How to properly dispose of your non-functional iPhone

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If you’re stuck with a non-functional or suddenly dead iPhone, you may be wondering how to wipe the device clean before getting rid of it. A CyberGuy.com reader recently asked this very question, and it’s one that many people may find themselves grappling with. Here’s what Raman asked.

“How to discard an iPhone 12 which is non-functional or went suddenly dead? How to wipe the phone clean when you can’t access it unless it is repaired. I checked with Apple and the repair cost is almost the price of a new phone! – Raman”

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The unfortunate truth is that some repairs for expensive products like Apple phones and computers often cost as much as buying a new one. If you have an old iPhone, follow these steps to properly dispose of it for free or even possibly in exchange for money.

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How to dispose of an old iPhone if it is functioning

If your iPhone is still able to turn on, there are a few steps you’ll want to take before selling a phone, trading it in for a new one, or getting rid of it in any way. First, you’ll want to back up and transfer your data.

How to transfer or back up your old phone

Many carriers allow you to bring the old phone in after you purchase the new one it is replacing. In that case, you can directly transfer data from your old phone to your new device. If, however, you need to give up your old phone at the time of trade-in, sale, recycling, or donation, then you need to back up the phone before getting rid of all data. There are two main ways to back up your iPhone: physically or manually or on a Cloud service.

How to back up iPhones on Mac

While historically, Apple used to make consumers use iTunes to create all their backups, anyone running MacOS 10.15 or later version has a more direct, easier way:

  • Connect your iPhone to your Mac with the data cable provided with your iPhone (or any cable you’ve been using to connect your Mac to your iPhone)
  • Go to your dock, and click ‘Finder’
  • At the top of the Finder Window, click ‘General’
  • Select “Back up all of the data on your iPhone to this Mac”
  • Click ‘Back Up Now’

How to back up iPhones on Windows

  • Connect your iPhone to your Mac with the data cable that is compatible between your iPhone and PC
  • Open to iTunes app on your PC, click the ‘iPhone’ button on the top left of the window
  • Select ‘Summary’
  • Select ‘Back Up Now’ under ‘Backups’

How to back up iPhones to iCloud

  • Unlock your iPhone
  • On the home screen, tap ‘Settings’ (screens below will slightly be updated based on updated iOS)

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Screenshot instructions on how to select the Settings app on the iPhone. (CyberGuy.com)

  • Tap the Name of the device (usually your name or Apple ID) at the very top of the ‘Settings’ menu

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Screenshot of the Settings screen.

Screenshot instructions on how to select name of the device. (CyberGuy.com)

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Screenshot of the Apple ID page.

Instructions on how to select iCloud. (CyberGuy.com)

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Screenshot of the iCloud screen.

How to select iCloud Backup on an iPhone. (CyberGuy.com)

  • Tap the toggle to turn ‘iCloud Backup’ on (it should be green)

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Screenshot of the Backup screen.

Instructions on how to turn on iCloud Backup. (CyberGuy.com)

  • To manually perform a backup now, tap ‘Back Up Now’

Once iCloud is setup, it will automatically back up the following any time it is connected to the internet:

  • App data
  • Apple Watch backups
  • Device settings
  • Home screen and app organization
  • iMessage, text (SMS), and MMS messages
  • Photos and videos on your iPhone, iPad, and iPod touch
  • Purchase history from Apple services, like your music, movies, TV shows, apps, and books
  • Ringtones
  • Visual Voicemail password (requires the SIM card that was in use during backup)

Please note that whatever you toggled on in the main iCloud menu (such as iCloud photos or Contacts) is information already stored in iCloud and is not part of the iCloud backup. That information is already kept up-to-date on all your devices sharing the same Apple ID.

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How to securely get rid of data on your iPhone

  • Make sure to unpair devices such as your Apple Watch from your phone.
  • Transfer data directly to the new device or back up your old device via iCloud or iTunes.
  • On your old device, sign out of iCloud, iTunes, and the App Store. The following steps are for signing out if you’re using iOS 10.3 or later:
    Tap on the ‘Settings’ icon
    In Settings, click on Your Name or your Apple ID
  • Tap on the ‘Settings’ icon
  • In Settings, click on Your Name or your Apple ID
  • Then on your Apple ID page, scroll down to the bottom
  • At the very bottom, tap Sign Out
  • Put in your Apple ID password, then click Turn Off

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If your device is eligible for a trade-in

Then, check if your device is eligible for a trade-in here, values range from $40-$630 at the time of publishing if you trade in your old iPhone for a new one. You can use this credit towards a new Apple product or put it on a gift card to use in the future.

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A person holing their phone over a white desk.

Outdated iPhones may be eligible for trade-ins and Amazon trade-ins. (CyberGuy.com)

Amazon also has a trade-in program for electronics where you can give your device over to the company in exchange for Amazon gift cards. All you have to do is go to Amazon’s trade-in program page and give the details of your iPhone, such as the model, storage size, etc. 

MORE: HOW TO RECYCLE YOUR OLD ELECTRONICS INTO AMAZON GIFT CARDS

How to dispose of an old iPhone if it is non-functioning

The most important thing to note, even if your iPhone is a complete dud and will not turn back on, is you should not throw it in the trash. iPhones contain a lithium battery that needs to be recycled or disposed of, but not with your household waste.

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A phone resting on the table with the SIM card taken out.

Some people may be concerned about their information when getting rid of their old phones; however, most iPhones have a SIM card that can be removed. (CyberGuy.com)

Does your phone have a SIM card or ESIM?

If you’re concerned about information on the non-functioning device, you may or may not need to be worried. Does your phone have a SIM card in it? If so, remove the SIM card before recycling any old phone. If you were using an eSIM, contact your phone carrier to have that eSIM disconnected from the device before following the next steps. You should be able to contact your carrier about installing the eSIM on your next device.

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Recycle your iPhone

You can bring any iPhone into the Apple store and have it recycled for free. You can also do this through Apple.com, you’ll just go through the same trade-in service you would if you were to be trading your phone for Apple credit. Either way, your phone will likely be deemed it needs to be recycled, not reused, and Apple will dispose of the phone and battery in an environmentally safe way. 

MORE: REPLACING YOUR IPHONE’S BATTERY IS ABOUT TO BECOME MORE EXPENSIVE

Screenshot of a notification.

iPhones can be brought to an Apple store to be recycled. (CyberGuy.com)

Other iPhone recycling options

Many carriers, electronic stores, and other organizations have recycling or donation programs at no cost to you. The Environmental Protection Agency has a list of donation and recycling programs listed.

You can recycle your phone for free through Apple or Google. There are also electronic recycling companies like Decluttr that allow you to trade in or sell your device or buy a refurbished one.

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Have you ever been stuck with a non-functional or dead iPhone? What did you do with it? Let us know by writing us at CyberGuy.com/Contact 

FOR MORE OF MY TIPS, SUBSCRIBE TO MY FREE CYBERGUY REPORT NEWSLETTER BY HEADING TO CYBERGUY.COM/NEWSLETTER 

Copyright 2023 CyberGuy.com.  All rights reserved.



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