Discarding dead cell phone without purging my data

Questions on how we spend our money and our time - consumer goods and services, home and vehicle, leisure and recreational activities
Post Reply
gd
Posts: 1373
Joined: Sun Nov 15, 2009 8:35 am
Location: MA, USA

Discarding dead cell phone without purging my data

Post by gd » Wed Aug 15, 2018 7:58 am

I've got a smart phone that had a dunking, and never worked again- no chance to reset. I've seen some online discussions indicating it might be a battery issue, suggesting it can be reactivated with my data intact. No SIM card in this model. I have no interest in spending further time restoring the phone, and wish to simply discard it responsibly. My understanding is that some disposal organizations try to refurbish them, which I don't want. Short of a hammer, what's safe and responsible?

neilpilot
Posts: 1811
Joined: Fri Dec 04, 2015 1:46 pm
Location: Memphis area

Re: Discarding dead cell phone without purging my data

Post by neilpilot » Wed Aug 15, 2018 8:16 am

I assume you are set on discarding the phone, and that it has a removable battery. Before you do, remove the battery and leave the phone in a very slow oven (150-175F) for 3-4 hours. Then remove it, allow it to cool to room temperature, and then insert the battery and plug it into a charger. If it works after this treatment, you maybe able to do a reset. If it doesn't, nothing lost.

retiringwhen
Posts: 397
Joined: Sat Jul 08, 2017 10:09 am
Location: New Jersey, USA

Re: Discarding dead cell phone without purging my data

Post by retiringwhen » Wed Aug 15, 2018 8:18 am

gd wrote:
Wed Aug 15, 2018 7:58 am
I've got a smart phone that had a dunking, and never worked again- no chance to reset. I've seen some online discussions indicating it might be a battery issue, suggesting it can be reactivated with my data intact. No SIM card in this model. I have no interest in spending further time restoring the phone, and wish to simply discard it responsibly. My understanding is that some disposal organizations try to refurbish them, which I don't want. Short of a hammer, what's safe and responsible?
The US government considers a hammer appropriate means of protecting the data in such a situation. I can tell you, the effort expended can be cathartic :happy

Seriously, there is not much you can do unless you wish to try and resurrect the phone’s operations. The memory is almost assuredly integral to the main board in the phone. Remove the battery before smashing.

You can assume no one cares about your data, and just put it in recycle stream as well. That is up to you. I personally would not do that.

hudson
Posts: 1456
Joined: Fri Apr 06, 2007 9:15 am

Re: Discarding dead cell phone without purging my data

Post by hudson » Wed Aug 15, 2018 8:28 am

gd wrote:
Wed Aug 15, 2018 7:58 am
I've got a smart phone that had a dunking, and never worked again- no chance to reset. I've seen some online discussions indicating it might be a battery issue, suggesting it can be reactivated with my data intact. No SIM card in this model. I have no interest in spending further time restoring the phone, and wish to simply discard it responsibly. My understanding is that some disposal organizations try to refurbish them, which I don't want. Short of a hammer, what's safe and responsible?
I would treat a dead phone like an unwanted hard drive. I would either store it somewhere indefinitely, or I would physically destroy it...then pass it to the recycler.

When I was working, we had a service that took all of our tech stuff for recycling...hard drives would be shredded. We would cut all hard drives into fourths before sending them out...we had a machine shop.

Where I live, the local landfill takes old electronics.

Mike Scott
Posts: 925
Joined: Fri Jul 19, 2013 2:45 pm

Re: Discarding dead cell phone without purging my data

Post by Mike Scott » Wed Aug 15, 2018 8:35 am

I am a fan of the 8lb sledge hammer / anvil technique for "purging" small digital devices. It works and I enjoy it. Dropping it into a shredder is effective but much less satisfying.

gotester2000
Posts: 544
Joined: Sun Nov 12, 2017 1:59 am

Re: Discarding dead cell phone without purging my data

Post by gotester2000 » Wed Aug 15, 2018 8:46 am

Remove the battery and drive over it.

criticalmass
Posts: 545
Joined: Wed Feb 12, 2014 10:58 pm

Re: Discarding dead cell phone without purging my data

Post by criticalmass » Wed Aug 15, 2018 10:08 am

The most important thing is to dispose of it responsibly. Ignore “advice” to put your phone in the oven or toss it in the trash. Heating a lithium battery even to 300 degrees can easily cause it to catch on fire, a runaway thermal event. That means it burns extremely hot, releases a lot of highly toxic gases, and you can’t put it out until all fuel is gone because it supplies its own oxygen.

If you can, remove first the battery. Home Depot, Lowe’s, local collections, etc. accept lithium batteries for responsible recycling.

Many collection places also accept phones and electronics for responsible recycling and disposal. See these sites for location information near you:
Finally, carriers like T-Mobile or manufactures like LG include postage paid envelopes to send old phones for proper disposal.

The information on your phone is likely dead or not viable to retrieve based on your description. But if you are paranoid break the Sd card or on board mounted storage chip. No need to break the rest of the electronics.

User avatar
cheese_breath
Posts: 7818
Joined: Wed Sep 14, 2011 7:08 pm

Re: Discarding dead cell phone without purging my data

Post by cheese_breath » Wed Aug 15, 2018 10:10 am

Trash compactor
The surest way to know the future is when it becomes the past.

bob60014
Posts: 607
Joined: Mon Jul 31, 2017 8:59 pm
Location: The Land Beyond ORD

Re: Discarding dead cell phone without purging my data

Post by bob60014 » Wed Aug 15, 2018 10:42 am

Take the battery out, pry the back cover off even if it's a nonreplaceable battery, and take the hammer to the phone. Wear goggles!

Jack FFR1846
Posts: 7613
Joined: Tue Dec 31, 2013 7:05 am

Re: Discarding dead cell phone without purging my data

Post by Jack FFR1846 » Wed Aug 15, 2018 10:59 am

Buncha amateurs.

I scrap electronics for a hobby and for extra money. I can tell you that if you drill a hole in a hard drive platter, the data is recoverable. Magnets are your friend there. Breaking hundreds of disks into hundreds of pieces is your friend. But be careful, some game systems like X box use glass disks, so you want to know that you're smashing a little window.

For a phone, when I have one that I want the data to be gone, I first pull the Li-ion battery and put it in my box (I get $$ for them). Then I pull the plastics off the phone and if it's a stupid iphone that everything is glued to an aluminum back, I pull everything off the back. Then everything that's a PC board or chip gets put in the microwave for 30 seconds. Once out, any IC's are hammered against a vice. Then I break the board in half. One half goes in my cell phone board box and the other half in my low grade box.
Bogle: Smart Beta is stupid

LarryAllen
Posts: 1075
Joined: Fri Apr 22, 2016 9:41 am
Location: State of Confusion

Re: Discarding dead cell phone without purging my data

Post by LarryAllen » Wed Aug 15, 2018 11:00 am

What data are you concerned about? Is there actual sensitive information on there?

Nate79
Posts: 3316
Joined: Thu Aug 11, 2016 6:24 pm
Location: Portland, OR

Re: Discarding dead cell phone without purging my data

Post by Nate79 » Wed Aug 15, 2018 11:22 am

Take the battery off and get creative.

tesuzuki2002
Posts: 484
Joined: Fri Dec 11, 2015 12:40 pm

Re: Discarding dead cell phone without purging my data

Post by tesuzuki2002 » Wed Aug 15, 2018 11:41 am

gd wrote:
Wed Aug 15, 2018 7:58 am
I've got a smart phone that had a dunking, and never worked again- no chance to reset. I've seen some online discussions indicating it might be a battery issue, suggesting it can be reactivated with my data intact. No SIM card in this model. I have no interest in spending further time restoring the phone, and wish to simply discard it responsibly. My understanding is that some disposal organizations try to refurbish them, which I don't want. Short of a hammer, what's safe and responsible?
I use guns... preferably .5 cal or Larger... enjoy your freedom!!

obgraham
Posts: 1116
Joined: Mon Jan 28, 2013 7:30 pm

Re: Discarding dead cell phone without purging my data

Post by obgraham » Wed Aug 15, 2018 12:56 pm

Another vote for the hammer. Why complicate matters?

donfairplay
Posts: 134
Joined: Mon Oct 06, 2008 8:16 pm

Re: Discarding dead cell phone without purging my data

Post by donfairplay » Wed Aug 15, 2018 1:10 pm

Jack FFR1846 wrote:
Wed Aug 15, 2018 10:59 am
Buncha amateurs.

I scrap electronics for a hobby and for extra money. I can tell you that if you drill a hole in a hard drive platter, the data is recoverable. Magnets are your friend there. Breaking hundreds of disks into hundreds of pieces is your friend. But be careful, some game systems like X box use glass disks, so you want to know that you're smashing a little window.

For a phone, when I have one that I want the data to be gone, I first pull the Li-ion battery and put it in my box (I get $$ for them). Then I pull the plastics off the phone and if it's a stupid iphone that everything is glued to an aluminum back, I pull everything off the back. Then everything that's a PC board or chip gets put in the microwave for 30 seconds. Once out, any IC's are hammered against a vice. Then I break the board in half. One half goes in my cell phone board box and the other half in my low grade box.
Smartphones don't have HDD platter storage tape though, their storage is NAND chips. (edit: re-read your post and said chips are put in the microwave, yea that's pretty effective! :D )

If it was working, I would rewrite the data after a factory reset; but since it isn't working, you might be better off taking it to Best Buy or Staples e-waste recycling center.

I guess the hammer is satisfying, but there's no guarantee you're cracking the NAND chips when you're doing that. A kitchen blender, perhaps.

adamthesmythe
Posts: 2206
Joined: Mon Sep 22, 2014 4:47 pm

Re: Discarding dead cell phone without purging my data

Post by adamthesmythe » Wed Aug 15, 2018 4:17 pm

donfairplay wrote:
Wed Aug 15, 2018 1:10 pm
Jack FFR1846 wrote:
Wed Aug 15, 2018 10:59 am
Buncha amateurs.

I scrap electronics for a hobby and for extra money. I can tell you that if you drill a hole in a hard drive platter, the data is recoverable. Magnets are your friend there. Breaking hundreds of disks into hundreds of pieces is your friend. But be careful, some game systems like X box use glass disks, so you want to know that you're smashing a little window.

For a phone, when I have one that I want the data to be gone, I first pull the Li-ion battery and put it in my box (I get $$ for them). Then I pull the plastics off the phone and if it's a stupid iphone that everything is glued to an aluminum back, I pull everything off the back. Then everything that's a PC board or chip gets put in the microwave for 30 seconds. Once out, any IC's are hammered against a vice. Then I break the board in half. One half goes in my cell phone board box and the other half in my low grade box.
Smartphones don't have HDD platter storage tape though, their storage is NAND chips. (edit: re-read your post and said chips are put in the microwave, yea that's pretty effective! :D )

If it was working, I would rewrite the data after a factory reset; but since it isn't working, you might be better off taking it to Best Buy or Staples e-waste recycling center.

I guess the hammer is satisfying, but there's no guarantee you're cracking the NAND chips when you're doing that. A kitchen blender, perhaps.
Breaking a hard drive platter into many pieces turns data recovery into an NSA-level task.

But getting data off of an intact flash memory chip is not as hard. It would still require a fairly determined person. A good hammering might leave the chip intact.

I'm not sure what a microwave oven would do- what is the mechanism for destruction? Thermal? Electrical?

User avatar
munemaker
Posts: 3393
Joined: Sat Jan 18, 2014 6:14 pm

Re: Discarding dead cell phone without purging my data

Post by munemaker » Wed Aug 15, 2018 4:19 pm

Do what I do with old hard disk drives. Beat it to death with a sledge hammer and drop it into a very deep lake.

User avatar
CaliJim
Posts: 2912
Joined: Sun Feb 28, 2010 8:47 pm
Location: California, near the beach

Re: Discarding dead cell phone without purging my data

Post by CaliJim » Wed Aug 15, 2018 4:56 pm

remove battery and KILL IT WITH FIRE

(ie: propane torch, in a well ventilated non-flamable area....back patio on a breezy day))
-calijim- | | For more info, click this Wiki

peseta
Posts: 64
Joined: Mon Mar 09, 2015 11:40 pm

Re: Discarding dead cell phone without purging my data

Post by peseta » Wed Aug 15, 2018 8:19 pm

This may be heresy, but after doing a factory reset and removing any battery, I've just slipped phones inside my household trash bag. Unless you live in an area where people dumpster dive, the probability that someone is (1) going to discover the phone, and (2) actually try to get it operable after being mixed in with the trash are very low in my opinion.

peseta

Jack FFR1846
Posts: 7613
Joined: Tue Dec 31, 2013 7:05 am

Re: Discarding dead cell phone without purging my data

Post by Jack FFR1846 » Wed Aug 15, 2018 8:24 pm

adamthesmythe wrote:
Wed Aug 15, 2018 4:17 pm
donfairplay wrote:
Wed Aug 15, 2018 1:10 pm
Jack FFR1846 wrote:
Wed Aug 15, 2018 10:59 am
Buncha amateurs.

I scrap electronics for a hobby and for extra money. I can tell you that if you drill a hole in a hard drive platter, the data is recoverable. Magnets are your friend there. Breaking hundreds of disks into hundreds of pieces is your friend. But be careful, some game systems like X box use glass disks, so you want to know that you're smashing a little window.

For a phone, when I have one that I want the data to be gone, I first pull the Li-ion battery and put it in my box (I get $$ for them). Then I pull the plastics off the phone and if it's a stupid iphone that everything is glued to an aluminum back, I pull everything off the back. Then everything that's a PC board or chip gets put in the microwave for 30 seconds. Once out, any IC's are hammered against a vice. Then I break the board in half. One half goes in my cell phone board box and the other half in my low grade box.
Smartphones don't have HDD platter storage tape though, their storage is NAND chips. (edit: re-read your post and said chips are put in the microwave, yea that's pretty effective! :D )

If it was working, I would rewrite the data after a factory reset; but since it isn't working, you might be better off taking it to Best Buy or Staples e-waste recycling center.

I guess the hammer is satisfying, but there's no guarantee you're cracking the NAND chips when you're doing that. A kitchen blender, perhaps.
Breaking a hard drive platter into many pieces turns data recovery into an NSA-level task.

But getting data off of an intact flash memory chip is not as hard. It would still require a fairly determined person. A good hammering might leave the chip intact.

I'm not sure what a microwave oven would do- what is the mechanism for destruction? Thermal? Electrical?
I believe the microwave induces high voltage in the chips. The visible and audible results look sort of like small welding starts from an electric welder. So I guess both electrical and then thermal.
Bogle: Smart Beta is stupid

Fresh Air
Posts: 30
Joined: Thu May 19, 2016 9:04 am

Re: Discarding dead cell phone without purging my data

Post by Fresh Air » Wed Aug 15, 2018 8:43 pm

donfairplay wrote:
Wed Aug 15, 2018 1:10 pm
A kitchen blender, perhaps.
Accurate. I just spent the last 20 minutes on youtube rewatching the old "Will it Blend?" videos.

Trism
Posts: 98
Joined: Mon Jul 18, 2016 6:34 pm

Re: Discarding dead cell phone without purging my data

Post by Trism » Thu Aug 16, 2018 4:07 am

Do you have State secrets stored on that phone?

mouses
Posts: 3623
Joined: Sat Oct 24, 2015 12:24 am

Re: Discarding dead cell phone without purging my data

Post by mouses » Thu Aug 16, 2018 6:23 am

munemaker wrote:
Wed Aug 15, 2018 4:19 pm
Do what I do with old hard disk drives. Beat it to death with a sledge hammer and drop it into a very deep lake.
Don't trash lakes.

rich126
Posts: 108
Joined: Thu Mar 01, 2018 4:56 pm

Re: Discarding dead cell phone without purging my data

Post by rich126 » Thu Aug 16, 2018 6:27 am

Jack FFR1846 wrote:
Wed Aug 15, 2018 10:59 am
Buncha amateurs.

I scrap electronics for a hobby and for extra money. I can tell you that if you drill a hole in a hard drive platter, the data is recoverable. Magnets are your friend there. Breaking hundreds of disks into hundreds of pieces is your friend. But be careful, some game systems like X box use glass disks, so you want to know that you're smashing a little window.

For a phone, when I have one that I want the data to be gone, I first pull the Li-ion battery and put it in my box (I get $$ for them). Then I pull the plastics off the phone and if it's a stupid iphone that everything is glued to an aluminum back, I pull everything off the back. Then everything that's a PC board or chip gets put in the microwave for 30 seconds. Once out, any IC's are hammered against a vice. Then I break the board in half. One half goes in my cell phone board box and the other half in my low grade box.
I agree. I've taken apart disks in computers and destroyed the platters but you have to wear safety glasses and put the platters in a covering (maybe a paper bag) to contain the fragments since they will shatter and the fragments are sharp.

criticalmass
Posts: 545
Joined: Wed Feb 12, 2014 10:58 pm

Re: Discarding dead cell phone without purging my data

Post by criticalmass » Thu Aug 16, 2018 8:54 am

munemaker wrote:
Wed Aug 15, 2018 4:19 pm
Do what I do with old hard disk drives. Beat it to death with a sledge hammer and drop it into a very deep lake.
Hard drives, phones, and other electronics contain heavy metals and other highly toxic substances that never biodegrade. Please dispose these materials responsibly instead of turning lakes into toxic waste sites. Also consider animals and people who drink from the same watershed.

aristotelian
Posts: 4566
Joined: Wed Jan 11, 2017 8:05 pm

Re: Discarding dead cell phone without purging my data

Post by aristotelian » Thu Aug 16, 2018 9:13 am

Don't forget to remove the old SD card if you had one. Put it in your new phone and keep the data.

If you are really concerned about your data on the old phone, open it up and locate anything on the motherboard that looks like it could be a memory chip. Rip out and either destroy or keep in a safe location.

DetroitRick
Posts: 586
Joined: Wed Mar 23, 2016 9:28 am

Re: Discarding dead cell phone without purging my data

Post by DetroitRick » Thu Aug 16, 2018 12:48 pm

Besides the physical aspect, this might also be a good time to also de-authorize that phone for any apps you have that use this feature. For both security and administrative purposes.

At least 3 types come to mind where this is especially useful - password managers, your Google account (or any email provider), and the Kindle app. De-authorizing the Kindle app both precludes both downloads and purchases, and frees up your quota for books where there are limits on active downloads. De-authorizing a password manager is useful in the unlikely event the dead phone is resurrected. Same with your Google account.

Anyway, these can be done anytime, but probably easiest to handle while phone disposal is fresh on your mind.

obgraham
Posts: 1116
Joined: Mon Jan 28, 2013 7:30 pm

Re: Discarding dead cell phone without purging my data

Post by obgraham » Thu Aug 16, 2018 6:03 pm

I think some of you have been watching too much CSI etc.

After clobbering the phone to bits with a sledge, please explain who and how any data can be retrieved, using what readily available technology?

User avatar
Ged
Posts: 3574
Joined: Mon May 13, 2013 1:48 pm
Location: Roke

Re: Discarding dead cell phone without purging my data

Post by Ged » Thu Aug 16, 2018 6:15 pm

Thermite.

Mix 75% iron oxide with 25% aluminum powder in a clay or concrete pot. Ignite it with a soufflé torch or a butane lighter and voila, stick your phone in and watch it melt.
Last edited by Ged on Fri Aug 17, 2018 9:21 am, edited 1 time in total.

CurlyDave
Posts: 685
Joined: Thu Jul 28, 2016 11:37 am

Re: Discarding dead cell phone without purging my data

Post by CurlyDave » Fri Aug 17, 2018 1:59 am

obgraham wrote:
Wed Aug 15, 2018 12:56 pm
Another vote for the hammer. Why complicate matters?
Big hammer. Followed by fire.

User avatar
JoMoney
Posts: 5526
Joined: Tue Jul 23, 2013 5:31 am

Re: Discarding dead cell phone without purging my data

Post by JoMoney » Fri Aug 17, 2018 6:16 am

obgraham wrote:
Thu Aug 16, 2018 6:03 pm
I think some of you have been watching too much CSI etc.

After clobbering the phone to bits with a sledge, please explain who and how any data can be retrieved, using what readily available technology?
It depends on whether or not the phones storage was encrypted, and if the memory chip is specificly destroyed (and it might not be if you're just haphazardly smashing the glass and plastic and not knowing which component is the critical one), then you just take the chip (might be even easier to get to since someone smashed away the case shielding it).
https://hackaday.com/2012/09/20/reading ... ontroller/
http://flash-extractor.com/
http://spritesmods.com/?f=had&art=ftdinand
"To achieve satisfactory investment results is easier than most people realize; to achieve superior results is harder than it looks." - Benjamin Graham

User avatar
Pancakes-Eggs-Bacon
Posts: 151
Joined: Wed May 02, 2018 6:17 am

Re: Discarding dead cell phone without purging my data

Post by Pancakes-Eggs-Bacon » Fri Aug 17, 2018 9:19 am

What phone Operating System? Assuming it's a recent version of iOS or Android, your phone is likely already fully encrypted by default.

gd
Posts: 1373
Joined: Sun Nov 15, 2009 8:35 am
Location: MA, USA

Re: Discarding dead cell phone without purging my data

Post by gd » Sat Aug 18, 2018 4:46 am

OP here. To tie this off, I do not believe anyone's going to spend any effort extracting and reading chips from my low-end, old android phone. There were indications the problem might have been the battery or charging system, in which case it is possible an organization collecting and re-purposing old phones might stick a new battery in it and... there's my data. Discarding the back separately and obviously damaging innards should do it. Just wondered if there was a safe disposal path such as trustworthy retailer.

User avatar
Bammerman
Posts: 297
Joined: Fri Apr 06, 2007 4:58 pm

Re: Discarding dead cell phone without purging my data

Post by Bammerman » Sun Aug 19, 2018 11:48 am

I can't believe that no one here has mentioned that absolutely guaranteed method, EMP (electromagnetic pulse).

But, more seriously, how about subjecting the phone to a powerful magnetic force? I remember, as a boy, constructing an electromagnet by wrapping many turns of insulated copper wire around a big old nail, and then connecting the ends of the wire to 110v house current. WOW! In retrospect, I'm wondering how I managed not to burn our house down! Or to electrocute myself. But maybe you could figure out some non-fatal (to you) way of hitting that phone with a heavy dose of magnetism. Wouldn't that wipe out any stored data?

Oh -- I forgot to mention, what about submerging the phone in a (glass) jar of sulfuric acid? That should do the trick.
(edit)

Post Reply