Enable ‘Find my iPhone’ to help you find lost / stolen devices

Find My iPhone

This week I used the ‘Find my iPhone’ iCloud /iOS service to locate and recover my iPad from a busy shopping centre in Bristol. I guess I should briefly explain why I needed to use the ‘Find my iPhone’ service. I had dropped my Kids off to school, I needed to visit a store at Cabot’s circus, a shopping centre in the centre of Bristol, close to my kid’s school. As the shop was not open for 1/2 an hour I brought my iPad with me, to process my emails while I grabbed a cup of coffee at Costa. To cut a long story short after I left Costa, I visited a few shops before returning home, and then realised that I had left my iPad in one of the shops that I visited. Luckily I had turned on the ‘Find my iPhone’ service on my iPad, and was able to send a text message, explaining that I had mislaid my iPad and my Mobile (Cell) phone number so that they could contact me. When the message was sent, the iPad played a sound as well. Luckily the iPad was found by an honest guy in the Carphone warehouse. He called me a few minutes after I sent the message to the iPad. I returned back to the store and thanked him. I also spoke to his manager and expressed my gratitude about the great service that I received from his employee.

I was lucky that my iOS device was found by a helpful individual and that I had enabled ‘Find my iPhone’ on the device. Unfortunately if you lose your iOS device or Mac without enabling the service first you will not be able to track the device. There is no way to enable ‘Find your iPhone’ after you lose it. So if you have not already enabled ‘Find my iPhone’ on all your iOS devices I suggest that you do so, as it is turned off by default. You can also set this up on your Macs as well using ‘Find my Mac’.

In the rest of the article I will explain how you set your devices up, and how you can then use the service to find your devices.

What is ‘Find My iPhone’?

‘Find My iPhone’ is part of Apple’s iCloud service. The iCloud system also allows users to store music, photos, applications, documents, bookmarks, reminders, backups, notes, iBooks, and contacts, as well as serving as a platform for Apple’s email servers and calendars.You can read more about iCloud here. The most recent update means that Mac computers can now also be tracked. To use iCloud on an iOS device you need to be running iOS version 5 or later. Information on how to sign up for iCloud if you have not done so already can be found here.

Find my iPhone allows you to find your iOS device on a map, display a message or play a sound to help you find it, set a passcode to lock your device remotely. Finally as a last resort if all else fails you can protect your privacy and activate a remote wipe to restore it to its factory settings.

Setting up ‘Find My iPhone’

1. Sign up for iCloud if you have not already got an account, and make sure it’s enabled on your device. From Settings > iCloud you can sign up for it, or if you’ve already got an account connected, scroll down and ensure ‘Find My iPhone’ is enabled.

Find my iPhone settings

2. Location service must also be enabled – from Settings > Location Services > On

Find my iPhone Loc services

3. You can also locate your Mac as well as your iOS devices, go into the iCloud preferences in System Preferences (  > system preferences). You do need to be running Mac OS 10.7 Lion or later to use this service.

Find my Mac

Make sure that ‘Find My Mac’ is turned on. If you don’t already have Wake for Ethernet network access turned on in the Energy Savings preference panel, it will give you a warning and clicking the ‘More’ button will give you the option to turn this on. This will allow a ‘Find my Mac’ request to turn on a sleeping Mac to locate it.

I recommend that you enable ‘Find my iPhone’ and ‘Find my Mac’ on all your devices as you can’t locate or take other actions described below after you lose your device, unless the service is already enabled.

What to do when you lose the device

Either open the ‘Find my iPhone’ App on another iOS device (If you don’t already have it, it can be downloaded for free from the iOS store). Alternately you can log into your iCloud account via a Mac or PC using a web browser like Safari.

ICloud Account

Click ‘Find My iPhone’. A list of registered devices will be displayed, and the service will start to locate your devices.

Find My iPhone devices 2

Click on the device once it has located it. It will now appear on a Map, then clicking on the small blue “i” will open up a menu of actions available.

Find My iPhone actions

Play Sound or Send Message: You can send a “Please call this number if you find this device” type message as well as sound an alarm which works even if the phone is in silent mode. This is also handy if you lose your iPhone or iPad at Home

Remote Lock: This places the device into a locked mode exactly as if you had setup a regular lock screen before it was stolen. You choose the 4 digit code now, so make sure you don’t forget it.

Remote Wipe: This is the final solution – it will start a complete restore of your device, removing all of your data and apps leaving it like a fresh iPhone straight from the factory. Also note when you use this option you will no longer be able to track, lock, or message the device.

Your first move should be to lock the device and prevent any calls from being made. This isn’t going to stop anyone from reformatting the phone, but it will stop most thieves from getting at your data for now or making calls (until they reformat it).

If it has been stolen then I don’t suggest that you try and track down the device yourself, but do take a screenshot of it’s location as this may help the police. But if the phone or iPad has just been lost then you could use the Map to locate the device.

Next, send a message offering a reward and contact details. At this point, you need to make a decision, if it has definitely been stolen and you don’t get a phone call soon after sending the message then use the remote wipe option to protect your data. Finally contact your Phone service provider and get them to lock out the SIM. This will prevent them making calls/texts and any further expenses.  You should also call the police and get an incident or report number – you’ll need this to claim on insurance. Most contents insurance usually comes with the option to cover devices while they’re out of the house, so if you’re lucky then you can get a new device.




  1. catherine  September 28, 2012

    how can u trun on find iphone if phone is stolen alrady

    • craner  September 28, 2012

      Hi Catherine, the Find My iPhone service has to be activated on the phone, before it is lost / stolen. There is no way to remotely activate it after the event.

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