How to Sell, Donate, or Recycle Your Old Computers, Tablets, and Phones

Computer recycling

You shouldn’t leave old electronics sitting around, and you certainly shouldn’t put them in the trash. Here’s how to dispose of your old computer, tablet, or phone in a responsible manner.

E-waste is a terrible problem. As consumers, it’s our responsibility to minimize the environmental impact of the technology we use. Selling, donating, and recycling electronics helps to reduce e-waste and can provide new life for old machines.

Before you do anything, make a backup! This backup should include your data as well as any software serial numbers or other licensing information. I recommend you make more than one backup as a precaution.

You should also de-authorize apps like iTunes so they are no longer associated with the old device.

If you want to sell old electronics, your best bet is to try a site like Craigslist, eBay, or Facebook Marketplace. Some companies like Apple may also accept your device in exchange for a gift card, provided the technology is relatively recent.

Otherwise, you may consider donating your device. Here are some places that accept donations. You can also try your local school, library, or other charity, but be sure to ask them first. Some technology may not be compatible for them to use.

For recycling, look for certified recyclers. Your local municipality may also offer electronics recycling drives, as do some computer stores.

Before donating, selling, or recycling, you need to erase your data. Consumer information can easily be stolen from old electronics, leading to financial fraud and identity theft. If you plan to recycle, the easiest way to prevent your data from falling into the wrong hands is to remove the hard drive. (You could smash it with a sledgehammer for a fun way to destroy your data!) But if the device is to be reused, the computer hard drive should be wiped and reset to factory default to prepare it for the next person.

Otherwise, you can wipe your hard drive. Throwing away your files won’t do the trick, nor will a standard re-format. Windows users will need to use a special utility like DBAN. Mac users can use Security Options in Disk Utility.

When it comes to iPhones and iPads, it’s vital to disable Activation Lock before donating, selling, or recycling the device. Otherwise the device is rendered unusable. This is because of Apple’s stringent anti-theft features, which are great if your iPhone or iPad is stolen but not so great if you don’t disable the feature before giving the device to someone else. Note that Activation Lock remains in place even if you erase your iPhone or iPad. Activation Lock must be disabled before the device is erased.

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