4 Things to Consider When Getting Rid of Old Computers and Smart Phones

Got some old computers lying around you need to get rid of? Consider these four things first.
Got some old computers lying around you need to get rid of? Consider these four things first. Photo by Nizar Kerkeni
Technology changes rapidly. As a result, there are new versions of computers, smart phones and other tech products coming out seemingly every week. Apple just announced the new iPhone 11 and early adopters are already preordering them.

But even if you aren't an early adopter and you ride your tech until it takes roughly 20 minutes to load a single photo on your phone screen, eventually even you have to upgrade. And when you do, you have that old phone or computer just lying around gathering dust.

Some opt to sell things on Ebay or Craigslist. Others might consider donating them to a worthy cause or making use of the city's electronics recycling center (yeah, Houston has one of those).

If you decide to go either of these routes (don't just throw them away - see below), you may want to consider a few things.

Back up everything before doing anything.

Even if you think there is absolutely nothing on your computer or phone you want, back it up anyway. You never know when you want to find that one phone you thought you had and realize it was on the computer you just wiped out. Use a back up hard drive or, on a phone, a cloud backup service like iCloud or Google Cloud. You files you save might just be your own.

Wipe your memory.

Unless you want the next person who handles your computer or phone to have all your data, be sure to wipe the drive clean. In a phone, you'll also want to remove and destroy the SIM card. Most phones have an "erase all data" or factory reset function. With a computer, you may need to use a disk utility software to accomplish your goal. Ultimately, this is the best way to keep your secrets (and internet browsing history...ahem) safe from prying eyes.

Test it to make sure everything is gone.

After you wipe out the machine's memory, boot it back up just to make sure. On phones, they will typically guide you through the startup procedure as if the phone is new. Computers may do the same thing or they may boot up with the most basic system software. Whatever the case, always best to make sure everything is gone before you ship it off to a stranger.

If you can't access the computer, remove the hard drive and destroy it.

When in doubt, smash it. If your computer or phone won't turn on, it may require the hammer. For computers, you can open them up, pull out the drive and destroy it — it actually can be pretty fun! — after which, you can re-assemble. Phones aren't so easy and may just need a good smashing. Either way, you CAN and should still recycle non-working items. Don't just throw them in the trash. Components can be re-used and other items can be properly disposed of instead of just ending up in some landfill.
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Jeff Balke is a writer, editor, photographer, tech expert and native Houstonian. He has written for a wide range of publications and co-authored the official 50th anniversary book for the Houston Rockets.
Contact: Jeff Balke