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How to use Find my iPhone to find a lost or stolen phone

Nobody wants to experience that sinking feeling when you can’t find your iPhone. Maybe you set it down someplace odd. Maybe you left it at a restaurant or a store. Maybe a thief made off with it when you weren’t looking.

Your number one priority is to get your iPhone back and, fortunately, Apple gives you a good chance at doing that with Find My iPhone. This multifaceted feature can help you locate the phone whether it accidentally fell between the couch cushions or was stolen and carried across town.

Apple’s Find My iPhone is a great security net for lost phones, but there are some steps you need to take to enable it and make sure it works when you need it.

What it does

Find My iPhone has a lot going on. It can locate your phone on a map or play a sound so you can find it if it’s within earshot. Lost Mode lets you lock and track your iPhone. If necessary, you can even remotely erase your personal information.

Set up Find My iPhone

It’s easy to get going with Find My iPhone. Go to your Settings and click on your name at the top of the menu. Next, choose iCloud and scroll down to select “Find My iPhone.” Toggle the switch on. You can also turn on “Send Last Location,” which will track the location when the battery is critically low.

If you have an Apple Watch or AirPods paired to your iPhone, then they will also be automatically set up when you turn on Find My iPhone.

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Now, find your iPhone

Activate Find My iPhone by heading to the Find page on iCloud using a web browser. You will be asked to sign in using your Apple ID and password. It will then pull up a map showing the phone’s approximate location.

If you see a green dot, then your iPhone is online. Click on it and it will tell you when it was last located. A gray dot indicates the device is offline, so it’s either not connected to a network or is turned off.

Next, click on the “i” with a circle around it that appears in the pop-up. This opens up several more options. “Play Sound” will cause it to make a chiming noise so you can hunt it down if it’s nearby.

Lost Mode lets you remotely lock the iPhone with a passcode and display a customized message on the lock screen, so you can ask whoever finds it to call a number to return it. It will also keep track of your phone’s location and suspend its ability to make payments using Apple Pay.

If your phone is offline, then you will see a checkbox to click to receive a notification when the phone comes back online and is found.

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The final option, Erase iPhone, is the most extreme. If you don’t think you will able to recover it, you can choose this to delete your personal information. Just keep in mind that you can no longer track your phone after you erase it. Even if your iPhone is offline, it will erase it once it gets back online. This is your last-ditch option for protecting sensitive data, so use it wisely.

Go ahead and test out Find My iPhone’s basic features so you’re comfortable with how it works before you actually need it. If you’ve got your iPhone in hand and it’s online, then you should see your current location on the map and can try out the sound alert.

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