How to find, and even erase, a lost iPhone, iPad or Mac

How to find, and even erase, a lost iPhone, iPad or Mac
Mac Tip #562, 28 November 2012

While my partner arrived home safely from an overseas trip, her iPhone didn’t. It was lost, plain and simple. The loss of the device itself was annoying, but more worrying was that it could potentially give the finder access to confidential information. Luckily, if you’re using iOS 6, it needn’t be a problem. She used iCloud to remotely delete the phone, and to set up an alert in case it was found. The whole process took only a few moments. Here’s how it works.

This feature isn’t restricted to just iPhones.

Quick Start

  1. Set up the device to be found, under Settings or System Preferences.
  2. Set up iCloud on the device.
  3. Log in at and click on Find My iPhone.
  4. Select a device to take actions that affect it.

If this Tip was useful, please leave a comment letting us know. Want more detail? Read the full Tip below.

Find my iPhone

With iCloud comes Apple’s free Find My iPhone service.

Don’t panic. If one of your Apple devices goes missing, iCloud can help you figure out where you left it. Just sign in at or use the Find My iPhone app to see your missing Mac, iPhone, iPad, or iPod touch on a map. And iOS 6 and iCloud offer Lost Mode — making it even easier to find and protect a missing iOS device. With Lost Mode, you can immediately lock your device and send it a message with a contact number. Then whoever finds it can call you from the Lock screen without accessing the rest of the information on your device.

Set up the device today

On your iPhone, iPad or other device running iOS 6 go to Settings > iCloud and make sure Find my iPhone is set to On. Also configure iCloud with your login details.

Find My iPad is set to On.

Find My iPad is set to On.

Turning on Find my iPhone triggers an informational email to the address associated with your iCloud account.

On a Mac look under the iCloud settings in System Preferences.


When you need to, or even just to experiment, visit and log in.

Click on the Find my iPhone icon.

Click the Find my iPhone icon on the iCloud web page.

Click the Find my iPhone icon on the iCloud web page.

After a short pause where you may have to supply your password again a map is displayed showing the locations of all your various Macs and iOS devices that are able to be located.

Use the standard map controls to zoom in and out, and switch between Standard, Satellite and Hybrid views. Click the Devices button to see a list of all devices and when they were last located.

Click the Devices button to see your Macs and iOS devices located on a map.

Click the Devices button to see your Macs and iOS devices located on a map. I deliberately zoomed out, but when the map is zoomed in each device has its own pin.

The pins on the map are also only an approximate guideline. Here’s my map zoomed in. I have my MacBook Pro with Retina display on my lap, my iPhone attached to my belt and my iPad only a few inches from my elbow. And I’m sitting in the kitchen of our house. The green pins suggest all 3 devices are outdoors, metres apart and near the neighbour’s house.

The pins on the map are not really precisely placed.

The pins on the map are not really precisely placed. The grey pin represents my MacBook Air that is currently asleep.

Remember this approximate location next time you’re watching a crime drama that places the bad guy in the far right corner of the back bedroom, based on cellphone location software.

Select a device to work with

Select one Device in the list of devices, or click a pin and then click the i button that appears above it, to take an action for that device.

I selected my laptop and can now take 3 actions.

I selected my laptop and can now take 3 actions.

To experiment, click the Play Sound button on iCloud.

The selected device displays an alert and plays a loud ‘pinging’ noise, even if muted.

Set Lost Mode

If you select an iOS Device in iCloud you have the option to click the Lost Mode button. For both Macs and iOS devices you can also choose to Erase the device remotely.

I watched as my partner did this for her lost iPhone, but didn’t want to repeat the steps on my own devices for this Tip. :-)

Both choices provided a couple of easy steps for dealing with a lost device. Set a passcode to lock the device. Also set a message to display on the Lock screen to anyone who finds and turns on the device, such as:

This iPhone belongs to Miraz Jordan. Please email if you find it.

You can also tell iCloud to remotely erase the device, though it’s unclear to me just when this takes place.

Apple also say:

If your device is offline when you try to locate it using Find My iPhone, you can ask to receive an email as soon as it makes a Wi-Fi or cellular connection.

Extra information about Find My iPhone

Apple have additional information about the Find My iPhone feature at iCloud: Troubleshooting Find My iPhone, iPad, iPod touch, or Mac.

Remember to advise your service provider of the loss

If your lost device uses an On Account connection plan think about what may happen if the finder manages to use your account. Will they run up enormous charges or otherwise cause problems? To be on the safe side advise your cell provider that your phone or iPad is lost and ask them to deactivate the SIM.

Handy for temporary losses

The lost device ping is very handy, even if you’ve just misplaced a device round the house. But of course, the serious use is for that awful moment when you realise you’ve really lost it.

Check the status before you need it

The ability to lock the device, add a helpful message and even to erase it completely is invaluable if you ever need it.

Take a look now, before you need it, and check that your devices are set up to be found.

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One Comment;

  1. Olive said:

    Thank you. I have my iPhone set correctly it seems. Will visit iCloud soon.

Comments are closed.