Your smart speakers are listening: Wipe them clean before giving them away. Here's how

Steps to take before giving away, recycling or selling devices

By Troy Blevins - Graham Media Group
Graham Media Group

Smart speakers have quickly become another way to gather information, listen to music and communicate with others to simplify our lives in our ever-more-connected world.

It's estimated that about 21% of people in the United States who are at least 18 years old own a smart speaker, according to a recent survey from National Public Radio and Edison Research. That's around 53 million people.

Perhaps you're one of those people who has already integrated a smart speaker with your everyday life. However, what should you do if you've upgraded to a new smart speaker or you're deciding what to do with your old one? While you may know how to factory reset or remove data from your smartphones, how can personal information associated with your smart speaker also be removed?

As these devices, with their almost always-on microphones, listen and collect information from our voice and may control other smart devices in our home, it's important that the necessary steps are taken to properly reset them before they are given away, recycled or sold to another person.


Amazon Echo devices

Amazon has multiple devices within its Echo family, including the Echo, Echo Dot and Echo Plus product lines. The first step is identifying your Echo device. If you're unsure which one you have, click here.

Because there have been many devices sold by the company over the years, there's a handy support page from Amazon that provides videos with specific steps to reset your Echo device, along with how to set it up again afterward if necessary.

After beginning the reset process, the light right, depending on the device, may alternate between turning orange and blue and possibly turn off as well, until the device eventually enters setup mode (on most devices, an orange light should spin around the device in a clockwise fashion).

For newer devices, such as the third-generation Echo Dot (it has a fabric cover), initiating the reset process involves pressing and holding the Action button for about 25 seconds.

On second-generation releases of the Echo, Echo Dot and Echo Plus, initiating the reset process involves holding the Volume Down and Microphone Off buttons for about 20 seconds.

If you have a first-generation Echo, Echo Dot or Echo Plus, you'll need to find a paper clip or similar tool to insert it carefully into the Reset button on the device's base. Amazon recommends holding in the Reset button for about five seconds on the Echo and Echo Dot, and about eight seconds for the Echo Plus.

Still looking for information on how to reset your specific Echo device not listed here or looking for a more visual approach with all the steps needed? Amazon has a complete how-to list here.

After following the steps above, go a step further and deregister the device from your Amazon account. Finally, consider reviewing any voice recordings you may have associated with your account -- for example, requests and inquiries you've made to Alexa. Amazon says you'll be able to review transcripts and delete the recordings one by one or all at once, but deleting these could affect your experience going forward. In more relatable terms, that means you have the option, essentially, to delete everything you've ever said to Alexa, but in doing so, you could affect your experience if you continue to use one of these devices.


Google Home devices

Google also has quite a few devices in its Home product family. The way to reset these devices is a little bit different between them. For all of them, Google says you'll hear the Google Assistant confirm that it is resetting the device after initiating these steps, courtesy of the company's support page.

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

Google Home Mini: For about 15 seconds, press and hold the factory reset button, which is below the power cord on the bottom of the device. Google says to look for a circle etched into the base.

Google Home Max: For about 12 seconds, press and hold the factory reset button, which is near the power cord on the back.

Google Nest Hub: For about 10 seconds, press and hold both volume buttons located on the back of the device.

Google said users won't be able to use their voice or the Google Home app to factory reset the devices.

For the list of directions from Google, click here. If you want to go a step further and manage your voice and audio activity, learn how to do that here.


Apple HomePod

Apple currently sells one smart speaker product, known as the HomePod. Resetting one of these to its factory settings can be done in a few ways, according to Apple's support page.

One way involves using the Home app on your iPhone, iPad or iPod touch. Make sure you're signed in to the Home app with the Apple ID that you had used when initially setting up the HomePod. In the Home app, press and hold HomePod and tap Settings. From there, scroll down and tap on "Remove Accessory."

You'll do something similar to what is above, except the process is done on a Mac, which will need to be running at least macOS Mojave (10.14). Open the Home app on the Mac, then double-click on HomePod. From there, click Settings in the upper-right corner. Scroll until you see "Remove Access" and click that.

Another way is directly on the HomePod itself in the event you cannot remove the device from the Home app. Unplug the device and after about five seconds, plug it back in. After another five seconds, touch the top of the device and hold it there. A white spinning light should turn red, but keep your finger on the device. Once Siri says the HomePod is going to reset, you should hear three beeps. After this happens, you can lift your finger from the device. You may still need to manually remove the HomePod from the Home app if it's still there after resetting through this method.

Click here for more links and instructions from Apple's support page, including if you have two HomePod speakers set up as a stereo pair.


Are you sure you want to do this?

There are a few things to keep in mind doing any of this. As always, proceed with caution whenever deleting data and information. Should you decide to keep or reuse the device again in the future, you'll likely have to set it up as if it were new and reconnect any other smart devices with it after completing these steps.

Smart speakers are only one segment of a smart or connected home. While the above aimed to reset your smart speakers, there may be other smart devices you're interested in resetting before giving them away, including security cameras, door locks or lighting.

Be sure to read any documentation you may have on the product you'd like to reset to prevent your information from getting into the wrong hands.

Graham Media Group 2019