Stack of electronics
Technology & Security
How to Safely Dispose of Your Old Electronics

Got an old smart phone? Decrepit laptop? Broken camera? Wondering how to get it out of that junk drawer or dusty box in your garage? You know you can’t just toss your old electronics in the kitchen wastebasket. So here’s what to do:

Wipe Your Data from Old Electronics

You don’t want your personal photos, emails, and account information to get into anyone else’s hands. So regardless of how you plan to dispose of your old electronics, you need to erase all data.

  • On your smartphone:  Most iOS and Android devices have a simple factory reset option that will allow you to erase everything from the phone.
  • On your computer:  PCs and Macs have different instructions for wiping data. These efforts should ensure all your data is removed; however, if you have extremely sensitive data on your machine, you may also wish to physically destroy it with a hammer or drill to ensure even the savviest tech user cannot recover it.

Tip: don’t wait to backup! Before you wipe your data, you’ll want to ensure it's backed up to the cloud or another hard drive. It could take hours or even days to upload your photos, documents, etc. if you’ve never done so. Set your phone and computers to automatically back up your data at regular intervals. This way, when you want to say sayonara to that device, you’ll be ready.

Log Out

In addition to wiping your data, be sure to log out of any online accounts like Facebook, Twitter, Google (Chrome), etc. If you don’t, the next user would have access to everything under your login.

Repurpose or Give Away

Most of your old gadgets can find a second life. Ask a friend or family member if they’d like it, or try selling it on Craigslist or eBay. Know a young child? Even a dead phone or laptop makes a great toy for imaginative play. In addition, many manufacturers offer buy-back programs that offer cash for your old device. Ask about that before you buy a new one to see if you can get a discount or credit.

Find a Safe Recycling Center

Old electronics do not belong in a landfill. If you're not going to sell or pass on your old device, ask your original manufacturer about their recycling program. If you don’t want to go that route, places like Best Buy will also accept just about any used electronic device. Finally, you can search your address on the CalRecycle website to find a facility near you that will take the gadget off your hands.