WARNING: Wiping (erasing data or programs) your BlackBerry is a serious step. You should never attempt this unless you really know what you are doing, or you are following the advice of someone who does.
So, why would you ever need to wipe your BlackBerry? And what methods and options are there for doing it?
Before You Dare Read Further
I do not recommend that the typical “newBBie” ever wipe her/his BlackBerry but am providing this information for those who really need this kind of serious help. Leave me a question after the article if you have any doubts or concerns. Always backup your phone before you try anything this risky. I even make a separate backup of my Address Book (actually, you should do that routinely anyway).
Why Wipe Your BlackBerry?
Here are some reasons why you might want to wipe your BlackBerry:
- You want to install an Operating System (OS)
- Reinstall the same version OS, possibly because you aren’t sure if the current OS is working correctly
- Downgrade the OS, possibly because an upgrade didn’t work as well as the previous version
- NOTE: To upgrade your OS, you don’t need to wipe the old OS.
- You want to wipe off all the applications (but not the OS), possibly because you suspect one application is causing problems but you don’t know which one
- You want to clear your BlackBerry’s memory of sensitive information
- You acquired a used BlackBerry and want to set it up for Internet service (personal or corporate)
- You want to remove an IT Policy, possibly because you acquired a phone with a policy in place that you do not need**
- You want to return your BlackBerry to its factory default settings, possibly because some setting(s) got so messed up you want to start over
Methods of Wiping Your BlackBerry
Wipe using OS command
You can do a limited wipe (of data only–not applications or the OS) by doing Options > Security Options > General Settings > (press Menu key) > Wipe Handheld.
You are warned before proceeding that you will lose all your application data, and that message services will be turned off. You have a choice of not wiping data for your custom (3rd party) applications by clicking a checkbox. Click the Continue button to proceed or Escape to cancel.
To make sure you really want to do this, you are forced to type the word blackberry and press Enter to proceed. Then you will see a progress bar showing how complete the wipe process is.
The phone will reboot (reset) itself. Before you can make a phone call or send/receive messages, you will active to restore your connections. The simplest way is to attempt to dial a number and you will be guided to do that.
Enter wrong password 10 times
I don’t really recommend this because it’s just silly, but you might want to know what this is about. If you set a password on your BlackBerry (Options > Security Options > General Settings > Password: Enabled), and if you enter the wrong password 10 times in a row, your BlackBerry will wipe its data. Why? If someone finds/steals your phone and attempts to crack the password, then your Address Book, messages, etc. cannot be read. This is a built-in security measure, especially for corporate or government users.
Wipe with JavaLoader
The following is meant for users who know how to run the command line interface of the PC. If that is not you, please feel free to skip this entire section.
Your BlackBerry runs software that is written in a computer language named Java. There is a utility program named JavaLoader.exe that is part of the Java language software development kit. It is used by experts to do things like load and erase BlackBerry Java program modules. It can also wipe the BlackBerry. First, you need to find a place to download JavaLoader from. The most legally correct way probably is to download a terribly large file from BlackBerry.com, then search through all the files you get to find JavaLoader.exe. I don’t recommend this.
But most people get JavaLoader packaged with Dan Fisher’s JL_Cmder program. I’m not sure it’s legal for JavaLoader to be distributed this way, but I don’t think Sun Microsystems (who owns Java) really cares. Another reason for using JL_Cmder is it makes JavaLoader much easier to use if you’re not that comfortable with using the command line interface. Also, Dan Fisher keeps JL_Cmder up-to-date as JavaLoader is improved.
Below is the complete usage information for JavaLoader (for the version current at the time of this writing):
Usage: JavaLoader [-u] [-p<port>|<pin>] [-b<baud>] [-d0|-d1] [-w<pas
-u Connect to USB handheld (default is serial)
-p<port> Specifies the serial port (serial handhelds only)
-p<pin> Specifies the handheld PIN (USB handhelds only)
-b<baud> Specifies the baud rate (serial handhelds only)
-d0 Disables VM debug mode
-d1 Enables VM debug mode
-w<password> Connects using the specified password
-q Quiet mode
<command> is of
dir [-d] [-s]
Lists modules on the handheld
-d Display dependency information
-s Display siblings
Provides information on the handheld
load <.cod file> …
Loads modules onto the handheld
save <module> …
Retrieves modules from the handheld
info [-d] <.cod file> …
Provides information on the specified modules
-d Display dependency information
Wipes the handheld
-a Wipe applications only
-f Wipe filesystem only
erase [-f] <module> …
Erases modules on the handheld
-f Force erase of in-use modules
Enables VM debug mode
Retrives the handheld event log
Sets the time on the handheld to the current time
Turns the handheld’s radio on or off
Enumerates all USB handhelds
siblinginfo <.cod file> …
Provides sibling information on the specified modules
screenshot <.bmp file>
Retrives the current screen contents and saves it as a BMP file
Here are some ways you can use JavaLoader to wipe your BlackBerry:
- Wipe the OS (or something pretty much equivalent):
- javaloader -usb wipe
- Wipe the file system
- javaloader -usb wipe -f
- Wipe the applications only
- javaloader -usb wipe -a
Below are some screenshots of how I wiped my OS. First, the command I used.
There’s not a lot of feedback. It just says it connected, then there’s a relatively brief delay, then it says it disconnected.
And this is what my BlackBerry (Pearl) screen showed. The icon indicates Error Code 507, which can be interpreted as “no OS” or “no applications.” Obviously, the phone is useless in this state–but great if you want to reload your OS.
Wipe with JL_Cmder
Dan Fisher’s JL_Cmder program provides a menu interface to the JavaLoader program created by Sun Microsystems. It’s helpful to users who are not comfortable with the command line interface of their PC. (JL_Cmder is strictly for Microsoft Windows users.)
[NOTE: JL_Cmder apparently won't work for users with Windows XP 64-Bit Edition or Windows Vista 64-bit Edition. Or, at least it wouldn't work for me under Vista 64-Bit even when running under Windows XP SP2 compatibility mode. I am forced to use JavaLoader alone. This won't be a concern for most readers.]
It seems that the best place to acquire JL_Cmder is at BlackBerryForums.com, where Dan Fisher is a frequent contributor. At that web site, there are great directions and helpful information to guide you in the use of this program. Below is a screenshot of the main menu (note that you press 4 to do a wipe, or 5 to reset to factory defaults):
Wiping your BlackBerry may be unavoidable in some situations. In other situations, it may be the most effective or expedient way to solve a problem. But it’s risky for users who don’t fully understand the process. So, please be careful. And feel free to ask me questions.
Also, if you have information to share (I don’t claim to know it all by any means), please do. I’ll use any new useful information to revise this article.
** PostScript, 2009-02-07: I have since learned that complete removal of an IT Policy can require more extreme measures than a “wipe.” You need to be fairly computer savvy to do this. Here are some instructions for you to review: http://blackberryfaq.com/index.php/Remove_IT_Policy.