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How to dispose of your old devices safely and securely

1 March 2019

Did you know that millions of computers and other devices end up in landfill in Australia each year? With Clean Up Australia Day on 3 March, you might be thinking about how you can do your bit for the environment and reduce the amount of e-waste going to landfill The Clean Up Australia Day website has information about how you can recycle your old devices, including drop-off points.

If your old device no longer sparks joy and it needs to go — other than thinking about what you’re going to replace it with — you need to make sure that none of your data is left on your old device.

The private information we hold on our computers and phones can be a goldmine for cybercriminals if it gets into their hands. Here are some simple steps for your old devices.

Wipe your data

First of all, if there’s data you want to keep, including photos, be sure to back up your device’s data. Then, the easiest way to erase your personal data on your devices is to do a full factory reset, which can usually be found in settings.

Remove or format storage cards

If you have removable storage cards, such as micro SD cards or phone SIM cards, remove them and store them securely or reuse them in your new device. If you want to pass on the device with removable memory cards included, format the memory card to clear it of any data.

Some devices also include options to format storage cards as part of the factory reset options. Ensure these are checked when going through the steps in your device’s settings. Be warned: factory reset and erase options do not always remove data from external storage cards (check with your device manufacturer).

You can also physically remove the card from your device and insert it into a card reader on your computer, or connect your phone to your computer via its USB cable, then manually browse to the card to see if any files are still on it.

Current devices still spark joy?

If your current devices still spark joy, there are simple steps you can take to clean up the security on these too:

  • Keep software up-to-date and install anti-virus software to all devices, which regularly scans for malware.
  • De-clutter your mobile devices by uninstalling apps you no longer use. Make sure to apply updates to all the apps you want to keep or set these to happen automatically.
  • Delete or de-activate old accounts, including old email accounts and marketing subscriptions you no longer use.
  • Back-up everything you want to keep. You can choose to back-up to a cloud provider or to a hard drive you keep offline.

More information

Your online information is just as important as your offline possessions. Taking the time to review your cyber security regularly will help protect your information and your privacy.

Read more about protecting your personal information.

Find out where to get help if you believe you have become a victim of a scam.