Before you recycle, donate, or sell your phone or computer, there are important steps you must take before the device gets into someone else’s hands. We explain what you need to do for each of your devices.
First, log out of all of your accounts and cloud services, then reset your phone to factory specifications, which you can find in the device’s settings menu. Before resetting, check for additional security steps specific to your phone.
- On Android devices, for example, you can encrypt the phone before resetting to scramble data. It is recommended that Windows phones should be loaded with dummy information after the reset to foil any attempts at data recovery.
- On Apple devices, your password (screen lock) is used to generate an encryption key which when you factory reset your phone will be securely deleted. Be sure to check with your cell phone provider and/or trusted web site for easy to follow, must-read instructions.
As with phones, you’ll also want to make sure that your computer doesn’t have any personal information on it. Simply deleting files won’t do the trick because data recovery software makes it easy for almost anyone to recover deleted files. To permanently wipe this information from your computer, you’ll need to overwrite it.
Microsoft recommends using free software like Softpedia DP Wiper or Active@ KillDisk to accomplish this. For Apple laptops and desktops, Apple recommends that you erase and reinstall the operating system. On newer Macs, you can use the built-in Disk Utility feature to do this. Older Macs, those running OS X 10.6 or older, require you to use the system discs that came with the machine to reformat the computer. It’s better to take the time now then to have your information stolen later.