How to Dispose of a Device

Whenever you replace a device, you should be prepared to responsibly dispose of the old device (when it nears its end of life or perhaps when it is time to trade in for the new model).

It is important to responsibly dispose of devices because:

  • Properly disposing of your device ensures the security of personal and work data once the device leaves your possession.
  • Components can be reused, which reduces e-waste.

Devices store and use a lot of personal information including:

  • Passwords
  • Addresses
  • Account information
  • Voicemails
  • Call logs/Text message logs
  • Search histories
  • Personal photos
  • And more!

You may have faced the conundrum of what to do with our old devices once we have newer (and hopefully better) devices to replace them. Do you simply throw them out? Do you give them to friends and/or family members? Do you sell them?

For example, your cellphone carrier may be offering a trade-in special so that you get the newest version of your preferred cell phone for free upon turning in your old phone. What would happen if you neglect to wipe all of your data? Do you know where the phone will end up and how many hands it will pass through until it gets there?

You should be able to do whatever you wish with your old devices as long as you take precautions in addressing your data. The key goal when preparing a device for decommissioning is:

Does this device contain any private, confidential information that you would not want released into the public?

All the steps of securing your device before disposal will revolve around this thought.

  1. Restore the device to factory settings (also called a “hard-reset”). You may be able to transfer or backup information before you reset your device, and should consult your owner’s manual or manufacturer’s website.
  2. After that step is done (or if your device no longer works), take out the SIM and/or SD card. If your device has a dedicated HDD (Hard Disk Drive) or SSD (Solid State Drive), it’s a good idea to take those out as well before selling/giving it away. Unscrupulous individuals may be able to glean data off recycled hard drives. Therefore, you may want to physically destroy the hard drive by drilling a small hole through the drive or smashing it with a hammer while it is in a plastic bag. Remember to take proper safety precautions such as wearing personal protective equipment (Gloves, safety goggles) if you elect to perform this action.
  3. Finally, you are ready for selling, reusing or disposing of your device. For disposal, there are many organizations who are willing to dispose of your device in a safe, responsible manner. You also may be surprised by companies such as Amazon who may be willing to buy back broken/outdated cellphones.

Additional resources for different avenues of disposing of your device: