Does iOS 5.0+ destroy data securely once deleted? Specifically if I delete a text message or an email from an iDevice, is said data destroyed to a point that data recovery would be unrealistic in practical terms? I understand that I can perform a full reset and doing so will erase data and restore the phone to a factory state but that is not my intention. My question is in relation to a device being used on a daily basis. This is a question of curiosity for the most part as I have been asked this by clients and I have not been able to point to a clear answer as of yet. I saw reference to this question but again it references a full restore and wipe of an iDevice with an APP and not daily use with no APP.

  • Whilst I don't know whether data is securely erased (I suspect not, as it would dramatically shorten the life of the storage media and noticeably impair performance/battery), it is perhaps worth noting that the entire device can be AES-256 encrypted; so long as you have a strong password whose disclosure to your perceived attackers you are able to prevent, it should not be reasonable for them to recover any data from your iOS device.
    – eggyal
    Dec 5, 2011 at 23:18

1 Answer 1


No, you need to wipe the entire device using the settings found under Settings > General > Reset > Erase All Contents and Settings. Simply deleting items from iOS applications does not provide any kind of secure deletion, and those files can easily be recovered (although that will be harder and harder as those blocks get overwritten in time).

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This provides a one-pass secure delete call that can be liked to OS X's "Secure Empty Trash." While most 3rd party software won't be able to recover your data, government units have far more sophisticated tools that can retrieve data from far worse cases (even physically damaged storage).

This feature was introduced in iOS 2.0 and you can read more about it over at AppleInsider.

  • I understand that this was an option but as stated in my question not something I was looking to accomplish but more to the point, is a deleted text message truly deleted to a point where it's impractical to recover without doing a full iDevice WIPE.
    – Mort
    Dec 5, 2011 at 17:41
  • No. It can be recovered as I said in my answer: "Simply deleting items from iOS applications does not provide any kind of secure deletion, and those files can easily be recovered." They are just deleted. Any recovery tool should be able to retrieve them (obviously success rate is affected by certain variables).
    – user10355
    Dec 5, 2011 at 21:08
  • Will government units really be able to recover data once the AES 256 encryption keys have been destroyed, by iOS 5's 'Erase All Content & Settings' ? Or are the keys all really destroyed ? Wouldn't it seem just too simple & tempting to keep a copy, hidden somewhere, for the future convenience of just such agencies. Who do we trust that they are all really destroyed beyond recovery ?
    – user22051
    Apr 24, 2012 at 20:28
  • How do you chose between normal and secure erase?
    – Matt
    May 19, 2018 at 17:02
  • @ user22051, depends on how paranoid you are. I'm not paranoid enough to lose sleep over it, but although DuckDuckGo and MeWe.com claim to protect your privacy, how do we know they aren't actually operated by NSA?
    – WGroleau
    Dec 24, 2022 at 23:57

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