Upgrading to new devices can be exciting — but it also means that you have an old device that’s just taking up space.
It’s not a great idea to just toss these old devices in the trash. In addition to being bad for the environment, devices that store data — like laptops, phones and many “smart” devices — can also create a serious security risk if someone gets their hands on the hard drive you left behind.
No matter what kind of tech your business is dealing with, these steps will help you safely dispose of devices you no longer need.
Before Anything Else: Data Management
The first thing you’ll want to do is wipe any information that the device has on it. For some devices, this may not be necessary — if it doesn’t have any kind of storage, you can move straight to the next step.
If the electronic device you’re recycling does have storage, however — like a solid state or hard disk drive in a computer, smartphone or IoT device — you’ll want to quickly perform a few steps to make sure you’re not losing valuable data, or accidentally leaking sensitive company information.
First, you’ll want to perform a backup of the device’s data and save any files that you want to keep. You can do this with an external hard drive or a cloud storage service — or, if you’re only saving a few files, you may be able to just use a USB.
– Wiping a Hard Drive
Once you’re sure you’ve recovered all the important information from your hard drive, you’ll need to wipe the hard drive, completely clearing out any data that’s been stored on it.
Wiping is different than formatting — when you format a hard drive, you’re only deleting the drive’s file system. This makes the files invisible, but it doesn’t actually delete any data on the drive. Instead, it just marks the storage as free space, allowing a computer or other device to overwrite those old files as needed.
To wipe a drive, you can either use tools that come with your operating system or a third-party utility.
For example, if you’re using Windows 10, 8, 7 or Vista, for example, formatting a drive using your OS’s formatting tools will effectively wipe the drive.
You can also use a tool like DBAN, which runs from a USB and will completely wipe your boot drive.
This will ensure that any files only the drive are totally unrecoverable.
Some cybersecurity experts also recommend destroying the physical hard drive. This will do a pretty good job of making sure no one will be able to steal your data, but will also turn the drive into unusable e-waste.
You may want to resell or donate the drive instead — or, if you’re worried about sensitive data lingering on the drive after you’ve wiped it, you can always hold on to the drive and use it as an external backup drive, or a drive in a new computer.
To wipe your drive, you can also work with a professional computer disposal company or e-waste recycler. In addition to making sure that your data is 100% wiped from the computer’s drive, they’ll also handle the recycling process, meaning that you won’t have to generate any unnecessary e-waste.
– Tips for Phones and Smart Devices
If you’re disposing of a phone or IoT device, this process may be a little more complicated. In many cases, you may be able to get away with a factory reset. However, not every factory reset setting will perform a “secure wipe” of the device’s drives, clearing off all of your stored data.
This is why it’s important to log out of any accounts the device was logged into and unpair it from any other device it was connected to.
It’s also a good idea to search online to see if you need to do anything else to clear your device before handing it off.
You should also make sure that you remove the SIM card and SD cards from any phone that you plan on getting rid of.
Recycling, Reusing or Tossing Electronics
Once you’re sure a device is wiped — or once you’ve found an e-waste company that will wipe the device for you — you’ll want to decide where it’s going and make sure it’s ready to be sent out.
In general, recycling (or reusing) is better for the environment than just throwing away electronic devices. However, there are some devices that you definitely want to recycle or reuse — printers, circuit boards and LCD screens, for example, can contain toxic chemicals like sulfur, lead, beryllium oxide and mercury.
In some areas, it may also be to not properly dispose of certain items, like TV screens and computer monitors.
These chemicals are both bad for people and the environment, and it’s always a good idea to keep them out of a landfill when possible.
This means either recycling them, or finding them a new home. If a device is working fine, but is outdated or less powerful than what you need, handing it off to an electronics reseller or donating it to a charity that accepts electronics can be just as good for the environment as recycling — or even better.
Before you bring the device to an e-recycler, reseller or charitable org, it’s generally good to clean it first, then check which functions are working and which aren’t. If there’s something wrong with the device — like a broken charge port, water damage or — you’ll probably need to let your recycler, buyer or charity know.
Some organizations may not be able to take every old electronic device you have — many e-recyclers, for example, won’t take televisions or CRT monitors.
For this reason, it’s also a good idea to check which devices a business or organization accepts before bringing it to them.
How to Safely Hand Off Your Business’s Old Tech
You have options when it comes to old tech your business no longer needs. Reselling, recycling and donation are all great ways to hand off a device without running the risk of generating e-waste.
Before the device leaves your offices, however, you should make sure to wipe its drives, if necessary, and take note of any damage or glitchy behavior.