How to Factory Reset Your iPhone or iPad: A Simple Guide to Wiping Your iOS Device
Do you need to factory reset your iPhone or iPad? Perhaps you’re planning to sell your handset and want to wipe all of your personal files, or maybe you’ve been the victim of theft and want to remotely scrub anything valuable on the device.
If that’s the case, performing a factory reset is the quickest way to delete everything and start all over again.
Backup Your Device
An important reminder: before you factory reset your iPhone or iPad, make sure you’ve backed up anything you want to keep on the iCloud or iTunes. Apple devices are encrypted out of the box. This means erased files aren’t simply hidden and displayed as free space, they are completely removed – no software can revive deleted files.
Apple has support pages explaining the methods you can use to back up your iOS device, and these include via iCloud or via iTunes.
To back up on iCloud, connect to your Wi-Fi network and go to Settings, iCloud and iCloud Backup. After you’ve hit Back Up Now, your files will be stored on your iCloud account and linked to your Apple ID.
You can check this backup has been successful by going to Settings, iCloud, iCloud Storage, and Manage Storage. This will reveal the time and size of your last backup. Now you’re free to factory reset your iPhone or iPad.
Alternatively, open iTunes, connect your device to your computer (enter your passcode or tell it you ‘Trust This Computer’) and follow the on-screen steps. Choose your iPhone, iPad, or iPod when the device list appears and click Backup Now.
The easiest way to back up your media is by connecting your iPhone or iPad to a laptop.
How to Factory Reset Your iPhone and iPad
Wiping your iOS device is easy, the only thing you’re going to need is your device passcode, Apple ID, and Apple Password.
Sign Out of iCloud
One of the first steps to wiping your phone is to sign out of iCloud. This will remove your iCloud account and disable Apple’s activation lock. Once the recipient receives the iPhone or iPad they can sign in to their own iCloud account.
Note: You don’t have to do this if you’re trying to fix an issue with your device or you just want to start over. As long as you know your Apple ID and password you can recover your data after the factory reset.
Tap on your name in the Settings then tap ‘Sign Out’
From the Settings menu on your phone sign out of iCloud.
How to sign out of iCloud remotely:
You can also do this by visiting signing into icloud.com and removing the device from the list. Tap on the Find my iPhone login and select “Remove from Account” after selecting the device.
Doing this before selling an Apple device is vital because if it isn’t done first, the new user won’t be able to log into their own iCloud account. If your device is missing and you’d like to track it, do not perform these steps.
How to Reset Your iPhone/iPad – The Settings
If you have your device handy, it is simple to erase it using the phone or tablet settings. To do this open the settings and follow these steps:
Tap ‘Reset’ at the bottom
Tap ‘Erase all content and settings’
Choose to ‘Back Up’ or ‘Erase’
How to reset an iPhone or iPad remotely
If you’ve lost your iPhone or iPad and want peace of mind knowing any stored data will not be accessed, you can also remotely wipe your device.
Open Find my iPhone on a Web Browser
Visit iCloud.com and sign in. Then click the “Find my iPhone” icon.
You will need to have a verification code sent to the phone number on file or another Apple device that has the same iCloud account. If you have neither of these contact Apple.
Select the device from the drop-down menu
Select ‘Erase (Device)’
Note that if you’ve lost your device, you can remotely play a sound on your iPhone/iPad to help you locate it.
Factory Reset Using iTunes
You can use iTunes on a PC or Mac to reset your iPhone or iPad. While this method isn’t as simple as performing the reset from the iPhone or iPad itself, it is an effective way to reset your device.
What you’ll need:
- A computer running the latest version of iTunes
- Your charging cord
- An iPhone or iPad running the latest version of iOS
To begin, make sure that everything is updated and running the latest Apple Software. Connect your device to your computer using the charging cord. Your device will ask for your screen unlock code. Input the code and tap on ‘Trust Device.’
iTunes should open automatically, giving you the option to select your device on the left-hand side. Once done, select ‘Restore iPhone.’ Confirm that you want to proceed when the pop-up window appears.
If you’re using a PC with iTunes to perform these steps you’ll need to click on the ‘Summary’ tab to access the ‘Restore iPhone’ option.
If you run into errors or your device won’t power on, Apple Support has an excellent article here to help you troubleshoot and correct the problem.
How to Reboot (soft reset) Your iPhone or iPad
If your iOS device has crashed or stalled, and you only wish to reset (reboot) it, then you can do so easily without deleting any of your data by pressing and holding the Home and Power buttons simultaneously for 5-10 seconds.
For newer model iPhones you won’t have a home button so try this instead:
- Press and release the ‘Volume Up” button
- Press and release the ‘Volume Down’ button
- Hold the ‘Side Button’
This will force the restart of your phone closing out any unnecessary processes and fix a lot of your issues. This also works if your phone randomly shuts off and won’t turn back on. Be sure to plug the phone in and perform the soft reset, using an iPad charging block works best.
Frequently Asked Questions
Here are the answers to some more of your questions about resetting an iPhone or iPad
Can I recover the information that I’ve lost after a reset?
No. Once your phone is factory reset the information is completely gone. You can try checking with cloud services you may have had on the phone for saved info.
iCloud, Google Photos, Google Drive, Dropbox, and your email account are all ways to get photos, documents, and contacts back.
I can’t get the verification code to sign back into my iCloud. What can I do?
If Apple is trying to send a verification code to another Apple device and you don’t have one, select the option that indicates you didn’t get a code, then tap the option to send it to your phone number.
If your phone number is no longer valid call Apple at 1-800-MyApple. The support team is generally very helpful and will attempt to get you back into your iCloud account.
It is a lengthy process and you may have to provide proof of purchase or wait several days for a new code after your phone number is updated. Apple’s activation lock is essentially an anti-theft device so it is very difficult to bypass without proper verification.
Should I factory reset my device if it was stolen?
This really depends on a few factors. Did you have a passcode? If your phone is passcode locked, the data on the device may be secure enough for you to use Find My iPhone to track it.
If you don’t have a passcode it’s probably best to protect your private information from those who took it and just factory reset it.
If your Apple device is locked or stolen but the thief has powered it down you can set an alert on icloud.com to notify you if the device is turned on and connected to an internet connection.
Can I erase an iPhone without the Apple ID or passcode?
Although you may be able to erase an iPhone without the passcode, no matter what you do, you’re going to need that Apple ID and password. Even if you connect the device to iTunes the software will require this information.
Assuming you bought the iOS device from an individual seller and they neglected to sign out of their iCloud, your best bet is to get in touch with them and have them remove the activation lock by signing into iCloud and removing your device.
If you’re unable to reach the seller, you can reach out to Apple but it isn’t likely you’ll get too much help without the seller’s permission.
All of that said, there are plenty of third-party services that offer a factory reset without an Apple ID or password. If you choose to do this, do so with caution. Yes, you can put an iPhone in DFU mode, connect to iTunes, select ‘Restore’ and the phone will be completely reset. But, there will still be an activation lock to bypass, which you won’t be able to do until you know the original Apple ID or password.
Will Apple help me to factory reset someone else’s device if I provide a death certificate?
Assuming you’re going through the unfortunate loss of a friend or loved one, you may want to continue using their iPhone or iPad. Unfortunately, even with a death certificate, Apple isn’t very helpful here.
For the sake of privacy and the protection of another person’s data, the company continues to protect other’s information even after they’ve passed. There are plenty of online forums and third-party websites that promise to grant you access but many of these are scams (especially if you’re running a newer version of iOS).
If the owner of the phone didn’t leave you the screen unlock code, or if you don’t have access to their iTunes account on their computer, there isn’t an official way to access their phone.