How to Remove Data from Electronics Before Recycling

How to Remove Data from Electronics Before Recycling

Table of Contents

  • The average cost of a data breach averages $4.45 million. (IBM 2023)
  • Data destruction is paramount to protecting your data before recycling your electronics.
  • Find out which devices may contain data and how to back it up before removal.


Making the choice to recycle your e-waste may seem a little intimidating. After all, it seems increasingly difficult to find which devices do not gather your data these days! However, data destruction is the most secure preventative measure from data theft available today. It’s important for organizations to be proactive with data security today more than ever since the cybersecurity landscape is constantly changing.

We have compiled a helpful guide to let you know which devices may contain data, how to back that data up and how to destroy it so that your data is completely irretrievable. Use these tips to ensure peace-of-mind prior to dropping your electronics off to an e-waste recycler.

A heap of hard drives

Which Devices May contain Data?

It’s amazing how data can be on the most unassuming of devices. However, being aware of where data may be is the first step to taking control of your organization’s data sanitization plan.


This device list is based on NIST 800-88 data sanitization guidelines and covers all device bases.

Devices That May Contain Data

Routers and Switches
Mobile Devices
Office Equipment including laptops, desktops, PCs, printers, phones and scanners
Magnetic Media (Hard Disc Drives, Floppy Discs, Reels/Cassettes, ATA Hard Disk Drives like PATA, SATA and eSATA)
External storage such as external hard drives, USBs and Firewires
Optical Media (CDs, DVDs, BD)
Flash Memory-Based Storage Devices such as Solid-State Drives (SSDs)
Memory Cards
RAM and ROM-Based Storage Devices like DRAM, EAPROM and PROM
Solid-State Drives (SSDs)


How To Backup Your Data

1. Use Cloud Storage

Backing your data up to a cloud storage provider such as Google Drive, Dropbox or OneDrive is the most simple way to transfer your data from its storage device. Most services allow you to simply drag-and-drop your file to begin uploading them to the cloud.

Cloud storage offers:

  • Quick and easy backup and retrieval of data
  • There are a variety of cloud storage providers to choose from
  • Can accommodate a large amount of data, but usually with paid subscription services


2. Transfer Your Data to Another Device

If you prefer to keep the data on a physical device you keep, then you can transfer your data to storage devices such as USB Flash Drives, CDs/DVDs or external hard drives. These can provide a temporary or alternate location for your data.

Transferring your data to another device for backup:

  • May take more time if there is a lot of data to transfer between devices
  • May be risky for corporations since small physical storage devices can be lost
A USB Flash Drive


3. Use a Network Attached Storage (NAS) Device

If you are looking for a more secure alternative to cloud storage or external storage devices, then network attached storage may be the solution you are looking for. This device will store your data on its own server, removing the worry of data becoming corrupted due to the PC having malware on it or crashing, for example.

Benefits of a Network Attached Storage Device:

  • Network attached storage devices offer the speediest option for data backup and restoration.
  • NAS devices offer many security options including encryption and password protection options.
  • As long as you have an internet connection, you can access all the data on your NAS remotely.
A Network Attached Storage Device (NAS)

Which Data Destruction Methods are Available Today?

Data destruction is all about destroying the data storage device. Whether it is a hard drive, CD, floppy disc or solid-state drive, physically shredding the device into tiny pieces is the safest way to ensure that your data is irretrievable.

Hard drives before and after being shredded

Are There Compliance Guidelines for Data Destruction and E-waste Recycling?

US Map of E-Waste Legislation

Electronics Recycling Guidelines

25 states have passed electronics recycling laws, with most putting responsibility on the manufacturer to recycle the waste with manufacturer operated recycling programs. In California, an Advanced Recycling Fee (ARF) fee is paid by the consumer upon purchase of electronics which goes towards a state-wide e-waste recycling initiative.

Data Destruction Guidelines

NIST 800-88 guidelines are data sanitization guidelines put in place by the National Institute of Standards and Technology. These guidelines have been widely recognized and utilized by a variety of industries and governments as the gold standard for data destruction.

NIST guidelines use three methods of data sanitization: Clear, Purge and Destroy.

Aside from NIST guidelines, there are also the DoD 5220.22-M data wiping standards set in place by the Department of Defense. However, these standards have become outdated to NIST 800-88 methods.

What is the most Secure Data Destruction Method Available Today?

Physically destroying your data storage devices is by far the most secure method of data destruction. Shredding data storage devices meets and exceeds both DoD 5220.22-M and NIST 800-88 data sanitization guidelines.

How can Organizations get in touch with AIT for their data destruction needs?

Just click the button below to get started.

We will get back to you swiftly with a solution tailor-made for you and your team!

Leave A Comment