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Electronics Disposal: Where Does Your Data Go?

Electronics Disposal: Where Does Your Data Go?


[This article was first published in May 2019 and has been updated and revised.]

When weighing electronic disposal options, many think about the environmental hazards but fail to consider other risks of electronics disposal.

Unfortunately, many learn the hard way that failing to protect your data can reveal personally identifying information they did not even realize existed.  


The Rewards - And Risks - of Technology

There’s no denying the benefits that come with living in our hi-tech and super-connected world. We can stay in touch with our friends and family in ways that were unimaginable just a decade or two ago. We can buy practically anything we might want or need without leaving the comforts of home

And, for a great many of us, we can now work from our sofas or run entire businesses from our dining room tables.

There are, of course, drawbacks that come hand in hand with these modern conveniences. Whether knowingly or unknowingly, most of us entrust our electronic devices to store highly personal information about us. We know how much information is available to advertisers and other businesses who utilize the data we leave behind when we are online. Our data does not just leave behind its fingerprint online, though.


What's In Your Hard Drive?

Our smart devices contain some of our most personal information, including emails, text messages, credit card, and banking information, calendars, contacts, usernames, passwords, and much more.

Much of this can be removed from our electronics by deleting our saved files and restoring our devices to their factory settings. These steps provide us with a sense of security when disposing of our electronics which is, unfortunately, often a false security.

In the war to protect your data and arm yourself against identity theft, your enemy has better weapons, plays with their own set of rules, and more often than not, they win. You may not know that your device contained remnants of your data until it’s too late to protect yourself.

Thieves intent on stealing your data may use software or other means to retrieve deleted files and are often successful. This does not mean there is no safe method of electronics disposal, however. There are steps you can take before your electronics leave your possession to protect your identity.  


Replace Your Electronics Only When You Need To

It seems unavoidable...

As soon as you get a new phone, an even newer model is released. Maybe it has a slightly larger screen, new camera features, or just comes in a broader range of colors. Whatever the feature or function that is giving you buyer’s remorse, the end result is the same - your new phone is not new enough, and the countdown begins until you can buy the latest model.

When it’s REALLY time to think about replacing your phone is when you experience a battery that drains faster than usual, a less responsive  touchscreen, processing that slows down when opening apps and web pages, or some other truly modern inconvenience.

Computers do not hold the same position as status symbols for many of us that our phones do, but that does not mean it isn’t tempting to get the latest and greatest model while our old one is still functioning.

Laptop computers have a lifespan of 3-4 years, while desktop computers can last five years or longer if they are well maintained. Eventually, the parts in these machines will no longer be functional or the operating systems may no longer be able to support the latest software updates.

While you do not need to wait for the blue screen of death before replacing your computer, replacing it more than every 3-4 years isn’t necessary unless you are experiencing problems that render it unusable.


Plan for Proper Electronics Disposal

When it is time to buy a new device, plan ahead. It can be tempting to jump at a great trade-in opportunity that brings down the price of your new phone or computer.

No matter the deal, it is not worth the cost of failing to secure your data before you trade in, sell, or recycle your old computer.

Proper electronics waste disposal is crucial in today's digital age due to the rapid pace of technological advancements and the resulting increase in electronic devices. The improper disposal of electronic waste, also known as e-waste, poses serious environmental and health risks. E-waste contains various toxic materials such as lead, mercury, cadmium, and flame retardants, which can leach into the soil and water, contaminating the environment and endangering human health.

When electronics are improperly disposed of in landfills or incinerated, these hazardous substances can seep into the soil and groundwater, leading to pollution. Burning e-waste can release toxic fumes into the air, contributing to air pollution and potentially causing respiratory issues.

Moreover, electronic devices often contain valuable materials that can be recycled and repurposed. Recycling e-waste not only reduces environmental harm but also conserves resources, minimizes energy consumption, and decreases the need for mining new raw materials.

Implementing proper electronics waste disposal methods, such as recycling through certified e-waste facilities, ensures that harmful substances are handled and disposed of responsibly. This practice not only protects the environment and human health but also contributes to a more sustainable and circular economy by reusing valuable resources from discarded electronics.


Secure Your Personal Data With These Steps

To secure your data before disposing of an old computer, follow the tips below. If you’re replacing your phone or tablet, read our post on securing data on your mobile and smart home devices here.

1. Backup your files

Whether you use an external hard drive or a cloud-based storage system for your data back up, this step will ensure you do not lose any important documents or other items with sentimental value, such as videos and photos.

2. Deauthorize your computer

Deauthorize your computer for any programs that you will reinstall on your new computer, such as iTunes, Microsoft Windows, or other software programs that you have installed on your device. After you’ve deauthorized your computer and deleted your browsing history and files, uninstall these programs.

3. Wipe and overwrite your hard drive

Only take this step once you know that you have retrieved all of the files you want to keep and deleted all of the data that you are aware of. Deleting your files alone does not remove them from your hard drive.

Overwriting your hard drive and wiping it to restore it to factory settings will follow a different process depending on your computer and may include the use of third-party software programs, followed by uninstalling and reinstalling the operating system. 

4. Destroy your hard drive

Some security experts suggest that physically destroying your hard drive is the safest and only genuinely secure solution, and would be the final step once you have overwritten your files and wiping the hard drive.

Destroying your hard drive will make it unusable but still recyclable—some companies offer hard drive shredding and recycling services for businesses and individuals who want to ensure their data does not fall into the wrong hands or end up sold to the highest bidder.  

Electronics Disposal Solutions from Junk King

Junk King offers a safe, green, reliable approach to electronics disposal and recycling. We donate, recycle, or reuse up to 60 percent of everything that we haul, and can remove almost any type of electronic waste, including laptop computers, computer towers, computer monitors, printers, copiers, shredders, televisions, and more.  

Our professional and fully-insured e-waste removal team will always call 15 to 30 minutes before we arrive at your home or office so you can arrange to meet us. Once we’ve arrived, we will give you a free estimate with no-hidden fees based on how much room your items will take up in our junk removal trucks.

Ready to get rid of that electronics junk? It’s as simple as 1, 2, 3.

Make an appointment now by booking online or by calling us at  1.888.888.JUNK (5865).



Electronics Disposal: Where Does Your Data Go?


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