What You Need to Do First Before Recycling Your Old Phone

Take these cell phone precautions before you hand off a trove of personal information to a total stranger.


When you’re ready for a shiny new high-tech phone, it’s a great idea to donate or recycle your old one, because it saves energy and protects natural resources through waste reduction. But first, besides making sure to disconnect your cell service, take these important steps to protect and preserve your personal data.

1. Back it up. If you want to keep files such as music, photos, or documents—basically anything that’s stored on the handset, you’ll need to transfer them. You can back up files to a memory card, or store them online by backing them up to the cloud.  The method of backing up files to the cloud can vary by handset, as different manufacturers offer different cloud solutions, so it is always a good idea to either call customer service or do a little research regarding your particular cell phone model.

2. Remove the SIM card and memory card. Once you’ve backed everything up, remove the SIM card and any internal storage such as an SD card. Sometimes contacts and other data can end up being stored on the SIM card, so even if you have disconnected your cell service and don’t need the SIM anymore, it’s always best to remove it before donating or recycling your phone. It’s a good way to protect your cell phone’s security.

3. Perform a factory reset. Once you’re confident that you have everything backed up and saved, it’s time to wipe your phone by performing a factory reset. Consumer Reports recommends that you encrypt your device first, then perform a factory reset—how you do that exactly will vary according to your cell phone’s operating system.

Once you’ve safeguarded your personal info, consider donating your old cell phone to charity. It could help a soldier call home, or even help victims of domestic violence by funding the charities that provide support to them. However you decide to dispose of your old cell phone, be aware that there are better options than simply throwing it in the garbage like using it as a baby monitor and 13 other genius uses.

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Originally Published in Reader's Digest