How to Remotely Erase Your iPhone Data

Wipe out all personal data on your lost or stolen iPhone

Hands on a detonator

Colin Anderson / Stockbyte / Getty Images

Wouldn't it be great if your iPhone could self-destruct to keep thieves from getting your personal data if they steal your phone? It won't explode, but Apple does provide a way to wipe your iOS devices clean of all of your personal information remotely.

The information in this article applies to all currently supported versions of iOS.

How to Erase Data With Find My iPhone

To remotely erase the data on your missing iPhone, you'll need to do a little setup first to make it possible.

Regularly backup your iPhone's data to protect against data loss.

Enable Find My iPhone

Turn on the Find my iPhone feature on your phone and connect an active iCloud account on your device for Find My iPhone to work. An iCloud account is offered for free from Apple.

  1. Tap the Settings app.

  2. Tap your Apple ID account (the top item in the Settings app).

  3. Tap iCloud.

  4. Tap Find My iPhone and switch it ON if it is not already.

    Screenshot one for how to use Find My iPhone
Screenshot two for how to use Find My iPhone
Screenshot three for how to use Find My iPhone

If your firmware is pre-iOS 5 then you will need to follow these instructions to enable Find My iPhone.

Remotely Erase Your Missing iPhone

In the event that you are sure you aren't going to get your phone back, you can use the remote erase feature.

Once you remote wipe the data on your device you will no longer be able to locate it using Find My iPhone. The remote wipe should be used only when you're convinced that you are never going to get your device back.

  1. Open the Find iPhone app from another iOS device such as an iPad or from a computer's web browser by visiting the website and logging into your iCloud account.

  2. Select the device you want to erase.

  3. Select the Erase iPhone.

Method 2: Self Destruct After Too Many Failed Passcode Attempts

You can set your iPhone to automatically erase its data if the wrong passcode is entered more than 10 times by following these steps.

  1. Open the Settings app.

  2. Select Touch ID & Passcode or Face ID & Passcode if your iPhone uses Face ID authentication. Enter your passcode if prompted.

  3. If you do not have a passcode enabled, you must turn this on first by selecting Turn Passcode On. Set a passcode of your choice and confirm it.

    You may want to consider setting a stronger passcode than the default 4-digit one for extra security.

    Screenshot one for adding a stronger password
    Screenshot two for adding a stronger password
  4. Read the warning and tap the Enable button.

Your phone is now set to automatically erase all of its data after 10 failed passcode entry attempts.

Use Caution With Erase Data Settings

If you have kids or someone else that uses your phone, the Erase Data option could be a problem if you're not careful. Your child might innocently try to guess the code too many times and accidentally erase your iPhone's data. The remote erase feature might make more sense in situations where you have others regularly using (or playing with) your iPhone.