When your computer, laptop, smartphone, or other digital technology comes to the end of its lifespan, the temptation is to chuck it in your charity bag and take it down to Goodwill for resale. Of course, that’s if it’s in decent working order. If it’s an older piece of tech, you might think it’s just not worth it at all, and it’ll be consigned to an e-waste heap. It’s a sad state of affairs, but we’ve all done it.
But before you head to the tip to rid yourself of your old tech, there are X important things you must do beforehand.
How to Prepare Old Tech for Recycling
Before your tech heads out the door, there are several things you can do to make sure your privacy is protected, that your device is safe for recycling, and even stop your old tech from becoming e-waste. Not all of these tech recycling tips will apply to your specific device, so pick and choose the ones you need from the following list.
1. Backup and Clear Your Data
Before you do anything else, you should wipe your device clean, removing any personal data, files, photos, or otherwise from the machine. However, prior to hitting the nuclear button, make sure you back up all of the data on the device, as you never know when you might need it again, and you definitely don’t want to lose precious data.
We’ve covered data backup on almost every operating system you can think of, so here are some handy links for Windows, macOS, Linux, Android, and iOS, plus a bonus link to our Data Backup section where you’ll find heaps more data backup guides for devices, email accounts, cloud accounts, and more.
Once you’ve copied your data, you can factory reset the device, ready for its next life. The backup and data wipe process applies to laptops, tablets, smartphones, desktops, and really anything else that you use for personal data. You might even consider wiping the data on a smart TV before selling or sending it to the thrift store, just in case you used it to pay for something or it’s holding onto your Amazon or Netflix credentials.
2. Remove Hard Drives & Other Useful Hardware
Of course, you don’t have to wipe your drive. You could remove the hard drive instead and use it in your next computer. Alternatively, you could use it as a desktop backup solution or install it in a Network Attached Storage (NAS) to boost your storage there.
It’s not only hard drives you can salvage from an old device, either. If you have a nice PC case, you could use it for your next build or repurpose it for a NAS. The motherboard, RAM, and CPU could all go into that project, too. Power supply units (PSUs) are the same; unless you’re drastically upping your power requirements (some of Nvidia and AMD’s latest GPUs have a tremendous power draw) or your PSU is broken, you could probably repurpose it for your new machine or in a fun side project.
Similarly, the cables attached to your computer could be worth hanging onto. Who knows when you might need that 9th HDMI cable stuffed into the back of your cable box?
3. Figure Out If You Can Reuse the Tech
Somewhat following on from the previous section, but you might not need to remove hardware from your old device at all if you have another purpose for it. There are heaps of creative projects that’ll let you repurpose old tech, saving it from e-waste or landfill.
A few of the top options include a home media center, a home server, your own hardware testing rig, a digital photo frame, and many, many more. The project you opt for obviously depends on the hardware you’re considering getting rid of, but there’s guaranteed to be a project online that you can find. It doesn’t have to be a server (although they are popular!). There are all manner of projects that turn old gadgets into future tech!
4. Sell, Gift, or Give Old Tech Away
You don’t need me to tell you that you could head to Facebook Marketplace or eBay and list your old tech for sale. If it’s in good condition (or often, even if it’s not), you can still list it for sale and make a few bucks towards your next tech upgrade. Selling old tech isn’t always easy, and for many, the time it takes for the monetary reward is often not worth the effort. However, if you’re serious about keeping old tech out of the landfill, it’s worth considering.
Better still, if you don’t want the hassle of listing on eBay, offer to give it away to someone!
5. Find Somewhere to Recycle Your Tech Responsibly
We’ve mentioned e-waste a few times in this article already. Sadly, e-waste is a blight that will only worsen until we figure out better, more efficient methods for recycling the vast quantities of tech that reach the end of their working life each year. One part of that is demanding manufacturers build more robust hardware without the threat of planned obsolescence and embrace the right to repair.
Sometimes, your tech just dies, and there’s not much you can do about it. When that happens, you should seek out a proper e-waste recycling scheme instead of heading to the local dump. For example, in the US, Canada, and Mexico, you can take your old hardware to Best Buy, where most items are recycled free of charge. Staples runs a similar solution, while many companies like Apple, Amazon, and Samsung run trade-in programs for old devices.
You could also check out Earth911, a website that tracks and lists places for you to recycle not just your tech but all manner of materials. Head to Earth911 and type in what you want to recycle and your ZIP code, and it’ll advise you on the best way to get rid of your goods.
Got Old Tech? Recycle It Responsibly!
Recycling old tech doesn’t have to become a chore. Sure, backing up your data will take time, and who hasn’t listed something for free on a local selling page only to be stood up? But, keeping as much old tech out of the trash heap as possible is important, and although it doesn’t seem like it, each bit saved makes a difference.
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