How to securely get rid of your old cell phone

How to securely get rid of your old cell phone

Steps to wipe your data before recycling, donating or selling your old device

by Irene Park

Cellphones have become an extension of our lives.  They travel with us everywhere and carry personal and work data.  Even more than laptops and computers, your phone likely has a combination of sensitive personal and professional information.

The photo gallery on most phones alone could tell a person who, what, and where the phone user has been (with). Not only is safeguarding your privacy while using the phone crucial for your overall security, but taking the necessary steps to clear the data before trading in, selling, recycling, or donating your old cellphone.

One of the single biggest mistakes is thinking that deleting the contents on your phone is the same as wiping the data.   Deleted data can be recovered by the next stranger who gets your old phone in their hands.


How to securely get rid of your old cell phone

Transfer or Back-Up Old Phone

Many carriers allow you to bring the old phone in after you purchase the new one it is replacing. In that case, you can directly transfer data from your old phone to your new device. If, however, you need to give up your old phone at the time of trade-in, sale, recycling, or donating, then you need to back up the phone before getting rid of all data.

Each brand and type of phone has different requirements and steps for backing up phones. Please find below the general steps based on your phone type:


How to Securely Get Rid of Data on iPhone

1. Make sure to unpair devices such as your Apple Watch from your phone.
2. Transfer data directly to the new device or back up your old device via iCloud or iTunes.
3. On your old device, sign out of iCloud, iTunes, and the App Store. The following steps are for signing out if you’re using iOS 10.3 or later:

a) Tap on ‘Settings’ icon

iPhone home screen settings

b) In Settings, click on Your Name or your Apple ID

iPhone settings

c) Then on your Apple ID page, scroll down to the bottom

Apple ID page


d) At the very bottom, tap Sign Out


iPhone sign out

e) Put in your Apple ID password, then click Turn Off

enter password and turn off Apple ID

4. Switching to a non-Apple phone? Make sure to deregister iMessage first.  Keep it unchanged if getting a new iPhone

5. Follow the steps below to reset your device:

Please note If your device uses eSIM which is a newer virtual SIM card technology that replaced a physical SIM card,  erase your device and the eSIM profile when asked. You may be asked to input your passcode when you hit ‘Erase’.

a) Go to Settings then scroll down and tap General

iPhone reset

b) Scroll down & tap Reset

iPhone reset

c) Now tap Erase All Content and Settings

iPhone reset

6. If you’re not using a SIM card, contact your carrier to help transfer service to the new owner.

7. Don’t forget to remove the iPhone you just reset from your list of trusted devices.


How to Securely Get Rid of Data on Android

1. Go to Settings/System Settings

2. Select System then Advanced

resetting android menu

3. Under the Reset options, select Erase all data (factory reset)

4. You will get a prompt that will ask if you’re okay with erasing the list of data. Click Reset Phone (You may be asked to input your pin or other security info.) You will get a warning prompt asking if you are sure.

5. Click Erase Everything



How to Securely Get Rid of Data on Samsung

Samsung General Management

1. Go to Settings
2. Select General Management
3. Tap Reset
4. Select Factory data resetSamsung Factory Reset
5. Under ‘Factory data reset’, click Reset then Delete All


Best ways to get rid of your old phone or tablet


Sell, recycle, or donate old devices

Now that your old phone has been ‘wiped’ clean, you’re ready to sell, recycle or donate your old device.


Best way to sell your old device

Decluttr – Sell Your Old Tech

Instead of adding your old phone to your pile of unused tech, consider selling it now that it is wiped clean.

Decluttr is one of the easiest and fastest ways to sell used tech, including cell phones, your unwanted MacBooks, tablets, game consoles, but also CDs, DVDs, games & books too.

Decluttr pays 30% more on average compared to Apple/Samsung buyback programs for smartphones.

You can see what they would pay for your old tech online before committing to selling it here on Decluttr.


Best way to recycle your old device

Because most cellphones contain hazardous materials such as heavy metals, avoid simply throw them away.  Many carriers, electronic stores, and other organizations have recycling or donation programs at no cost to you. The Environmental Protection Agency has a list of donation and recycling programs, here at the Environmental Protection Agency’s Electronics Donation and Recycling page.


More: How to securely get rid of your old PC or Mac

How to securely get rid of your old PC or Mac


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