Use 'Find My iPhone' to Locate a Lost or Stolen Phone

Locate your phone with Apple's free iPhone finder

Find My iPhone satellite map view on iCloud web page

If your iPhone has become stolen or lost, Apple offers a free tool to help you get it back. Even if you can't get your phone back, you can use the tool to prevent a thief from obtaining your personal data.

This iPhone recovery tool is called Find My iPhone. It's a completely free service that's part of iCloud that uses your phone's GPS and internet connection to help you locate it on a map and perform some remote actions. 

This probably isn't the article you're wanting to read given that your phone has been misplaced, but after following these instructions, you should have full confidence that either you'll find your phone or that you'll secure it so that whoever has it won't be able to access your data.

Find My iPhone works with iOS 5 or higher on iPhone 3GS or newer, as well as iPad, iPod touch (third-generation or newer), and Mac.

How to Use 'Find My iPhone' to Find or Erase Your Phone

As already mentioned, you must have had the Find My iPhone service set up on your device before it was stolen. If you did, there are two methods for locating your phone: using the iCloud website or the Find My iPhone app (open it on any iOS device to track your phone).

Here's how to use Find My iPhone from the iCloud website:

  1. Visit iCloud.com and log in with the same Apple ID that's logged in to your iPhone.

    Sign in to iCloud web page
  2. Select Find iPhone to immediately begin searching for all the devices that are logged in with your Apple ID.

    Find iPhone icon on iCloud webpage
  3. Find My iPhone zooms in on the map and shows the location of the device using a green dot. When this happens, you can zoom in or out of the map, and view it in standard, satellite, and hybrid modes, like in Google Maps.

    To locate a specific device instead of having all your devices shown on the map, select All Devices above the map and pick a different device.

    Screenshot of All Devices shown on iCloud.com map
  4. Select any device on the map and then choose the small (i) from the pop-up to see a window on the right of the screen with some additional options.

  5. Select Play Sound to make your phone play a sound, an option best used when you think you've lost your device nearby and want help finding it. It can also be helpful if you think someone has your device but is denying it.

    Play sound on Find My iPhone via iCloud website
  6. Lost Mode is another option with Find My iPhone that lets you remotely lock the device's screen and set a passcode (even if you hadn't previously set up a passcode). This prevents a thief from using your device or accessing your personal data.

    Lost Mode button in Find my iPhone via iCloud website

    Once you've selected Lost Mode, enter the passcode you want to use. If you already have a passcode on the device, that code will be used.

    You can also enter a phone number so that the person who has the device can know how to contact you (this is optional; you may not want to share this information if it's been stolen).

    Something else you can do with Lost Mode is write a message that will display on the device's screen.

  7. If you don't think you'll get the phone back, you can choose Erase iPhone. You'll see a warning asking to confirm that you really do want to wipe your iPhone remotely, and be reminded that erasing the contents of your phone will prevent you from finding it in the future with Find My iPhone.

    Erase iPhone button in Find my iPhone via iCloud website

    Just press Erase to proceed to delete all the data, preventing the thief from accessing what's on your phone.

    If you get the device back later, you can restore your data from backup.

  8. If you think your device is on the move, select the green dot on the map that represents your phone, and then use the rounded arrow in the pop-up window to update its location using the latest GPS data.

    Refresh button in Find my iPhone via iCloud website

What to Do If Your iPhone Is Offline

Even if you have set up Find My iPhone, your device may not show up on the map. Reasons this could happen include that the device:

  • Is turned off or out of battery.
  • Isn't connected to the internet.
  • Has had its Location Services disabled.

If Find My iPhone isn't working for whatever reason, remember that the three options — Play Sound, Lost Mode, and Erase iPhone — are always available. Use whichever you want so that the next time the device connects to the internet, the option you picked will be performed.