FROM READERS: How to dispose of old electronics

Thursday, July 25, 2013 | 6:01 a.m. CDT; updated 5:57 p.m. CDT, Thursday, July 25, 2013

Ben Owens is a summer marketing intern for Socket Telecom. He writes that when he isn't getting coffee, he contributes to the company's blogs, writes copy and does graphic design. This post was originally published on Socket Telecom's Tech Blog.

Consumer electronics are constantly being replaced and updated with even newer technology. So what do you do with your old phone or computer? Here are a few suggestions for safely getting rid of old electronics.

Step 1: Backup! Backup! Backup!

Before you ditch that old device, make sure everything you need is backed up. From contacts to photos, don’t overlook items that you may want on your new device or for your records. Don’t forget things like old emails or messages, favorite websites and bookmarks, as well as desktop items.

You can use a cloud-based service like DropBox, iCloud or Google Drive. Or if you prefer traditional storage, you can conduct file backups or full restore setups to save files to an external hard drive.

Step 2: Wipe

Now that you’ve ensured you haven’t lost any data, you need to make sure others can’t get it off of your old device. This is especially important if you plan to sell or give your device to someone you don’t know.

Many devices, such as phones and tablets, have a built-in option in the settings app to perform a “Factory Reset.” A quick Google search should tell you where to find it.

For computers, simply deleting old files won’t cut it, though. You’ll need to do some work to the hard drive to make sure your data won’t be accessible. You can remove the hard drive entirely, or simply reformat it. Third-party applications like Boot and Nuke will wipe hard drives and guide you through deleting personal data. Keep in mind that, if you completely wipe a hard drive, the computer will not run until a fresh operating system is installed.

Whew! Now that the technical mumbo-jumbo has been taken care of, take a breather, grab a soda, and learn where to get rid of that darn device.

Step 3: Get rid of it!

When deciding where to send your old electronics, think first of any friends and family who might benefit from your device. Your slow laptop may be perfect for that fourth-grade nephew learning to type, or that older camera might be great for a high school student learning about photography. You may know many people who can still use these items.

Local retailer recycling programs offer “green” initiatives to recycle old devices. Check out a store such as BestBuy or Staples. Goodwill also provides e-waste recycling.

Mid-Mo Recycling in Columbia also offers disposal services for old electronic devices. Their complete breakdown operation separates plastics, metals and trash and salvages parts that can be recycled. Their “hard drive destroyer” can grind up old hard drives to ensure it’s not readable by anyone, ever.

Special programs can take proceeds from recycled electronics and fund non-profits. For example, The Wireless Foundation collects old phones to help end family violence. Other programs, like StRUT (Students Recycling Used Technology) allow students the opportunity to gain valuable experience by refurbishing donated old electronics.

Another great option is online recycling and reselling programs. EBay’s Rethink Initiative offers a list of organizations that could put your old electronics to good use. Or, if you’d like to turn that old phone into a little bit of spending money, try putting your item up for auction. Sites like eBay and Craigslist provide an easy-to-use service allowing individuals to resell these old items, or you can use services such as Gazelle, which will guide you through a few short questions and then offer to ship a box to you or email you a pre-paid shipping label.

Lastly, some companies will pay you to recycle your old electronics. Retailers such as Apple and BestBuy offer cash trade-in options and in-store credit in exchange for older items.

Bottom line: There may still be some life left in your outdated gadgets, but be sure to take precautions to prepare your device before you find it a new home.

The Socket Tech Blog is part of the Missourian Media Guide, a directory of Columbia, Mo., news and information sources. Do you keep a blog that you would like featured in the Media Guide? With updates or additions, please email Joy Mayer, director of community outreach, at, or call her at 573-882-8182.

This story is part of a section of the Missourian called From Readers, which is dedicated to your voices and your stories. We hope you'll consider sharing. Here's how. Supervising editor is Joy Mayer.

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Chris Cady July 30, 2013 | 1:52 p.m.

Good info and thanks for posting.

As a vintage audio and radio enthusiast, let me take the opportunity to encourage resale and reuse of old stereos and radios. Heavy receivers and amps made before about the mid-80s can be collectible, even if not currently working. Along with anything with vacuum tubes in it.

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