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I’ve been getting a lot of hits for my article on Protecting and Recovering Your iPhone and iPad from Loss and Theft, and the search queries I’m seeing in my logs, together with the visitor comments, have raised a number of recurring questions. I’ve decided to publish this one-stop-shop of answers for all of the different queries that I see people searching for when they arrive. Although my article addresses a number of these, I wanted to put them all in one post for easy reference. I’ll update this post as new questions crop up. Here goes, in no particular order:

  1. Can I put some contact details on my iPhone’s screen in case it’s found by someone?: I’ve put together the free to make this task easy! Find My iPhone also allows you to remotely display a custom message on your phone’s screen.
  2. Can I locate my iPhone/iPad if I didn’t have Find My iPhone configured on it?: Unfortunately not. Find My iPhone (or another tracking program) is the only way for you to locate your device.
  3. Can I locate my iPhone/iPad if I had Location Services turned off, or Airplane Mode turned on?: No, both of these settings prevent your device from reporting its location to the Apple servers (this includes 3rd party tracking services too).
  4. Can I find my iPhone/iPad when it is turned off (or battery is dead)?: Simply put, you can’t. The device needs to be on (and have a network connection) in order for it to appear in Find My iPhone for you to track it.
  5. Can I find my iPhone/iPad if the SIM card is removed?: Yes, this is possible, but only if the device is turned on and connected to a Wifi network. This would allow the device to return its GPS location to Find My iPhone.
  6. Can I track my iPhone/iPad if it’s been erased or restored?: If your device has been restored (or erased using the ‘wipe’ functionality), you will no longer be able to track it.
  7. Can I track my iPhone/iPad using its IMEI or Serial Number?: No, it’s not possible for consumers to track a device using its IMEI or Serial Number. In some cases the police/telco may be able to track a phone using its IMEI.
  8. What should i do if I lost my iPad and cannot locate it?: Ummm… Step 1: panic, Step 2: if you had Find My iPhone set up on it, you can request it to send you an email if/when the device is located. Otherwise report it lost/stolen to the police (give them its Serial Number), and if it’s found they may return it to you.
  9. Is there a reason to not wipe a lost iPhone?: This is a particularly good question. One reason to not wipe it would be so that you can continue tracking it and hopefully recover it. The other side of the coin is the security and privacy side. If the data on the device is extremely private or sensitive, then you may sleep better knowing it’s been wiped.
  10. Can I start using iCloud after my iPhone is stolen to wipe the phone?: No, if you didn’t already have iCloud set up on your device with Find My iPhone enabled, you can’t do so after the device is stolen.
  11. My iPhone/iPad was only protected with the PIN, will the thief be able to crack it?: It’s unlikely. If they manually enter the wrong PIN too many times, they’ll get locked out. Here’s Apple’s statement about this: “If you repeatedly enter the wrong passcode, your iPhone, iPad, undo iphone restore lost photos or iPod touch will be disabled for longer intervals before you can try again. After too many unsuccessful attempts, you won’t be able to try again until you connect it to the computer with which you last synced it.” That said, someone with with the necessary technical knowledge, and access to specialised forensics tools would be able to brute force it and gain access to the data.
  12. I had Find My iPhone disabled, but can I track my iPad through iCloud’s Photo Stream if the thief starts taking pictures?: If they take pictures with Geotagging, then you would be able to find out where those pictures were taken (the GPS info is stored in the picture’s metadata). So, if they take a picture whilst at home for example, you could find out (approximately) where that is.
  13. I accidentally removed my device from Find My iPhone while it was offline, will I still be able to track it?: Yes, if your device is able to get back online and still has Find My iPhone enabled, it will automatically reappear in Find My iPhone.
  14. If I remote lock my iPhone, can someone still access it?: Only if they already know the currently-set PIN.
  15. I issued a wipe command for my device, but then subsequently found it. I have data on it that I don’t want to lose, how can I safely recover it?: Best thing to do is to turn it off (if not already), remove the SIM card, and turn off any Wifi networks nearby that your device had access to. You will then be able to turn it on and plug it into your computer to perform a backup and copy off any data/photos. Then allow your phone to go online, get wiped, and then plug it back into your computer to perform a restore using the latest backup. It’s probably not the best solution, but the remote wipe is intended to be the last resort!


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