Consumer Safety

How to Safely Recycle Your Cell Phone

Before recycling or donating your old cell phone, it’s important you take the proper steps to secure all personal information left on your old device. Here are five easy steps to help ensure your sensitive data doesn’t end up in the wrong hands.

Back Up Your Data

Depending on how long you had your old cell phone, it is probably safe to assume there are some important files on there. If you have not already transferred this information to your new phones, you need to first back it up.You can either backmup your old files to a memory card or store them online using the cloud. Backing up files onto the cloud varies by the phone model. For instance, Android users can back up their files through Google. Apple users have iCloud.

Remove The SIM Card

Occasionally, SIM cards store contact information and other personal data. So, even if you discontinued your cell service, it’s important to remove your SIM card from the phone. If you no longer need the SIM card, simply cut it in half and dispose of it.

Remove The Memory Card

If your phone uses a memory card you can remove and install it into your new phone.  The memory card generally stores multimedia files such as photos and videos.  Most Android phones have the ability to use memory cards although they don’t necessarily come with one included. iPhones on the other hand do not use memory cards. All information is stored on the phone’s memory.

Delete Your Accounts

Signing out of your accounts helps ensure that all identifying information is removed and that your phone is ready to be used by another person or easily recycled.

To sign out of your accounts, go into the phone settings, find the accounts menu, select each account individually and remove account/sign out. Keep in mind that the phone may need a WiFi connection or cellular signal to perform this step.


Conduct A Factory Reset

Now that you removed all the external storage cards and backed-up all your files, it is time to wipe your phone clean through a factory reset. A factory reset is a built-in feature that erases any internal memory left on the device. It is referred to as a “factory reset” because it returns your phone to the state it was in when it left the factory.

It is important to note that once you conduct a factory reset, all of that data is permanently erased. The process to conduct a factory reset varies slightly on each phone model and software version. The option to perform a factory reset can generally be found in the settings menu.

iPhone Factory Reset Instructions

On your home screen, go to “Settings”

Click “General”

Scroll all the way down to the bottom and click “Reset”

Click “Erase All Content and Settings”

Click “Erase iPhone”


Android Factory Reset Instructions

Go into the “Settings” menus

Some models will have you go into the “General Management” submenu

Click “Backup and reset”

Scroll all the way down and click “Factory data reset”

Click “Reset device”

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