How to Erase All iPhone Settings and Data

Man with cell phone
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Deleting all of the data and settings from your iPhone is a drastic step. When you do that, you get rid of all the music, apps, email, and settings on your phone. And unless you backed up your data, you won't get it back.

There are a few situations in which you should reset your iPhone in order to restore the phone to its factory-new condition. These circumstances include when:

  • You're selling or giving the iPhone away
  • The phone is being sent for repairs and you don't want your personal data available to prying eyes
  • The software or operating system on your phone is so messed up that it needs to be erased and set up again from scratch to fix whatever's wrong. 

You can delete your iPhone's data either when your phone is synced or through onscreen commands. Whichever you choose, always begin by syncing your iPhone to your computer, since this creates a backup of your data (depending on your settings, you may also be backing up your data to iCloud. Even if you normally use iCloud, I still recommend syncing your phone to your computer, too. Better to have multiple backups, just in case). With that done, you'll be able to easily restore your data and settings later, if you want.

With your backup made, it's time to decide how you want to delete your data:

  • Using iTunes: To erase your iPhone data when it's synced with iTunes, click the Restore iPhone button in the box at the top of the iPhone management screen and follow the onscreen instructions.
  • Using iPhone: To delete your iPhone data and settings on the phone itself, continue reading for more instructions.
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Locate Reset Options and Choose the Kind of Reset You Want

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Choose the type of deletion or reset you want.

Once the sync is complete and your phone is backed up, you can disconnect it from your computer. Then follow these steps to delete your iPhone's data and settings:

  1. On your phone's home screen, tap the Settings app to open it.
  2. Tap General.
  3. In General, scroll down to the bottom of the screen and tap Reset.
  4. On the Reset screen, you'll have a number of options for removing your iPhone's content:
    • Reset All Settings: This resets all of your preference settings, returning them to the defaults. It will not erase any of your data or apps.
    • Erase All Content and Settings: If you want to ​​completely delete your iPhone's data, this is the option to choose. When you tap this, you'll not only erase all of your preferences, you'll also remove all music, movies, apps, photos, and other data from your phone.
    • Reset Network Settings: To return your wireless network settings to their factory default states, tap this.
    • Reset Keyboard Dictionary: Want to remove all the custom words and spellings you've added to your phone's dictionary/spellchecker? Tap this option.
    • Reset Home Screen Layout: To undo all of the folders and app arrangements you have created and return your iPhone's layout to its default state, tap this.
    • Reset Location & Privacy: Each app that uses the iPhone's GPS for location awareness, or accesses other features of the iPhone like the microphone or address book, asks your permission to use your private data. To reset all of those apps to their default state (which is off, or blocking access), select this.
  5. In this case—when you're selling your phone or sending it in for repairs—tap Erase All Content and Settings.
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Confirm iPhone Reset and You're Done

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When your iPhone restarts, all data and settings will be gone.

If Activation Lock is enabled on your phone as part of Find My iPhone, you'll need to enter your passcode at this point. This step is there is to prevent a thief from getting your phone and deleting your data—which would include your phone's connection to Find My iPhone—so they can get away with your device.

With that done, your iPhone will ask you to confirm that you really want to do what you've chosen. If you have changed your mind or accidentally gotten here, tap the Cancel button. If you're sure you want to go ahead, ​​tap Erase iPhone.

How long the deletion process takes depends on what you chose in step 3 (deleting all data and settings takes more time than resetting the dictionary, for instance) and how much data you have to delete. 

Once all of your iPhone's data is deleted, it will restart and you'll have an iPhone with either all new settings or a completely empty memory. From here, you can do what you like with the iPhone:

You may want to set up your phone again, just like you did when you first got it.