The Smart Way to Toss Old Devices

We all have them. Old devices sitting around in our garages or storage areas, in drawers and boxes, causing clutter. Many times, we hesitate to get rid of old devices because of the amount of information now stored in digital form.

But Toss them we must!  In these cases; follow some simple rules to ensure your sensitive data is disposed of properly.

The Smart Way to Toss Old Devices

The information stored in our devices provide a nearly complete and perfect window into our lives. Creepy, right?

Smartphones alone – which 190.5 million Americans have on hand – contain everything from email addresses and contact information, to access to our bank accounts and investments.

The truth is, there’s no value to be gained by holding onto these old devices. It’s time to purge the technology that’s sitting around and collecting dust. But it’s also necessary to be smart about how you purge.

The steps below will walk you through the best way to dispose of the device itself, whether that’s by recycling, donating or tossing in the garbage. It is important to note that while most of these steps are similar across all technology platforms, there are occasional nuances to be mindful of. Pull out your old devices and quickly move through these steps to ensure your information is protected long after you stop using the device itself.

Smartphones and Tablets

  1. Back up your phone to the cloud.
  2. Reset to factory settings; do not manually delete. By doing this, your contacts, photos, notes and other information stored will all be saved in their most recent form.
  3. Ask your carrier to disassociate the phone from your account.
  4. If you have an iPhone, remove it from your iTunes profile. If you have an Android, remove it from your associated profile based on the device manufacturer.
  5. This step might surprise, but you could consider not tossing your old device at all. If you are merely upgrading from an iPhone6 to and iPhone8, it doesn’t mean the iPhone6 is now useless. Here are a few tips on how you can still get value from old smartphones.

 Desktop Computers and Laptops

  1.  Backup all important files you want to keep on an external hard drive. There are several brands of external hard drives to choose from based on your needs. Ensure that the hard drive has enough space for everything that needs saving.
  2. Wipe your hard drive clean. Deleting information doesn’t prevent information from being recovered later. Instructions for how to wipe your hard drive can be found on the manufacturers website, as it is varies slightly for each type of computer.
  3. If you choose to destroy the hard drive instead of wipe it clean, you can. But we suggest drilling several holes in the hard drive or smashing it with a hammer.
  4. Deauthorize the desktop computer from your accounts such as iTunes and Office 365. By deauthorizing the accounts, they can no longer be accessed from that computer, and you are now able to use the software license on your new computer.

Recycle, Donate or Trade the Device in

Once you have successfully removed all data, discard the device. Rather than tossing the device in the trash, consider recycling, donating or handing it over to a trade-in program. There are many components within today’s technology devices – lithium ion batteries for example – which contain chemicals that can be toxic and bad for the environment.

Stop yourself from tossing it in the trash and take the extra steps to put the device in the right hands.

You can also consider eStewards or Sustainable Electronics Recycling International; both are great resources to find programs that ethically recycle old technology.

Also, companies such as Best Buy, Amazon, Verizon, AT&T and Apple all offer trade-in or buyback options for old devices. Trade-ins allow you to get money back from your device and put it toward your newest tech purchase – computer, smartphone, tablet or whatever the next great development that’s released by the time this article is published.

Hard Drive Wipe Software

There are several really good (and free) pieces of software that perform data sanitization on devices including;

  1. DBAN
  2. CBL Data Shredder
  3. HDShredder

Now – it begs the question, “Should I trust a ‘free’ data destruction tool?”  After all, these tools could search for Social Security Numbers, Bank Account Numbers, passwords, etc. as they are ‘sanitizing’ your drive right?

Yes, it is certainly technically possible – I would suggest you run these tools with no Internet connectivity on the device.

Certificates of Destruction

Most business fall under some type of data privacy regulations.  Even if you don’t, chances are that you soon will as I discussed in my article GDPR’s Impact On Small Business In The US.

If you fall under any one of the myriad of regulations or track sensitive customer data you really need to take device destruction a little more serious than using a free tool.  Proper chain of custody and a certificate of destruction is necessary to ensure you, as a business, have the proper documentation to prove that devices that are rotated out of service were properly disposed of.