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How to wipe devices remotely
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Privacy

Lost your phone or computer? Here’s how to wipe all your info remotely

Are you selling your old stuff? Old toys, shoes, clothing and jewelry are popular items for sale online. Simply post it, price it, and wait for the offers to come in.

It gets a bit trickier when you’re selling smart devices. They contain sensitive data that you don’t want anyone else to access. Your smart speaker, for example, stores tiny bits of information about you as you use it, including your location. Tap or click here for instructions on resetting your Alexa-enabled device.

No matter how careful you are, there’s always a risk you’ll lose stuff. You may leave your phone on a park bench or have your laptop stolen while traveling. Beyond the cost of the device, your data exposes you to identity theft, bank fraud, fraudulent purchases and more. Fortunately, you can remotely wipe data before it’s too late.

Android

If you lose an Android phone, you can find, lock or erase it. You’ll need to have Find My Device enabled before you can use these features:

  • Open the Settings app.
  • Tap Security > Find My Device. If you don’t see “Security,” tap Security & location or Google > Security.
  • Make sure Find My Device is turned on.

To remotely erase your phone:

  • Go to android.com/find and sign in to your Google Account. If you have more than one phone, click the lost phone at the top of the screen. If your lost phone has more than one user profile, sign in with a Google Account that’s on the main profile. 
  • The lost phone will get a notification and you’ll see the phone’s approximate location on a map. If your phone can’t be located, you’ll see its last known location.
  • Choose Enable lock & erase if needed.
  • Choose Erase device to permanently delete all the data on your device. Note: After taking this step, Find My Device won’t work on that phone.

Apple

Apple’s Find My app lets you remotely erase your iPhone, iPad or Mac. Before this unfortunate event occurs, make sure you have Find My enabled. For iPhone and Mac:

  • Open the Settings app.
  • Tap your name, then tap Find My.
  • If you want friends and family to know where you are, turn on Share My Location.
  • Tap Find My [device], then turn on Find My [device].
  • To see your device even when it’s offline, turn on Find My network
  • To have the location of your device sent to Apple when the battery is low, turn on Send Last Location.

To turn on Find My for your Mac:

  • Go to Apple menu > System Preferences.
  • Click Security & Privacy and then the Privacy tab. If the padlock in the lower left is locked, click it and enter the name and password of the administrator.
  • Select Location Services.
  • Select the Enable Location Services checkbox, and make sure that the checkbox next to Find My is selected.
  • Click Done, then return to the main System Preferences window.
  • Click Apple ID and then iCloud.
  • Select the checkbox next to Find My Mac.
  • To make sure you can find your Mac if it’s ever lost or stolen, click Options. Check that Find My Mac is on and Find My network is On.
  • Click Done.

If you lose or misplace your Apple device, here’s how to remotely erase it:

  • Go to icloud.com and sign in to your account.
  • Click Find My iPhone, then All Devices. (Note: If you don’t see All Devices, it’s because you’ve already selected a device. Click the name of the current device in the center of the toolbar to access the Devices list, then select a new device.)
  • Select the device you want to erase.
  • Click Erase [device].
  • Do one of the following, depending on what you want to erase:
    • iPhone, iPad, iPod touch, or Apple WatchEnter your Apple ID password or your family member’s Apple ID password. If you’re not using a trusted browser, answer your security questions or enter the verification code that’s sent to your other devices. If you’re using your own computer and want to skip the verification step in the future, click Trust. If you’re using a friend’s computer, click Don’t Trust.
    • MacEnter your Apple ID password or your family member’s Apple ID password. If you’re not using a trusted browser, answer your security questions or enter the verification code that’s sent to your other devices. If you’re using your own computer and want to skip the verification step in the future, click Trust. If you’re using a friend’s computer, click Don’t Trust. Enter a passcode to lock the Mac (you need to use the passcode to unlock it).
  • If the device is lost and you’re asked to enter a phone number or message, you may want to indicate that the device is lost or how to contact you. The number and message appear on the device’s Lock screen.

If your device is online, the remote erase begins after following the on-screen instructions. If your device is offline, the remote erase starts the next time it’s online.

RELATED: The reason behind the NSA’s “find my phone” warning

Windows

You can remotely wipe your Windows laptop but make sure you have the Find my device feature enabled before this happens:

  • Sign in to your device with a Microsoft account.
  • In Windows 10, go to Settings > Update & Security > Find my device and make sure the feature is on.
  • In Windows 11, go to Settings > Privacy & security > Find my device and make sure the feature is on.

With that done, you can now remotely erase your device if you need to. There are a few ways to do this and we’ll show you how to do it with Microsoft Intune. This is a cloud-based service that lets you remotely manage devices and applications.

The first step is to enroll your device in Intune. You’ll need to install the app from the Microsoft Store or Sign on to the Company Portal website.

Now if your laptop goes missing, you can remotely erase it:

  • Go to portal.azure.com/#home and sign in.
  • Choose All Services and filter Intune.
  • Choose Microsoft Intune and select Devices.
  • Select the device that you want to erase remotely.
  • Click Wipe and then Yes.
  • The next time your laptop is turned on, all your data will be erased within 15 minutes.

You may also like: Window’s tool to wipe out your data leaves some behind – Here’s how to fix it

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