How to remotely erase an iPhone or iPad that was lost or stolen

By , Aug 9, 2014

erase this iPhone situation

Continuing on our series of post about Find My iPhone and Activation Lock, we’re going to look at yet another feature that will ensure the data contained on your iPhone or iPad is safe in case someone gets ahold of it.

We previously saw how to protect, track, and activate Lost Mode for any iOS device with Find My iPhone. In this tutorial, we’re going to learn how to remotely erase an iPhone or iPad that might have been lost or stolen to make sure your data remains safe, no matter what happens.

Find My iPhone can be used from any iOS device with the dedicated Find My iPhone app. Alternatively, you can login to iCloud.com and use Find My iPhone from any web browser. For the purpose of this tutorial, we will be using the Find My iPhone app, but note that the steps to erase a lost or stolen iPhone would be the same regardless of whether you use the app or the browser-based version.

Important: Erasing your iPhone should be your last resort because once it’s been erased, you will not be able to use Find My iPhone to locate it.

Prerequisite: For this tutorial, we will assume that you have activated Find My iPhone on the device you are trying to erase. Obviously, if Find My iPhone is not enabled on the device, you will not be able to find and erase it.

How to erase a lost or stolen iPhone

Step 1: Launch Find My iPhone on any iOS device, such as an iPhone, iPad, or iPod touch. It’s important to note that the iOS device you use doesn’t have to be yours. You could very well be using your brother’s iPhone to track your lost iPad. What matters is that you login to the Find My iPhone app using the same Apple ID and password as the device you are trying to erase.

Find My iPhone login

Step 2: After logging in, you will see a list of all the iOS devices that are linked to your Apple ID. Tap on the device you are trying to erase to select it. You will now be able to locate the device and even get driving directions to it. At this point, we highly recommend that you put your device in Lost Mode right away.

Locate Find My iPhone Lost Mode

Step 3: Tap on the “Actions” button at the bottom of the screen to bring up the various options you have. Select “Erase.”

Find-My-iPhone-erase

Step 4: You will then be asked to confirm you want to erase your iPhone. Tap on “Erase iPhone…” to confirm.

Confirm erase iphone

Step 5: Enter your Apple ID password and tap Next.

enter apple id erase iphone

Step 6: Now you will have to enter a phone number that will appear on the Lock screen of the iPhone after it’s been erased. This phone number will be used so people who might find your phone can call you to return it to you. Enter the phone number and tap Next.

enter phone number erase iphone

Step 7: Type in a message that will be displayed along with your phone number on the Lock screen of the device you are about to erase. Tap Done when done.

Enter message erase iphone

Step 8: You will now see a message confirming that your iPhone is being erased. Tap OK to dismiss the message.

Erase iPhone started

The device you have selected to erase will now be restored, meaning all the data contained on it will be wiped out. Note that if the device is offline at the time you go through the erasing process, it obviously won’t be erased. It will be erased next time it gets online.

iPhone being restored

Once the restore has been completed, the erased device will look like this.

iPhone in Lost Mode

Anyone trying to activate the device will be unable to. Additionally, as long as the device is on and connected to the internet, you will be able to track its location with Find My iPhone.

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  • Niki Nikolaev

    But then i can’t locate my phone right?

    • http://www.idownloadblog.com Sebastien

      Correct. I updated the post to clarify this.

  • https://twitter.com/aidanharris1 Aidan Harris

    Hmm. If I erase my iPhone using FindMyiPhone it will have no service and somehow be connected to wifi?

    • http://www.idownloadblog.com Sebastien

      Correct

  • Justin Mahone

    Wait a minute, isn’t this easier than using a semi-restore when jailbroken?

    • https://twitter.com/aidanharris1 Aidan Harris

      I might be wrong (and certainly don’t want to find out) but erasing your iPhone with FindMyiPhone would very likely brick it if it were jailbroken and probably require a DFU restore in iTunes in order to fix it…

      • Andy

        I wouldn’t use the word ‘bricked’ which implies there’s no way to fix the problem, since iOS devices can DFU restore no matter what happens.

        I’ve heard erasing a jailbroken device using Find My iPhone does put your phone into a boot loop, because certain files are moved by Cydia. So I don’t know if that lost message you set will appear at all. I’m not sure if Sebastien is aware of this.

      • https://twitter.com/aidanharris1 Aidan Harris

        Perhaps I should use the word semi-bricked because yes you are correct in saying that there is always a way to restore an iOS device via DFU mode…

    • CS

      This erases /most/ things off the device. I would assume it doesn’t touch anything in the main iOS just 3rd party downloaded stuff and photos/messages. Restoring a phone means removing almost all of the iOS and putting on a fresh version. I don’t know how semi restore works and I’ve never used it. My guess is it restores your phone like iTunes does except keeps the required iOS folders and Cydia/jailbreak folders in order to boot correctly jailbroken

  • Anmol Malhotra

    Offtopic:
    Hi Sebastien Sir ,
    I wanna know why this blog isnt posting about OS X Mavericks 10.9.5… Apple has released 2 developer previews of it but i havent seen any article on both of the previews.. My ques is : Dont you know about it or its something else? Like not writing articles for small previews updates?

    • http://www.idownloadblog.com Sebastien

      we don’t cover small developer builds

      • Anmol Malhotra

        Ok :) thats what i thought..

  • Marcus

    I’ve always thought that this would brick my iPhone because it’s jailbroken. I’ve never used this feature in Find My iPhone because of that. So, is this the case? It makes sense that it would be the case, but I’m not sure. I probably won’t ever use this anyways.

  • Pato_

    What’s the next post, how to make a phone call on a iphone? Lol c’mon guys nobody coming to this site are noobs

    • http://www.eazycomputers.com/ PhoneTechJay

      Lol I was thinking the same but then I read the comments, a lot of people don’t know these things. Give them a break were trying to pass time until either more parts are leaked or until the next iPhone is announced.

  • Slim

    Please state that if your device if jailbroken it will go into a loop when erased remotely

    • GoMAD4

      Disappointed iDB hasn’t mentioned results to jailbroken phones in this article. Not the usual quality I’m used to…

      • benny001

        O shut up. How bout u stick a corn in ur ass.

      • GoMAD4

        Ok Benny, I’ve done that but I’m still disappointed. Any more suggestions?

      • benny001

        Lol. Haha

      • benny001

        Hahaha lol. Funny answer

  • yadi

    if I use erase iphone to delete my messages and pictures I won’t be able to track it right? so why does it say on the bottom of this tutorial “Anyone trying to activate the device will be unable to. Additionally, as long as the device is on and connected to the internet, you will be able to track its location with Find My iPhone.” this throws me off..