Getting rid of old tech
It’s easy to get swept up in the excitement of buying a new piece of tech, and you’re probably going to be more focused on setting your new device up (and what it does) rather than what happens to the old one.
Despite this, there can be a few things to bear in mind when it comes to old devices. Here’s what you need to know.
Protecting your data
The tech we use contains plenty of information about us – often more than you might assume. And just because you no longer use a device doesn’t mean the data on there is inaccessible.
Whether it’s photos, contact lists, emails, work documents, bank details – or even recordings of your voice – it’s best to wipe your data from unwanted devices and to keep your private information exactly that: private.
While you can manually trawl through hardware to delete specific items it’s often easier (and more thorough) to perform a ‘factory reset’ – something which returns the device to the state it was in before it was sold, and with your data erased.
Advice on how to securely erase an iPad is going to be different from how best to delete user information off a Samsung laptop, so you might need to do a quick search online or even look for one of the most viewed tutorials on YouTube.
It might also be worth looking into ‘backing up’ (i.e. storing) data on something like a PC or external hard drive before you get into erasing bits and pieces.
This not only makes it easier to ‘restore’ useful data onto your new device but it also means you needn't worry as much about accidentally (and permanently) deleting information (including all those valuable family photos) during the reset or wiping process.
As with anything, if you’re unfamiliar then do a little research and take your time. Because you’ll most likely be setting up a new device shortly after this stage, have a look at our digital family basics guide – which offers a ton of set-up advice.
Tech can become quickly outdated – battery life gets rubbish over time, new software won’t always run on old devices, and there’s always a new tempting product or model on the horizon.
But old devices can be a problem for the environment. The planet’s ‘E-waste’ (which refers to electrical goods sent to landfill) amounted to 57 million tonnes in 2021, and that number is only expected to increase.
Devices such as smartphones can contain vast amounts of precious metals, all of which have to be mined, transported, and manufactured into the end products which we enjoy.
And the problem isn’t just the impact this production has on the environment, it’s how problematic it is to dispose of devices properly after they’ve been made. As mentioned, literal tonnes just end up contributing to toxic landfills
This is because laptops and smartphones contain minerals and a load of other complicated electronic components, meaning they can’t just be popped in the bin.
There are usually special instructions for binning electronic devices, especially when it comes to things like lithium batteries (which can be a hazard if not disposed of correctly).
A much more convenient and safe option is to find your nearest recycling facility, as these will get rid of any recyclable goods for you.
Alternatively, one way of getting rid of devices in an environmentally friendly way is to make sure they remain in use, even if not by you (more below).
Donating your old devices to charity services or gifting them to a family member or friend is a great way to get rid of tech in a way that’s both sustainable and benefits others.
The term ‘digital affordability’ describes the costs associated with owning digital devices and keeping them online. For plenty of families (including those in the UK), this is a massive problem.
If you’re the type to stumble across an old and used smartphone just sitting in your bedroom drawers (or you have a tablet which you haven’t touched once since upgrading) then you’re likely in a position where you can make a difference.
Being excluded from digital affects families in numerous ways. One way to offset just how many people are impacted by digital poverty is to help support charities like Restart and ‘Reboot’ (both of which are in partnership with Nominet).
Restart has put together a really useful list of organisations across the UK where you can donate unwanted electronic goods like laptops, helping keep families in need connected to digital.
Reboot provides a more hands-on approach to eliminating digital poverty. They offer a free guide which thoroughly details how you can go about restoring and resetting old devices and then distributing them in your local area.
Remember if you do decide to donate (or even resell) your devices then wiping them of personal information and data is going to be especially important – even if you’re just giving an unwanted phone to a relative.
If you’re struggling yourself with access to digital then we’ve put together a resource with plenty of support, from getting devices themselves to keeping them online and powered cheaply.
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This article was last updated on 04/10/23.