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IT security tip: How to safely dispose of electronic devices

The holidays are over, and you have some shiny new electronic gadgets. On the flip side, you also have some old devices that you no longer use. Before you dispose of old electronics, which might contain a significant amount of sensitive information, you need to secure them properly.

Why is it important to dispose of electronic devices safely?

In addition to effectively securing sensitive information on electronic devices, it is important to follow best practices for electronic device disposal. Computers, smartphones, and cameras allow you to keep a great deal of information at your fingertips, but when you dispose of, donate, or recycle an electronic device, you may inadvertently disclose sensitive information that could be exploited by cybercriminals.

How to effectively remove data from your device

There are a variety of methods for permanently erasing data from your devices (also called sanitizing). Because sanitization processes vary, it is important to use the method that applies to that device.

The Cybersecurity & Infrastructure Security Agency (CISA) suggests:

  • Smartphones or tablets: Perform a hard or factory reset. This will return the device to its original, out-of-the-box settings.
  • Computers: Use a disk cleaning utility, or an overwriting utility (which writes random binary data over the top of existing data), to permanently remove the data stored on the drive. You can also physically destroy the drive using a magnetic degausser or drive-shredding service.

For more information, please visit CISA’s Proper Disposal of Electronic Devices page.

Disposing of University of Utah devices

Information Security Policy 4-004 outlines how the University of Utah handles data removal from and disposal of university devices. If you have questions about the policy, please contact the Information Security Office’s Governance, Risk & Compliance team at You can also reach out to University Surplus and Salvage about disposing of university e-waste.

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Last Updated: 4/8/24