5 Stupid Mistakes To Avoid When Selling Your Old Tech

Photo: Christina Warren, Gizmodo

In these gadget-filled times, it’s likely that you’re going to have to shift some of your used tech every now and again, either to make room for an upgrade or to fund a different purchase. There’s a range of options on how to do this, but whether you go for eBay or Craigslist, these are the mistakes to avoid making along the way.

Most of the points we’re making here apply to laptops and smartphones, but they can also apply more broadly to other types of tech. Whatever you’re selling, it’s worth running through this checklist to make sure you’ve got everything covered.


1) Not taking enough photos

Screenshot: Gizmodo

Some sharp, well-lit photos are important for selling your gear online of course, but if you’ve got a popular device on your hands that’s going to fetch a decent price anyway — like an iPhone or a Fitbit tracker, say — you might be tempted to only take one or two snaps, or even use stock images to save time. Resist the temptation to be lazy!

Photos not only show potential buyers what they’re getting themselves into, but they also act as insurance for you: They show the condition of the gadget as it is before you parted with it, including any marks or scuffs. Make sure you take pictures of the device you’re selling from every angle, and in particular any noticeable damage.

Some dishonest buyers out there will try and swap the device you send them for a similar but damaged version of the same device, request a refund, and keep the device you sent them. If you don’t have photographic evidence of what you sold, this scam is easier to pull off.

For the same reason, make a note of and photograph serial numbers as well, though don’t include them in the listings. This gives you extra protection if someone does try to keep your original device and return a damaged imitation.


2) Not backing up everything you need to

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Backing up is a chore, but it’s not as frustrating as losing important files you rely on or a summer’s worth of family photos. With improving broadband and cellular speeds, and broader access to cloud services, backing up is easier than ever — and you’ve really got no excuse for not doing it.

It’s easy to think about the big stuff, like photos and that huge spreadsheet that you do all your financial planning on, but don’t forget the little stuff too: Your instant messenger conversations, the photos you’ve posted to social media, downloads you’ve saved from your browser, and anything that’s not already in the cloud.

If you’ve got the time, it’s a good idea to go through your apps one by one and make sure that any data inside them is safely stored somewhere else, whether on a different device or the web. Are your saved games safely backed up somewhere? Have you made sure your podcast listening isn’t going to be interrupted?

Even if you think you’re covered with services like Dropbox, iCloud, Google Drive, and so on, it’s worth double-checking that a final sync has happened before resetting your devices and passing them on — make sure the files you need have been copied to the cloud and your other devices.


3) Not deregistering your software and devices

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In the effort to make sure all your data, documents, and information are safely stored elsewhere, it can be all too easy to forget about apps and software you might have set up on whatever gadgets you’re dealing with, like games on your PlayStation 4 or photo editors on your MacBook Pro.

Thanks to the magic of the cloud and the various Microsoft, Apple, and Google logins we all carry around with us nowadays, getting apps and programs reinstalled is more straightforward than it used to be, but it’s not something you can ignore.

Do you still have the necessary physical media or download codes you need? Do you remember where you got all your software?.

It’s also important to deregister software and web accounts when possible, from both a logistical and security standpoint. Applications like iTunes and Photoshop limit the number of devices you can authorise, while logging out of devices on Facebook, Netflix, and so on means you’re not leaving a digital trail behind you.

In most cases, you can do these deauthorisations and logouts after you’ve sold the devices, but make sure you do them. As Apple points out, you should also deregister devices from the Find my iPhone service.


4) Not cleaning your gadgets properly

Photo: Patrick Lucas Austin, Gizmodo

Like backing up data, cleaning your gadgets can seem like a bothersome chore that you don’t actually have to put yourself through, especially if you’re shifting a high-value item that’s going to attract a good price anyway. If you ask us though, a decent clean of your gadgets is an essential part of the selling process that you don’t want to skip.

First and foremost, it can make a huge difference in the price your gadget fetches and how much interest there is in it — potential buyers put a lot of stock in the condition of whatever it is they’re buying. Dirt and dust can make your device look older or less powerful than it really is, and you don’t want that.

Cleaning up your gadgets also means you can spot any marks or damage you might not have noticed before, and add them to the listings you’re making. Any defects like this must be declared up front, even if the final price of your gear is affected—it saves so much hassle and worry down the line, it’s not worth trying to be deceptive about it.

You don’t need to devote an entire afternoon or a cupboard full of cleaning supplies to this job either: A quarter of an hour and a damp cloth will usually do the job well enough, though cotton buds and a can of compressed air won’t go amiss either. Just make sure you check the waterproofing rating of your gadgets first (our friends Lifehacker has an excellent guide on all of this here).


5) Not erasing everything properly

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You don’t want the new owner of your phone or laptop browsing through your recent vacation photos or logging into your Twitter account and posting all your poorly thought out Twitter drafts. Our devices carry a lot of data, and it’s important to erase it properly.

The good news is that this isn’t difficult or particularly time-consuming to do—it’s certainly a lot easier than it used to be, as manufacturers and software developers have wised up to the fact that yes we will be passing on our gadgets in the future. A full factory reset of your devices should be enough to wipe them.

The rise of flash storage has made undeleting files more challenging as well, and with a lot of data now stored in the cloud too, someone is going to have to work very hard to get at your documents and information—assuming you do a proper factory reset before putting your phone or laptop up for sale.

Don’t get complacent though — especially if you’re shifting a device with an older, traditional mechanical hard drive in it, where undelete software can still be effective. In this case, you might want to consider removing the drive and physically destroying it, or at least running a secure erase tool like Heidi.

We’ve covered everything you need to know about thoroughly wiping your gadgets here.

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