Technology is improving at breakneck speed these days and that means we are buying new devices all the time. For many, new devices means getting rid of the old ones, and there may be some question as to what to do with these devices no longer in use.

You’ve probably heard that the batteries that power many devices and the internal components that make them function can actually be harmful to the groundwater and soil if placed in landfills, so there are already recycling programs in place for cell phones and computers where the components are broken down for protected disposal. But there are also great opportunities for people to donate slightly outdated devices in order to let them continue working in their original capacities.

Cell phone recycling programs not only break down devices, they sometimes redistribute them to people who need connectivity but can’t necessarily afford a newer model. Computers, at the same time, can be donated by the owner to senior citizens’ programs, nursing homes, assisted living facilities, non-profit organizations, schools, and more.

There’s a very important consideration before donating any device, though, and that’s making sure you protect your privacy. Just wiping data from the hard drive isn’t enough, some experts say, to keep a person with the right know-how from accessing your old files, which could include saved or downloaded bank statements, credit card statements, your tax documents if you filed electronically, and more.

Your first step before unplugging your original device for good is to back up any information you’re going to need on a high-capacity flash drive. Make sure you get it all, because you’re going to say goodbye to it forever. Once you’re certain you have all of your necessary data, you’ll want to reformat the hard drive. This is a PERMANENT step, and cannot be undone, so be sure that you’re ready to send this device out the door before you complete this step.

One of the safest ways to ensure that your data is protected before you give away your computer or laptop is to remove the hard drive. This will mean that the recipient will need to purchase a hard drive—or you can kindly purchase a new one to replace yours before donating, if you feel like it—which will ensure that your original hard drive and all of its data and files will remain with you. There are two reasons this is a great idea: first, you can physically destroy the hard drive if you wished—yes, literally with a hammer, but be sure to wear eye protection and get all the pieces up before disposing—or you can buy an inexpensive case at an electronics store (usually between $60 and $80, depending on the type of hard drive it is) and turn your old hard drive into an external hard drive on your new computer. You would still be able to access all of your old files, photos, videos, and more from your new computer, and you’d be able to store new files on it as well, avoiding clogging up your new computer with saved documents.

However you choose to dispose of your personal electronics, make sure you’ve stripped access to any online account logins, any passwords, and any personally identifiable information before letting it out of your sight.

 

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