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How to sell, trade or donate an old phone or computer

With the holidays here, you could be getting a new phone, computer and other electronic devices as gifts, or for yourself. That raises the question of what you should do with your old, outdated tech gadget.

The Federal Trade Commission and Consumer Reports have some advice on how to get rid of old electronics and put them to good use, either reselling, trading in or donating your old electronics.

Back up and transfer information

If you've upgraded to a new phone or
Photo Credit: AP / Kiichiro Sato

If you've upgraded to a new phone or computer and have decided to part with the old device, the first step is to make sure is to properly back up and transfer whatever data, files, music, apps, contacts and photos you want to keep onto your new one or another storage device, according to Consumer Reports and Livewire.

If you're trading in a phone, you can transfer the data either through the cloud or through a computer. Make sure your new device has all the important stuff you want from your old one, because once you wipe the device clean, it will difficult to impossible to recover that one missing song or photo you're looking for.

If you're trading in a computer, you can transfer the data through a cloud or internet storage. If the computer is not hooked up to Wi-Fi or the internet, an external storage unit or ethernet cable can be used to help transfer whatever items you want to save to another device.

Remove hard drives, SIM and SD cards

If you're trading in a computer, it's a
Photo Credit: AP / Kiichiro Sato

If you're trading in a computer, it's a good idea to remove the hard drive to prevent any loss of personal information, according to Consumer Reports. You can transfer the hard drive to another computer, use it as portable storage or use it for safe keeping.

If you want to keep the hard drive intact when you trade in the machine, you need to not only wipe the hard drive clean -- this only makes the data invisible, but not disappear -- but also use special software to make the data left on the hard drive unrecoverable, according to Livewire. Since this step will make it impossible to recover any information, ensure that everything you need is off the computer before taking this step.

SIM and SD cards should also be removed from computers and phones, according to the FTC, as they can contain photos or other personal information on them. If you want to get rid of them, make sure they also are wiped clean of any data that may be stored on them.

'Wipe' your device

According to Consumer Reports, before wiping a phone
Photo Credit: AP / Carolyn Kaster

According to Consumer Reports, before wiping a phone clean, make sure the encryption for the device is on, as it will encrypt any data that's left after a factory reset and make it difficult to recover anything on it.

If you have an iPhone, encrypting the data is as simple as making sure the passcode is in place before resetting the device. Some older Android models may need software to encrypt the data before wiping out the device, but most newer models should be able to opt into encryption in the security portion of your settings menu to enable it. You should make sure encryption is enabled before resetting the device.

Once the phone's encryption is set, you can either hit "Reset" in the Settings part of an iPhone, or "Factory data reset" in the Settings mode of an Android device, and after clicking through several warnings, the phone will clean out the data in the reset.

Once it's completed, it's a good idea to click through the reset phone to make sure no phone numbers, text messages, photos, search histories, e-mails, downloaded apps or other personal information are left, according to the FTC.

Option 1: Selling your device

If you want to try and sell your
Photo Credit: AP / Carolyn Kaster

If you want to try and sell your device yourself, you can list the item on ebay or another reselling site, according to Consumer Reports. There usually are people looking for specific devices to refurbish or reuse -- even some older models sometimes have features that have been phased out or devices that are no longer sold by manufacturers.

You can also trade in phones for cash at GameStop locations and ecoATMs, machines that will give you money for phones on the spot. Other retailers such as Amazon and Best Buy will allow you to trade in phones or computers for gift cards or credit.

Option 2: Trading your device

If you're looking to get rid of an
Photo Credit: AP / Kiichiro Sato

If you're looking to get rid of an old phone, sometimes you can trade the device in for value on a new one. Of course, this is a more fluid option, as offers and values can vary from retailer to retailer, depending on what model phone you're trading in, what condition it's in and how much memory it has, according to Consumer Reports. But if you're looking to upgrade on your own or put the money towards another device or hardware, this may be an option for you.

Option 3: Donate your device

If you'd like to donate your old device
Photo Credit: AP / Paul Sakuma

If you'd like to donate your old device for a good cause, you can contact your cell carrier or visit other retailers such as Staples, Goodwill, Target, Lowe's and more. You can find what locations accept computer or phone donations at or, according to Consumer Reports.

The FTC suggests you can also recycle your device, and you can find a location through the Environmental Protection Agency or your carrier.

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