Note: In case you’re actually missing an Android device, head over to my guide on how to track a lost Android phone or tablet. If you’re reading this, then I assume that you just lost your beloved iPhone or iPad or, even worse, someone stole it. Either way, you must be in despair and want your device and your data back ASAP. Thankfully, there’s a way to track it down, lock it or wipe its data. Using the following steps, you are also able to track a lost or stolen Macbook.
Important note: If you haven’t activated “Find My iPhone / iPad / Mac” when you set up your device, this method won’t work.
Although you can download the official “Find My iPhone” app on the App Store, you don’t actually need it to track your Apple device. This means the app doesn’t have to be installed on your missing iPhone, iPad or Mac. The good thing here is that Find My iPhone is actually a cloud-based service by Apple. The app is only another way of accessing this service to locate your iPhone or other Apple devices. If you own an iPad or a second iPhone, you can also install the app and try to locate your missing device. Otherwise, all you need is a browser and your Apple ID login details.
Also, don’t be too worried that someone could disconnect your device from iCloud, turn off Find My iPhone or erase your device. If you’re on iOS7 or a later version, a feature called Activation Lock will prevent anyone from doing any of the mentioned things without your Apple ID password.
Alright, let’s get back your Apple device. Here’s what you need to do:
Head over to icloud.com and log in using your Apple ID credentials. Once signed in, you should see your iCloud dashboard with different icons. Click on the “Find My iPhone” icon, which the first one in the second row. Now you should see the Find My iPhone interface, including a map.
Depending on several factors, this can take a while. Also, use the erase option as a last resort, since Find My iPhone won’t work anymore on your device afterwards.
Activating Lost Mode will lock your device with a password and display a message of your choice together with a phone number, so that a nice soul hopefully contacts you to give your iPhone, iPad or Mac back into your hands. The Lost Mode has the nifty ability to enable location services on your iPhone or iPad, in case it’s deactivated. So no need to freak out if you realised that you turned it off. It will stay enabled as long as your device is in Lost Mode.
This is basically all you have to do to track your lost Apple device. Please keep in mind that your lost device needs to be turned on and somehow connected to the internet. If mobile data is turned off and it’s not connected to WiFi, you won’t be able to track it using Find My iPhone. Your only hope is to wait and hope that the thief or someone, who found it, connects to the web. Thankfully, you don’t need to stay inside of iCloud and hit refresh all the time. If your device is offline, you can let Apple notify you once it’s back online.
Note: This method only works if you have location reporting and location history enabled on your iPhone (or iPad).
You’re probably aware, that Apple and Google like to gather information about all sorts of things, including your location. Although this is an invasion of your privacy and some people intentionally disable location services on their devices, it can be very helpful when you lose your phone.
Google’s Timeline (former Location History) maps out all location data that has been collection from your iPhone. Yes, Google doesn’t only store all that location data of yours, it also makes it accessible in a very good looking interface.
Basically, you can see where you’ve been on a map. Using this tool, you can see where your lost phone was located the last time it sent its location data to Google. In case your iPhone is still on and is connected to the web, it will continue sending its location so you can see exactly where it is and go get it back. Even if it the battery is dead, you can still see its last reported location.
To see your location history do the following:
Since I published this article, many people post comments with similar questions. Below you can find answers to the most asked questions. I hope this helps some of you!
Let me ask you the following: can you access your mobile browser and google something if your phone is off, in airplane mode or has no data connection? Correct…no you can’t. Same thing applies to tracking your phone. As long as it doesn’t have a working connection to the internet, it won’t be able to send any location data.
With Find My iPhone you can let the tool check regularly for your iPhone’s location. As soon as it goes back online (someone charges and turns it on, for example), Find My iPhone will notify you. This enables you to locate it (literally) as soon as possible. You can also check your Google Maps Timeline (see above) for your phone’s last reported location to Google.
Luckily, even if a stranger turns off location services on your iPhone, it’s still possible to locate your iPhone. With Find My iPhone you can activate the so-called ‘Lost Mode’. This activates location services on your iPhone remotely and immediately tries to locate it. It will stay activated as long as no one unlocks your device.
Bad news. Once an iPhone has been erased, it’s not possible to locate it anymore. The whole sense behind erasing a phone is to delete everything, including personal data, images, user settings and all logins (including iCloud). Without a connected iCloud or Google account, tracking isn’t possible. I recommend that you try to use your Google Maps Timeline (covered above) to get the last recorded location of your phone.
In order to use Find my iPhone, you need to sign into your iCloud account. If you forgot your password, then this isn’t possible, of course. Apple makes it fairly easy to reset your Apple ID password (same one as on iCloud). All you need is your backup email account. Below you find the steps you need to follow:
In that case, ask friends or try to find a helpful stranger with an iPhone. You can track your lost iPhone using the “Find My iPhone” app on another device. Just make sure that you are signed into your own iCloud Account. Otherwise you’ll just track the iPhone you’re holding in your hand.
I really hope this article helps you find your lost iPhone, iPad or Mac. If you do, it would be great if you share your story in the comments! Also, if you know of any other way to track down a lost Apple device, please let us know.