How to Remove Data from Electronics Before Recycling


Data theft concerns are often a roadblock to electronics recycling. Photo: Shutterstock

By recycling one million laptops, we can save the energy equivalent to the electricity used by 3,500 American homes in a year, according to the EPA. This is one of many good reasons to recycle old electronics, yet recycling rates could be much higher. Only 38 percent of old computers that had reached the end of their useful lives were collected for recycling in 2009, and for cellphones that number was even lower at 8 percent.

Privacy and data theft concerns are often-cited reasons for why people hang on to old electronics. The average person may not know how to ensure a laptop's hard drive is unreadable or that personal data has been removed from a cellphone.

Removing this data can be done in just a few steps, and we've compiled information and resources to help walk you through the process. Keep reading so you can recycle those old electronics and feel confident that your personal information won't be compromised.

Homepage Image: Shutterstock

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  • darkmom

    We donated an old computer to a local GED program.

  • Leo

    Instead of backing up your hard drive data onto an external hard drive, you should simply take out the hard drive from your computer. That way, you keep your data where you want it (on the hard drive), and you can recycle the rest of the computer with absolutely no worries about your personal data being stolen. This means you don’t have to buy an external hard drive, or any software to “over write” your hard drive :)

  • c

    could you please address how to erase information from an old fax machine?

  • GregChick

    What if you do not know how to remove the hard drive? Submerge it is water?