip, and doing a startup with certain buttons pressed. If it can be coaxed through this process (even with a dead screen) it would wipe any previous user data. Watching the device state via the USB port and ADB would be helpful to know if the device is likely to respond in that

    • Option 6: Slag the tablet. Data destruction assured

  • Since you can't power the device on, your only choice is to remove the logic board that has the flash memory on it. Then you can still sell the screen, cover, battery, etc.
  • I would take it apart and fix it. Usually it's a plug or cable that comes undone or a chip pops off. Check the internal battery connection also! The board itself shouldn't actually break. If something needs to be re soldered a shop will do if for like 10 bucks. Even if the display doesn't boot the system will and you can connect in. Worst case you destroy the chips by hand... Fixing it if it's clear where it broke inside is usually faster.
  • by EmagGeek ( 574360 ) <gterich AT aol DOT com> on Monday July 28, 2014 @03:27PM (#47552309) Journal

    "If you were feeling especially paranoid, but wanted to keep the hardware intact for the next user, what would you do?"

    To me these are mutually exclusive. If I was feeling especially paranoid, I would probably hurl the thing into a cauldron of molten lava, because, you know, the definition of being especially paranoid is an intense fear of others invading our privacy or being out to get you.

    Disposing of my tablet by giving it to another person is wholly incompatible with your premise of me feeling especially paranoid.

    • by gman003 ( 1693318 ) on Monday July 28, 2014 @03:53PM (#47552527)

      If I was feeling especially paranoid, I would probably hurl the thing into a cauldron of molten lava

      The device cannot be truly destroyed by any means we currently possess. The flames of an ancient wyrm could perhaps unmake it, but such dragons are not to be found in these parts. I suggest gathering a fellowship to carry the tablet to the mountain Amon Amarth, in the dark pits of the land of Mordor, and cast it into the fires of Mt. Doom in which it was forged. Only then can we be sure that it is unmade, completely and utterly, and will trouble us no longer.

      • With all due respect: why is this modded insightful instead of the funny it was probably aimed at? Especially because the device can be destroyed by means currently available, such as the volcalo mentioned above. And simpler means too.
        • I don't know, but I'll take it. It did get one Funny, that was just outweighed by the two Insightfuls.

          I'm also kicking myself for not ending it with "Who will bear this burden? Who will take the tablet into Mordor?", so we could get a nice group-quoting going on.

        • "Funny" doesn't count towards your karma score, so some people like to reward otherwise funny posts with ratings that do grant karma.

    • by Anonymous Coward

      "...because, you know, the definition of being especially paranoid is an intense fear of others invading our privacy or being out to get you.

      If you were especially paranoid, you wouldn't be using a device that intentionally invades your privacy, to generate ad revenue dollars for the operating system's parent company...

    • On an ASUS Transformer, the keyboard is where most of the value is, along with the oh-so-strange fifteen (15) volt charger. Sell the keyboard and charger, grind the tablet to powder. It's the only way to be sure.

  • by Anonymous Coward on Monday July 28, 2014 @03:27PM (#47552313)

    Try signing into If the only thing wrong is the screen you might be able to erase your data.

    • by Zmobie ( 2478450 )

      Does that actually do a secure rewrite though? I haven't honestly looked at how the device manager does the remote wipe, but I would guess it is just like deleting or doing a factory reset and the data is still recoverable through standard computer forensic software.

  • If it's just a screen connection issue, ADB/fastboot should be enough to wipe any internal storage good and hard.

    If it's more broken than that, you'll have to go inside. If something has come loose that you can put back into place, you win. Otherwise, you can either pray for a friendly JTAG connection or physically destroy the flash chips.
  • by jtara ( 133429 ) on Monday July 28, 2014 @03:41PM (#47552433)

    The subject says it all.

    Find the flash chip soldered to the board. Smash it. Smash it good!

  • by NitsujTPU ( 19263 ) on Monday July 28, 2014 @03:44PM (#47552461)

    Just a quick note. You probably won't make much on the proceeds for a sale for parts. Used tablet parts don't fetch very much on the open market. If the tablet is non-working, there is no guarantee which parts work and which don't. Taking tablets apart is difficult and time-consuming, so there is a lot of labor involved. Also, due to the ways that tablets tend to be assembled (lots of epoxies and thin plastics), it is very easy to damage the parts during disassembly.

  • If you can't boot it, you can't delete the data stored on it. How difficult is that concept?

    The only way you can clear it now is with a shotgun.

    Same procedure if it does work. People say "encrypt then wipe" but how do you know what's going on behind the scenes when you do that? You don't. You assume it's doing what you want but you can't know that unless you go over the code. If you really care about security, destroy the device when you're done with it. Bash it good and grind the pieces to powder.

  • by Primate Pete ( 2773471 ) on Monday July 28, 2014 @03:56PM (#47552561)
    "Will no longer boot" does not go along with "no obvious sign of damage."
  • Lookup the flashboot and adb commands from the ADK. Also download the adb driver from the vendor.

  • Look for the appropriate iFixit teardown page, then open it up! If the glass isn't obviously cracked, maybe something inside just came loose. You didn't say what model you have, but the first comment on the Asus Transformer Infinity TF700 [] teardown mentions an internal power switch next to the battery connector (step 15 picture 2), maybe that could have bumped itself off.
  • by peter303 ( 12292 ) on Monday July 28, 2014 @04:27PM (#47552785)
    I was perusing the back-to-school sales in the Sunday papers and saw some new Android tablets listed for $59. I think they were the early 7" models 8GB and Android 4.2. I see such models even cheaper online.
    • When did anyone ask for advice on buying a new tablet?

  • 1) You won't Get dick for parts (unless you part it our yourself, and basically only the screens, battery and speakers are worth any cash)

    2) The potential crook gets just about everything he would need to make your life a living hell in either ID theft or flat out harassment.

    There are recycle depots that will shred the system board to verify secure data destruction. It might cost a little, but it's better than paying to monitor your credit score for a few years.

  • I'm pretty sure that the ADB commands will just do a low level format, they will not physically overwrite the sectors holding your personal data (which is difficult on Flash memory anyway).

    IMO the only safe method is to use Android's device encryption, but of course it's too late for that once you can't access the tablet any more. I learned this the hard way (a dead Nexus 7 which I probably will end up physically destroying).

  • by toonces33 ( 841696 ) on Monday July 28, 2014 @06:03PM (#47553441)
  • It's too late now, but if this device had been encrypted before it was broken, you'd have a lot less to worry about.

    OTOH, it's worth pointing out that if the level of effort required to find the storage on the broken device so you can wipe or destroy it is too much to bother with, it will almost certainly be too much effort for anyone to go through the same effort in order to retrieve your data, on the off chance there might be something of value in there somewhere.

  • My experience is that most tablets and chrome books have horrid resell values. Take a hammer to it and, if you're concerned about dumpster divers, go drive it to your local landfill.
  • I had an ASUS tablet that stopped working.
    Turned out the battery is just stuck in with double-sided tape and it had moved enough for the connector to come loose.
    Run a guitar pick around the outside of the screen to open it up and plug the battery back in!

  • by jgotts ( 2785 )

    You'll burn through more money in labor by opening up the device without damaging it further and yanking the proper chips than what you'll get for it in parts.

    What people should do with old tablets and smartphones is smash them. I'm sure there are techniques to wipe a tablet, but do you really want to take that kind of risk with your personal data? Even one credit card number accidentally cached by a sloppily programmed app can cause you way more harm than the $25 you might get for parts. You may not be lia

  • The small amount of dollars you'll get for it isn't worth the headaches you'll go through, wondering if you really did clear off all that data.

    Take a blowtorch to it. Then a hammer. Then a liquidizer. Add a sprig of mint, some ice and whisk 'til smooth. Repeat. Then bury it in the canal.
  • Check out this article in The Guardian [] 'Factory wipe' on Android phones left naked selfies and worse, study finds,

    Really keep the thing for parts yourself. Or just keep it. You can't safely wipe it. Really. You can't. Though the chance of somebody actually harming you is small it is there. And if you have enough paranoia to ask this question then you will worry. Even years from now it will pop into your head at three AM unbidden and for no reason. Was that picture of me and Irma Plotnik really gone? R

  • I have a project in mind that calls for exactly those parts; I want to hook up a raspberry pi to the keyboard and lcd. I'll dismantle the tablet and de-solder the flash and mail it back to you!

We gave you an atomic bomb, what do you want, mermaids? -- I. I. Rabi to the Atomic Energy Commission