How to Restore an iPhone to Factory Settings

iPhone X with warning dialog box from Erase All Settings Reset option

Whether you're selling your iPhone or sending it in for repairs, you don't want your personal data and photos on it, where prying eyes can see it. Before you sell or ship, safeguard your data by restoring your iPhone to factory settings.

When you factory reset an iPhone, you're returning the phone to its good-as-new status, the condition it was in when it left the factory. There will be no music, apps, or other data on it, just the iOS and its built-in apps. You're completely erasing the phone and starting over from scratch.

Obviously, this is a major step and not something you do casually, but it makes sense in some circumstances. Besides the situations listed above, it's also helpful when there's a problem with the iPhone so severe that starting from scratch is your only option. Problems with jailbreaks are often fixed by this way. If you're ready to proceed, follow these steps.

The procedure outlined below has been tested with iOS 12.

Step 1: Back Up Your Data

Your first step any time you perform a task like this is to back up the data on your iPhone. You should always have a copy of your most recent data so that you can restore it back onto your phone later.

There are two options for backing up your data — through iTunes or iCloud. You can back up to iTunes by syncing the phone to your computer and then clicking the back-up button on the main page. Back up to iCloud by going to Settings > the Name menu at the top (skip this step on earlier versions of the iOS) > iCloud > iCloud Backup and then start a new backup.

Step 2: Disable iCloud/Find My iPhone

Next, you need to disable iCloud and Find My iPhone. In iOS 7 and up, a security feature called Activation Lock requires you enter the Apple ID used to set up the phone if you want to reset it. This feature has drastically reduced iPhone thefts, since it makes a stolen iPhone much harder to use. But if you don't disable Activation Lock, the next person who gets your iPhone — either a buyer or repair person — won't be able to use it.

Activation Lock is disabled when you turn off iCloud/Find My iPhone. To do that:

  1. Go to Settings.

  2. Tap the your name menu at the top of the screen (skip this step on earlier versions of the iOS).

  3. Tap iCloud, then Find My iPhone.

    Three iOS screens showing Name link, iCloud button, and Find My iPhone button
  4. Move the Find My iPhone slider to off/white.

  5. Scroll to the bottom of the screen and tap Sign Out.

  6. You may be asked for your Apple ID/iCloud password. If so, enter it.

    Find My iPhone toggled to OFF, confirmation dialog in center
  7. Once iCloud is off, continue on to the next step.

Step 3: Restore Factory Settings

  1. Return to the main Settings screen by tapping the Settings menu in the top left of the screen.

  2. Scroll down to the General menu and tap it.

  3. Scroll all the way to the bottom and tap the Reset menu.

  4. On this screen, you'll be presented with a number of reset options, ranging from resetting the iPhone's settings to resetting its dictionary or home screen layout. There's nothing specifically labeled "factory reset." The option you want is Erase All Content and Settings. Tap that.

    Three iOS screens showing General button, Reset button, and Erase All Content and Settings link
  5. If you have a passcode set on your phone, you'll be prompted to enter it here. If you don't have one (even though you should!), skip to the next step.

  6. A warning pops up to make sure you understand that if you proceed you'll be erasing all music, other media, data, and settings. If that's not what you want to do, tap Cancel. Otherwise, tap Erase to continue.

  7. It generally takes a minute or two to delete everything from the iPhone. When the process is done, your iPhone will restart and you'll have a brand-new, pristine iPhone (at least from a software perspective) ready for whatever your next step is.