How to Prevent Thieves From Disabling 'Find My iPhone'

Learn how to keep your iPhone-finding hopes alive a little longer

The Find My iPhone app is an excellent tool for locating a lost or stolen iPhone, but thieves can undermine it by turning it off. If your iPhone can't relay its GPS location, you might never be able to recover it.

While no foolproof method exists to ensure that thieves won't be able to turn off the Find My iPhone app, you can make it more difficult. Activating another option in your device's settings can give you more time to track down your iPhone.

Instructions in this article apply to iOS 12 and later.

Don't try to recover your stolen iPhone without the assistance of law enforcement. It's a bad idea, and it could potentially be dangerous.

How to Protect 'Find My iPhone'

To stop someone from turning off Find My iPhone, set up a restriction on your phone. This extra layer of security requires a unique password to disable the location services that the app uses.

  1. Open the Settings app.

  2. Go to Screen Time.

  3. Tap Content & Privacy Settings.

    Tap Turn On Screen Time and follow the prompts to activate the feature if you don't see any settings.

    iPhone screenshots showing Settings, Screen Time, and Content & Privacy Restrictions
  4. Check that the switch next to Content & Privacy Restrictions is set to on/green.

  5. Tap Location Services.

  6. Tap System Services at the bottom of the screen.

    iPhone screenshots showing Content & Privacy Restrictions, Location Services, and System Services
  7. Make sure Find My iPhone is turned on (the button should be green). If it isn't, toggle it to the on position by tapping the button to the right.

  8. Locate Status Bar Icon at the bottom of the System Services page, and make sure the switch is off/white.

    Switching off this option removes the icon at the top of the screen that shows that an app or service is using your location. Someone who steals your iPhone won't know that it's sending its whereabouts when you locate it.

  9. Tap Back at the top of the page to return to the Location Services page.

    iPhone screenshots showing Find My iPhone, Status Bar Icon, and the Back button
  10. Scroll to the top of the page and tap Don't Allow Changes. Immediately, the options on that page will be greyed out.

  11. Return to the Screen Time page, and then tap Use Screen Time Passcode. Enter a passcode you'll use for Screen Time settings.

    iPhone screenshots showing the "Don't Allow Changes" and "Use Screen Time Passcode" commands highlighted
  12. After you've set a passcode, nobody can access the Content & Privacy Restrictions menu without it.

To make your phone even harder for a thief to compromise, consider making a stronger iPhone passcode instead of the default 4-digit number.

The more time a thief has with your phone, the more likely they are to circumvent your security. The above measures will at least put up a few roadblocks for them, giving you some additional time to track down your iPhone.