Erase Your Data: How to Prep Your Gadgets to Sell or Recycle

By , dealnews Senior Feature Writer

By now you know all the benefits of recycling your old gadgets. Not only is it better for the environment, but it might even put some cash back in your wallet. However, before you trade-in your old tech, we recommend ensuring all your personal information has been erased from your device(s). Some recycling services provide this service for you at no extra cost, but we prefer to be safe and remove our data beforehand. Below we've listed some steps you can take before recycling or selling your used gadgets.

Erasing Your Smartphone

These days your smartphone holds more than just your contacts and email. It now stores your bank account password, personal photos, videos, music, and just about anything else you can think of. It used to be that removing a phone's SIM card or SD card would take care of everything. But many of today's mainstream smartphones pack internal memory that stores your personal information from photos to bookmarks, and more. That means you have to take an extra step to ensure everything is erased. Fortunately, it's a fairly simple process.

For the iPhone
From the settings menu on the homepage, tap General > Reset > "Erase All Content and Settings." (See the picture to the left.) This will wipe your iPhone clean, just keep in mind that it could take a while depending on how much information you've stored.

For Android Phones
Erasing your data from an Android smartphone is as easy as finding the factory data reset button. The trick is, not all Android phones have the same sub menus, so you might have to drill down a bit deeper depending on which Android phone you have (and if your phone is running a customized skin such as HTC's Sense or Samsung's TouchWiz). However, in most cases you should find the option to perform a factory data reset by tapping on Settings > Privacy > "Factory Data Reset."

For Blackberry Phones
To delete the internal memory of a Blackberry, start at the Home screen and head to Options > Security > Security Wipe > and then set your device to delete Emails, User Installed Applications, and Media Card. Finally, enter "blackberry" to confirm the reset.

Erasing Your Tablet

The tablet has become increasingly popular over the past year, as the options from Android and Blackberry, and Apple, have become more affordable for the average consumer. And just like your smartphone, you may have quite a bit of private information on your device — especially if you're a fan of mobile shopping or in-app purchases.

For the iPad
Luckily, the steps to wipe your tablet clean are virtually the same as that for your smartphone. In fact, the reset process is exactly the same for all iOS products, including the iPod touch, so to clean your iPad you can follow the iPhone instructions above to a T.

For Android Tablets and the PlayBook
While the finer points of finding the data reset button on an Android tablet vary depending on the manufacturer (just like with Android handsets), you can in most cases find the option to perform a factory data reset by tapping on Settings > Privacy > "Factory Data Reset." For PlayBook owners, performing a factory reset is very similar to that of a smartphone. In fact, it's actually faster on a tablet in that it combines the last two steps into one action.

Erasing Your Laptop's Hard Drive

Selling your used laptop can sometimes result in a nice chunk of change. But more than any other device, your laptop will likely contain a wealth of sensitive information that you don't want a stranger to have access to. Below are the steps you can take to wipe out any and all personal information on your notebook's hard drive.

Erasing Your Mac's Hard Drive
If on a Mac laptop, you can use OS X's Disk Utility to erase and format your hard drive. (You can find Disk Utility in the Utilities folder inside the main Applications folder. However, to erase your drive, you'll need to boot up from the installer disc/drive that came with your Mac.)

After launching the Disk Utility application from the installer disc/drive, select the name of the drive you want to erase (located on the left side of the window), click the erase tab, and then click the Security Options button below. In the resulting window, you can choose between multiple options including Zero Out Data or 35-Pass Erase; the former erases everything on your drive whereas the latter erases everything and then writes over the data 35 times to prevent any recovery programs from resurrecting your data. (The latter is an extreme measure best suitable for erasing highly sensitive information.)

Erasing Your Windows Laptop's Hard Drive
There are various methods to erase a drive using Windows. One of the easiest ways is to use CCleaner, a free program that — in addition to cleaning your hard drive of malware and cookies — can also be used to wipe your hard drive clean. After launching the program, select Tools > Drive Wiper and then choose to Wipe your hard drive. You can do a Simple Overwrite (1 pass) or a Very Complex Overwrite (35 passes).

Now that you've performed a factory reset on your device, you can rest assured that your personal information has been completely removed and won't be accidentally found by your device's new owner. Breathe easy, and start thinking about what piece of electronics you'll buy next. Might we suggest springing for one of these laptop, tablet, or phone deals?

Front page photo credit: TechYard

An avid gadget lover, Louis Ramirez has covered technology for Gizmodo, CNET, Laptop, and various other publications. Follow him on Twitter at @LouisRamirez.

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DealNews may be compensated by companies mentioned in this article. Please note that, although prices sometimes fluctuate or expire unexpectedly, all products and deals mentioned in this feature were available at the lowest total price we could find at the time of publication (unless otherwise specified).


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Thank YOU for doing the research and writing about it.
Lindsay Sakraida (DealNews)
Thank YOU for the suggestion!
Thank you for this article!
I asked about this a couple of weeks ago and by golly you folks came through!