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5 important steps to take before donating your device

Over time, we are continuously encouraged to take out new mobile phone contracts, and procure newer, faster, shinier laptops, tablets and other smaller devices. Repeating this same process has become rather cyclical for most of us, with many wondering what to do with the older devices that they have accumulated over the years, many of which are just sitting gathering dust.

If you have recently acquired a new mobile phone or other electronic gadgets, you may be wondering what the most ethical and eco-friendly course of action is. While recycling your device may be your first idea, you could consider donating your device which can serve some similar environmental benefits, such as reducing carbon dioxide emissions and e-waste (electronic waste). But donating devices serves additional benefits to other people in communities across the UK, many of which have limited or no access to leading technology, and often lack sufficient digital skills as a result. It’s certainly better for the planet, especially considering the approximate 9 million tonnes of disposed electrical items in 2022, which is expected to reach 120 million tonnes by 2050 if consumer habits don’t change.

An older, unused laptop, mobile phone or tablet can be safely and securely repurposed and then passed onto someone else, who may then be able to hone their skills and abilities in technology to then pursue new career paths or help other members of their community. Community TechAid promotes digital inclusion by recycling and reusing older devices sustainably, working to close the ever-present digital divide between those that can make efficient use of the online world whenever and wherever they are, and those that cannot.

You can help so many other people by finding a new home for your old and unused devices. Before you donate, however, it’s important to remember some vital tips to safeguard your personal information, so pay close attention.

What Electrical Devices Can I Donate?

Be mindful that some charities will not take every single type of electrical goods. While most charities will be accepting of most types of old belongings, it’s always worth approaching a local brand or office to double-check whether anything unique you have could be put to good use. Some charities are more selective than others, but you should have no issue finding one that will take electricals, provided that they are in good condition.

As a guide, the following electrical items can generally be donated without worry:

  • Mobile phones

  • Laptops

  • Computer monitors

  • Keyboards and mice

  • Tablets

  • Headsets

  • Digital cameras

  • MP3 players or iPods

  • Kindles

  • Satellite navigation systems

  • Games consoles

  • Speakers

  • Smartwatches

  • Vinyl players

  • External storage devices

Important Tips for Safely Donating Your Old Device

Before you hand any old device over, you must take the time to ensure that there is nothing sensitive stored on it. Even if you’ve not used a particular device for some time, you should always double-check whether all files, pictures, videos, emails, messages and other personal data are wiped. You don’t know whether the next owner of your device could find a way to uncover sensitive data, so don’t make it easy for them.

Here are a few simple steps to follow before you put your older electronic device in the hands of someone new.

Back Up Your Device

First and foremost, back up all of your documents, photos, and important files.

Consider storing all of your files in a secure, synchronised cloud platform like iCloud, OneDrive, Dropbox or Google Drive, and also keeping copies on an external HDD or SSD drive. This way, you know that all your important files and data are backed up and secure.

Once this is done, you can therefore remove everything on the computer with confidence that nothing important will be unexpectedly deleted.

Erase Your Data and Apps

Once you have saved and stored everything important to you, it’s worth deleting absolutely everything on your old device and hard drive.

This includes your apps (including their cache and data), software programmes, your browser cookies and search history, the contents of your Downloads, Photos and Videos folders, and so on.

Don’t forget about any temporary internet files. Don’t leave any trace of your presence that could give someone undue access to your information, or that of someone close to you.

Remember that deleting some files doesn’t necessarily mean that they have been completely erased. Wipe your hard drive to ensure that everything is removed.

Reset the Device to Factory Settings

Most devices have the option to reset the machine to factory settings, removing all personal data, stored files, and programmes. This can take some time but is generally considered a failsafe and straightforward way of removing your data from a hard drive.

By restoring a device to its factory settings, you are giving any lurking identity thieves or hackers no chance of uncovering or compromising anything about you, from bank transactions or text conversations.

Data security is crucial, particularly in this technology-driven age we live in, and with the growing severity of cyber attacks. Community TechAid will always take proactive steps to ensure any data is handled securely and disposed of completely before a device is repurposed and gifted to someone in need. For more information, please refer to our Data Removal Policy.

Clean Your Device

It’s always courteous to make sure your device is as ‘good as new’ as possible. Once you have done that in terms of the software and operating system, don’t forget about the condition of the hardware.

Be sure to take this time to remove any other physical pieces that you want to keep, such as SD cards, CD or DVD drives, game discs (for game consoles), removable USB devices, or SIM cards (for mobile phones). You can remove the operating system from most laptops or computers with a small screwdriver, although it’s best to refer to the manufacturer’s instructions when doing so.

The device will have accumulated some dirt and grime, particularly if being used for several years. Clean the dust and debris that has gathered in the various input ports, and wipe the screen, as well as keyboards and mice, with antibacterial wipes to disinfect them.

Help the New Recipient Be as Secure as Possible

Charities like Community TechAid will ensure that every donated device is suitable and safe before being repurposed.

However, if your old device is no longer being supported by the manufacturer (or will be ending soon), that could leave the new recipient at greater risk of hacking because the device won’t receive any updates or patches that improve performance and security. In these cases, the device’s susceptibility makes it unsuitable for potential recipients.

Therefore, it’s always best to advise a charity if you know this is the case. You can check online to see if there are specific models that can receive continual updates from manufacturers. Even if the device can’t be reused, charities like Community TechAid can support it’s safe recycling or reuse parts, such as chargers, for other devices.

If you are looking to donate an older device and would like advice on how best to go about it, please get in touch and we can advise you on the best next step for your unwanted tech.


Annie Button is a freelance writer who has written for a variety of prestigious online and print publications.

She specialises in lifestyle, business, branding, digital marketing and HR.


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