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How to Find & Lock an iPhone

Losing your smartphone can range from a major hassle to a frustrating ordeal. Fortunately, you can lock and track your iPhone remotely. Here’s how.  

About Lost Mode

Lost Mode locks your iPhone, other iOS devices, Mac, or Apple Watch. It’s important because it prevents others from accessing your personal information. You can activate Lost Mode by signing into your Apple ID, i.e., what you use to sign into iCloud. If you have Family Sharing set up, you can activate Lost Mode on another family member’s iPhone. 

When Lost Mode is activated, your iPhone doesn’t display alerts, ring, or display any notifications. If you have Apple Pay set up, it is disabled so that no one can use your credit or debit cards. You can also display a custom message on the screen. For example, “Hi, this phone belongs to Nathan No-Phone. Please contact me at 555-0198.” Of course, you may want to consider putting your emergency contact information on your iPhone screen as cautionary measure. 

Note: very old devices don’t have lost mode. Check the system requirements if you have an old iPhone or don’t update your iOS. 

Find My iPhone

First, make sure you have the Find My iPhone app. Newer devices always have it. It’s a good idea to have this active on any iPhone, iPad, Apple Watch, or other Apple devices you have, as you can use these instructions to find any device. For example, you can use the Find My iPhone app to locate your Mac laptop. 

How to Activate Lost Mode

First, sign into Find My iPhone from a computer or another device using your Apple ID. Again, that’s the one you use with iCloud. 

You will be presented with a list of devices. Tap the one you want to track or lock. With Family Sharing, you can see your family member’s devices along with their names. 

Tap Actions. 

Next, tap Lost Mode or Lock. 

Remember, if your iPhone has a passcode you’ll need it to unlock your smartphone. If not, you’ll be prompted to create one. Of course, it’s a good idea to set up a passcode right now, as soon as you’re done with this article. Here’s why

If you’re using Family Mode on another person’s device and they don’t have a passcode set up, you’ll need to use their Apple ID to unlock their device 

Now, you may be prompted to enter a phone number where you can be reached or asked to enter a message to put on your iPhone’s lock screen. 

Tracking Your iPhone

When you use Lost Mode, you can track your device’s current location. 

However, if Location Services is not active, you won’t be able to track your iPhone. Here’s another thing to do right now: open up Find My iPhone and let the app access location services. It also has an option to record its locations over the previous 24 hours. Turn that on too. If you said no to these when you first opened the device but want to activate them now, go to Settings. Then Privacy. Then Location Services. On the Location Services screen, toggle Location Services to On (i.e., make the button green). Then you’ll see a list of apps. Scroll down to Find iPhone, tap it, and set it to While Using the App instead of Never. 

If your iPhone is offline when you enable Lost Mode, it will only be tracked when it’s turned on. 

Turning Off Lost Mode

Once you find your iPhone, you can turn off Lost Mode by entering your passcode on your iPhone. If you suspended your credit or debit cards you use with Apple Pay, you can re-enable them by signing into iCloud. 

Remotely Erase Your iPhone

If the worst happens and you won’t be able to regain your smartphone for whatever reason, Find My iPhone can erase your smartphone. In Find My iPhone, next to the Lost button, there’s an Erase button. Tap it. You may be sent a verification email. Erasing your iPhone will clear all your data, permissions, apps, and any other information from your iPhone.

The Bottom Line

Hopefully, a Good Samaritan finds and returns your iPhone. Remember to meet them in a public place. 

If you believe your smartphone has been stolen or you won’t be able to retrieve it, make sure to erase it. Theft of a smartphone is painful, but identity theft is ruinous. 

And remember, before any of this happens, take a moment to put your emergency contact information on your iPhone’s lock screen. Then consider the following steps to make your iPhone more secure