How to manage your Google Account on your Android phone

Learn how to get more control over your Google Account's data, privacy, and security settings.

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Your Google account is the lifeblood of your Android phone. From email to photos, payments, and, of course, apps, your Gmail account is the key to making your phone hum, no matter what you’re using it to do. And just like you would with anything in your life that is so valuable, you probably aren’t protecting it as well as you should.

But it’s not hard to get your account up to speed. Google has built a fantastic way to manage and secure your account right in the Settings app, and it’s worth taking routine trips to check on things. So if you haven’t been there in a while, we’ll walk you through the important stuff.

Sign-in & security

To get started, open the Settings app, scroll down to Personal, and tap the Google option. Inside you’ll find sections for Account and Services (as well as Developer if you’ve enabled it), which contain numerous tabs for managing various aspects of your account. For most of these options, you’ll actually be working in Chrome, not Settings. But since Google uses Chrome Custom Tabs, the experience is pretty seamless, and you won’t be jumping back and forth between apps.

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The Google settings pane includes several important options for controlling your account.

At the very top of the list is Sign in & security, which holds the keys to your main login. Tap it and you’ll instantly see something called Security Checkup, which lets you change your recovery phone number and email address, along with your security questions.

Then, it’ll run through a series of checks to make sure your account hasn’t been compromised: recent security events, connected devices, and account permissions. Within each you should see phones and changes that you recognize, but if anything looks amiss, you’ll be able to make some changes. If there’s an app or service that shouldn’t have access to your account, for example, you can revoke its privileges, and if you see any unrecognizable devices, you can change your account password.

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You’ll be able to turn on 2-step verification duting the security checkup. You should do so.

The last option, 2-step verification, will show your verification settings and any backup options you’ve selected. And if you’re not using 2-step verification, you’ll be able to turn it on by following a few simple steps. For those who don’t know, 2-step verification provides an extra layer of security to make it harder for people to hack into your account. Instead of just a password, every time you log into your account you’ll be sent a code to your phone that is needed to unlock your account.

We can’t stress enough how important it is to protect all of your accounts with 2-step verification, but it’s especially important for your Google account, so if you haven’t done so, use this opportunity to turn it on. You’ll need to re-enter your Google password on all of your devices, but it’s well worth the minor inconvenience.

Elsewhere in the Sign in & security section, you’ll find tabs for each of the steps in the Security Checkup in case you don’t want to run through the whole thing. And you’ll also be able to change your alert settings and manage the passwords stored with Smart Lock.

Personal info & privacy

In the next tab, you’ll be able to tweak your privacy settings via a similar series of checks that let you tweak the information you share with Google and the public. Inside the tab you’ll be able to edit your email address, recovery phone, birthday, and gender, as well as things like location sharing, and your search settings.

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The Privacy Checkup lets you control what aspects of your Google account other people can see.

Like the previous section, you’ll be able to run a Privacy Checkup to make sure you’re not sharing anything you want to keep private. It’ll take you though six steps that let you tweak several settings to give you greater control over the apps and services that use your account.

Follow the prompts and you can manage what you share on YouTube, disable automatic grouping and geo location in Google Photos, hide your phone number, change what people can see in your Google+ profile, tweak the activity date Google saves, and limit ad tracking. Depending on which services you use, it might be worth taking an occasional swing through the checkup to make sure your settings are still to your liking.

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If you want to see what Google knows about you, you can download your data in the Personal info & privacy section of your account.

Also in the Personal info & privacy settings you’ll be able to see what Google knows about you. All the way at the bottom of the page there is an option to Download your data, where you can export and download an archive of data from the Google products you use. You can select certain services (Mail, Calendar, Hangouts, etc.) or download everything in your account as either a zip, tgz, or tbz file, and choose to store it in your Google Drive, Dropbox, or One Drive account. Depending on how much data you opt to archive, it could take several hours to generate.

Account preferences

The third option in the Google settings pane is where you’ll find information pertinent to your account, including your language preferences and Google Drive storage allotment. You’ll be able to change either option, though keep in mind that an increase in your Drive storage will incur a fee. 

Additionally, it’s here where you can remove services linked to your account. Tap the Delete Google Services option, and you’ll be able to unlink Google+, YouTube, or Gmail from your account.

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You’ll have to jump through some hoops, but Google will let you delete your account if you’d like.

At the bottom of the list, you’ll find the Delete your Google Account option, which will do more than remove it from your device. You will completely eradicate all existence of your Google account, so Google rightfully provides a series of necessary warnings and explicitly lists all of the songs, apps, movies, contacts, photos, etc., that will be deleted. But if it’s indeed what you want to do, you merely need to agree and press the blue Delete Account button at the bottom of the page.

Services

Occupying the rest of the Google settings are controls for various other parts of your account, including Smart Lock for Passwords, Location, Connected apps, and Ads. Most of them include minor options that you probably won’t care to change, but there are a couple that will be of interest.

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You’ll find some important settings inside the Security tab in the Google settings.

In the Security tab, you’ll find options to change your account’s security code (which is different from the passcode on your device), track your device in the Android Device Manager, and allow for remote lock and erase, both of which should be turned on. Additionally, users of newer phones like the Galaxy S7 and Pixel will find the Verify apps toggle here, which will scan side-loaded apps for malware.

It’s here where you’ll also be able to add and delete any credit cards in the Android Pay section, and opt out of personalized ads in the Ads tab (if you haven’t already done it during the Privacy Checkup). And in the Networking menu you can tell your phone to automatically connect to open high-quality Wi-Fi networks. 

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