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How to Destroy Old Cell Phones

Physical destruction is a more successful way of destroying mobile phone data than a factory reset.

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Cell phones, like most electronic devices, will eventually wear out or will become outdated as phone manufacturers create devices with new capabilities. When you switch to a new mobile device, the question remains: what do I do with my old phone? To avoid having a drawer full of phones from the early Nokia model to the iPhone 3G, you’ll need to destroy the old phones and ensure the data on those memory chips is not accessible by any means. There are some tried and true methods to effectively destroying your old devices that should be followed instead of simply tossing your phone in a garbage bin.

Can Phone Data Ever Be Deleted?

When people think of the term “destroy” it is easy to think that breaking the phone with a hammer or other tool will be enough to do the job. However, there is more to a phone than just the outer covering and a cracked glass screen. To effectively destroy a phone to ensure no one can read your information, you must be sure to break the memory chip and logic board. These internal components house all of the personal information that you don’t want anyone to access.

Some consumers believe that simply performing a factory reset on the device will be enough to erase the data and prepare it for sale online. Unfortunately, a factory reset does not completely destroy the files on the memory chip and an experienced IT professional would be able to recover that information. It has to be completely overwritten to prevent someone from seeing your photos, texts, and other phone data. 

While cell phone providers may guarantee that they will wipe the device clean after it is sent to them, there is no guarantee that takes place and their methods may still not be as effective as just breaking the phone itself.

Proper Ways to Break Your Device

Tech experts like the United States Computer Energy Readiness Team suggest different methods for destroying the data on your mobile phone:

  • Overwriting: replace the information on your device with random data in its place. This can be done with certain overwriting programs, though it is not proven how many times the information should be overwritten for it to be completely inaccessible.
  • Physical Destruction: some services will burn or disintegrate your drive for you, but if you would like to destroy the phone yourself, you can use a hammer and drill. 

You can use the hammer to smash the components of your phone and it is recommended to drill holes through the internal pieces to ensure no one could read the information on it. For a complete destruction, remove the memory card and SIM card, and then wipe the phone completely. The internal cards should then be broken separately or can be saved for use in your next phone.

Recycling and Disposal

The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has hazardous waste laws that must be adhered to, meaning that the broken parts of your phone cannot simply be thrown away. Many waste companies work with recycling organizations to properly dispose of the e-waste. This type of waste has a serious effect on the environment and should be properly disposed of. 

The easiest way to destroy an old phone is to send it to a company for proper destruction. Many technology companies use a Degausser machine, which is a machine with powerful magnetic forces that can eliminate data by neutralizing or erasing it. This not only clears your information from the device but allows parts of your mobile phone to be recycled by the company for use in creating new data recovery methods and other projects that benefit consumers.

Secure Data Recovery is proud to be Green Business Certified to recycle the parts of damaged drives that are no longer in service. We perform secure deletion in accordance with Department of Defense standards after your data recovery case is complete and you give permission for us to destroy the device on-site. 

Our deletion and media disposal service is done quickly and professionally and we will provide documentation verifying that your data is destroyed. To learn more about how we can help you to destroy your old cell phone and recover the data from it, call 1-800-388-1266.

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