What happens to the hard drive in my device if I donate it or trade it in?


There are a couple of times a year, most often around back-to-school and the holidays, when retailers push “trade in” programs to get consumers to upgrade from their current computers, phones and tablets to the latest and greatest model. Alternatively, if there is no upgrade or trade in offer, you might be looking at donating your device to a local shelter or non-profit. It can be an afterthought, but you’ll want to know what’s happening to your hard drive when you donate or upgrade.


Read the fine print
National retailers will likely advertise their “trade in” program and include a line or two about the release of your data/ hard drives. They may or may not spell out what’s happening to your hard drive or data. If it’s not explained in the fine print, ask!


Before you pack up your desktop computer, call the store you’re donating to or upgrading with. Ask if your hard drive will be removed and destroyed, or if it’s just going to be degaussed or wiped. It’s up to you to decide if you are okay with the explanation that your data will be wiped. In reality, the data is still on the drive, but the marker on the hard drive for where the data lives is what is being “erased.”


The only way to truly know your data won’t fall into the wrong hands, is to remove it and have it physically destroyed before selling or donating your device. Ideally, your drive is destroyed securely by a NAID certified vendor for hard drive destruction. See a full list of NAID certified vendors for hard drive destruction, here.


It’s unlikely that the retailer would offer you full trade in value for your device if it were missing a hard drive, but again, ask.


After all, is getting $100 or $200 for an old device worth risking your personally identifiable information being on a hard drive in the hands of a retailer?