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Preparing your old iPad for sale in five easy steps (Update)

It appears from the huge pre-sales of the new iPad that a lot of people are getting the new model. We've also heard from a number of iPad "recyclers" that they're seeing record numbers of people who are selling their original iPad or iPad 2 to trade up to the new model. Since I'm among those who recycle their iPads whenever a new model appears, I thought I'd share my method of getting the old devices prepared for sale.

There are five steps that you should take to prepare your old iPad for a new owner, even if it's just going to be turned over to a friend or relative. Follow along as I go through these steps:

1) Cancel your recurring monthly data plan if you have a Wi-Fi + 3G model

This first step is only necessary if you have a Wi-Fi + 3G iPad. You'll want to make sure that you no longer need the 3G service before you do this, but it's a necessity if you don't want to continue getting billed every month for cellular data.

Update: If you are staying with the same carrier and using the same plan, do not cancel your data plan, and don't follow Step 2 of this post. You can swap the SIM from your current iPad and put it into the new iPad. Steps 1 and 2 area really only useful if a) you're switching data carriers or b) getting rid of your iPad and not purchasing a new one.

Go into Settings on your iPad, then tap the Cellular Data icon. You'll want to tap the View Account button, after which you'll need to log into your account using the email address and password that you used when you signed up for the service. Once you're signed in, you'll see an account overview (screenshot below). The shows the data plan you're using and the status of that plan (how many MB or GB you've used and how many are left).

Next, tap the Add Data or Change Plan button. This brings up a list of plan options for your wireless carrier. To cancel the service, tap the Cancel Plan button. The following screen appears:

You'll be asked if you want to cancel your plan and delete the account now, or cancel the plan and have the account deleted after 60 days of inactivity (screenshot below). Make your choice, and then tap the Continue button.

After tapping the Cancel Plan button, your iPad pauses momentarily and then displays a note that tells you that you will be notified of the changes as soon as they are processed by your carrier. In my case with AT&T, that took about 30 seconds.

2) Remove the SIM if you have a Wi-Fi +3G model

Next, you'll want to remove the SIM from your iPad. Once again, this is only necessary if you have a Wi-Fi + 3G model. Locate the SIM door on your iPad. On the original model, it is located lower left side as you face the screen. On the iPad 2, it's on the top left side. Now take a very skinny paper clip or one of Apple's SIM removal tools (which they no longer seem to provide, by the way), and push it into the hole at the top of the SIM door. The door pops open, revealing the SIM in its tray (see photo below). Pull it all the way out of the iPad, remove the SIM, and keep it as a souvenir. I have a pile of these things...

When you're done, slide the door back into place until it clicks. Note that you'll get a "No SIM card installed" error message on your iPad the first time you power it on after you remove the SIM.

3) Back up your device

OK, hopefully you're on a Wi-Fi network for the next step, backing up your iPad. Fortunately for all of us, we no longer need to back our iPads up to a Mac or PC unless we really want to. Instead, tap on the iCloud button in Settings and then tap the Storage & Backup button (screenshot below).

Chances are good that your iPad has automatically backed itself up when it is plugged in at night. If it hasn't met the backup criteria of being plugged in, locked, and connected to Wi-Fi, the Storage & Backup screen will show that you haven't been backed up in a while. You can plug in your iPad and then tap the Back Up Now button to force a backup (screenshot below). Wait until the backup is done before moving on to step 4.

4) Delete everything

Quoting the great line from Aliens, "I say we take off and nuke the site from orbit. It's the only way to be sure." The iPad equivalent of nuking the site from orbit is completely wiping its storage.

The iPad and iPad 2 both support hardware encryption, so Apple's method of wiping your data is stated as "Erases user settings and information by removing the encryption key that protects the data. This process takes just a few minutes."

To "nuke the site from orbit" is pretty easy. Go to Settings, tap on General, and then tap the Reset button. Next, tap the Erase All Content and Settings button (screenshot below).

With a few minutes, your iPad is cleaned of all apps, data, and setting that you had on the device. You probably want to wait until after your new iPad is set up and running to do this...

5) Clean it up physically

Many of the "recycling" services will actually pay more for iPads that look brand new. If your iPad spent most of its life in a case and has no scratches or dents, you'll get top dollar. What I always do before boxing up my old gear to send to the recyclers is to clean it physically.

The best way to do this is to use any of the commercial cleaning sprays and a microfiber cloth. My current favorite brand of cleaner is the Antec Advance line, which comes in bottles of various sizes and will last a long time. Rather than spray the cleaner right onto the device, I always spray the cloth lightly and then begin wiping the screen and body to make sure that any and all smears are gone.

Let the iPad dry completely, and then give it another close look to make sure you haven't missed something.

That's it! Your iPad is now ready to leave your hands and go on to be used by someone else. Give it a goodbye kiss if you'd like -- just don't smear up the screen you just cleaned.

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