Factory-resetting a Nexus One with a broken screen

Successfully managed to wipe my Nexus One even though it has a broken screen. This was not as easy as you might imagine. A while back in 2010, I fell over ~~while drunk~~on some ice and broke my Nexus One’s screen. It’s sat in a box since then, but it’s become apparent that people are still prepared to buy these things even though they’re broken, and this seems like a better way to make money than my normal trick of sitting on a street corner with a HOMELESS VIETNAM VETERAN WITH SYPHILIS sign, so I thought: ahaha, I’ll try that. However, I don’t want someone to buy it, put a new screen in it, and then be signed in to every thing as me and run my credit card bill up to one million dollars on copies of Angry Birds Pointless Extension Edition. So: it needs wiping. But how do you factory-reset a Nexus One if the screen is broken and you can’t press the factory reset menu? The way I did it:

You can’t tell whether the phone’s powered on or off. So, plug a USB cable into the phone from your laptop, and take the battery out. Then, put the battery back in, hold down the trackball, and press the power switch for a few seconds. Let go of the power switch, hold the trackball down for a few more seconds and then let go of that too. Leave it a few more seconds, and then from your laptop, do:

sudo ./fastboot devices

(Fastboot is in the platform-tools folder of the Android SDK.) It should show something like:

HT123P456789 fastboot

This means you are currently at the bootloader. Now, try this:

sudo ./fastboot erase cache sudo ./fastboot erase userdata

If they both work, you’re done; you have erased all the user data from your phone and now you can sell it to someone who wants a phone with a broken screen. If the userdata one doesn’t work, with an error like:

erasing 'userdata'... FAILED (remote: not allowed)

then the problem is that your bootloader needs to be unlocked. It is possible to do this blind, if you’re feeling adventurous. From the laptop, do:

sudo ./fastboot oem unlock

It’ll print


and if you had a screen, you’d be able to see that on the screen you’re being asked whether you want to unlock the bootloader, as this guide shows:

Nexus One unlock the bootloader screen

Press the volume-up button once, to select “Yes”, and the power button once, to confirm. Then wait a while; your phone will be rebooting and so on. Once you’ve waited a while, you want to get back to the bootloader again, so do the battery-out-power-button-and-trackball thing from above. Then, sudo ./fastboot devices again and you should see the device listed… and now sudo ./fastboot erase userdata should work. Go sell it and buy a sandwich with the money. Coronation chicken for preference, but any port in a storm.

I'm currently available for hire, to help you plan, architect, and build new systems, and for technical writing and articles. You can take a look at some projects I've worked on and some of my writing. If you'd like to talk about your upcoming project, do get in touch.

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