Find My iPhone/Find My Mac — The Ultimate Guide

This guide will give you a comprehensive overview of the Find My iPhone/Find My Mac service available for compatible Apple devices. It will discuss all of the service’s main features including how to set up, locate, message, lock, and remotely erase a lost or stolen iOS device or Mac computer.

History of Find My iPhone

Find My iPhone is a remote location-tracking app created by Apple Inc. designed to help recover lost or misplaced iOS devices. The app was first released in June 2010 for users of Apple’s paid MobileMe service. With the launch of operating system iOS 4.2 in November 2010, Find My iPhone became available for free on some devices. In October 2011, Apple released its free cloud storage and computing service, iCloud. The release of iCloud made Find My iPhone available for free to all registered iCloud users. It also enabled remote location tracking for Mac computers and laptops running on OS X 10.7.2 “Lion” (or later) with the installation of iCloud and the new Find My Mac app.

Which devices are compatible and what requirements are needed?

As of Spring 2013, the service is available on devices using iOS5 or later and Mac computer and laptops operation on OS X 10.7.5 or later. This includes iPhone, iPad, iPod Touch, and Mac computers. In addition to a compatible device, a free iCloud account is required to use Find My iPhone/Mac to locate your device. Fortunately, iCloud is available on any computer — Mac or PC — should you lose your device and not have access to another compatible iOS device.

How Does Find My iPhone Work?

The Find My iPhone/Mac service allows users to locate their lost or misplaced iOS devices using the app on another compatible device or through icloud.com on a computer (Mac or PC).

How do I set up Find My iPhone/Mac on my device?

In order to locate your lost or misplaced device or computer, you must first set up an iCloud account and turn on Find My iPhone/Mac on each of your iOS compatible devices/computers. To see each of your devices in the app, register each individual device or computer with the same iCloud account.

Setting up an iOS device

- On the home screen of your device, tap Settings, then tap iCloud. Sign in with Apple ID or create account if you are prompted to do so.

- Tap the switch to enable Find My iPhone/Mac and, when asked to do so, tap OK or Allow.

Setting up a Mac

- On the Apple menu of your Mac, select System Preferences, then click iCloud. Sign in with Apple ID or create account if you are prompted to do so.

- Locate Find My Mac and click the box to enable the app, then click to confirm that you allow Find My Mac to use the location of your Mac computer.

How do I locate my lost iOS device or Mac?

With the Find My iPhone/Mac service, you can find the approximate location of your lost or misplaced device on a map. You will be able to locate your device or computer as long as the app is turned on and the device/computer you wish to locate is online. For iOS devices, that means the device is turned on (with or without a passcode lock) and connected to a 3G,4G, or Wi-Fi network. A Mac computer is online when turned on with an Internet connection via Wi-Fi or Ethernet.

Locating your lost iOS device/Mac

- Either sign into icloud.com/#find using your Apple ID OR use another compatible device set up using the same iCloud account and open the Find My iPhone/Mac app.

- Select All Devices and tap or click on the device you wish to locate in the list of compatible devices synced to your iCloud account. A green dot next to the device indicates it’s online and available to locate, while a grey dot means its offline.

- Registered devices that are online will appear as an approximate location on the app’s map feature.

- If Find My iPhone/Mac cannot locate your device, it will display its last known location for 24 hours. You can select “Notify me when found” to get an email when your device/computer is back online

Using the map feature

- There are navigational controls on the Find My iPhone/Mac map that allows you to move around the map or zoom in and out.

- To update the last known location of a device or computer, click the green dot on the map followed by the Refresh icon.

How do I use the Sound feature?

For iOS devices, Find My iPhone allows you to turn the sound on your device to full volume, even if it was muted when lost or misplaced. That way if you know you left your device in a place where someone is likely to find (or hear) it, you can use the sound feature to alert a stranger to its presence. The sound is an alarm clock-like alert that plays on full volume for two minutes. Similarly, the Find My Mac sound feature will allow you to remotely activate an alert at full volume on you Mac via a compatible iOS device or icloud.com. Keep in mind that the Mac must be connected to a Wi-Fi signal to support this feature.

How do I use Lost Mode?

Lost Mode was a feature made available on Find My iPhone/Mac operating on iOS 6 or later that flags your device as lost or stolen and allows you to remotely lock the device with a passcode. It is recommended that you use iCloud to put your lost device into Lost Mode as soon as it goes missing so that no one can gain access to your phone’s data. If the lost device is an iPhone and someone finds it, you can make it so he/she will be able to call you (and only you) directly from the iPhone by entering a custom message and contact number. They will be able to make the call to you to report finding your device without accessing any of the information in your phone. Find My iPhone will also automatically send you an email to confirm you turned on Lost Mode with the corresponding date and time.

What is Activation Lock?

Activation Lock is a new feature for Find My iPhone made available with the release of iOS 7. Activation Lock turns on automatically when you set up the app and is designed to make it more difficult for someone to use or sell your device. Activation Lock makes your device more secure and improves your chances of recovering it even if its contents have been erased. Activation Lock requires the entry of your Apple ID and password before anyone can:

- Turn off the Find My iPhone app

- Sign out of iCloud on your device

- Erase and reactivate your device

How do I erase the contents of my device/computer?

If your device or computer is lost or stolen, you can use Find My iPhone/Mac to erase its contents entirely. Erasing your device or computer is only advised if the Sound and Location features are unsuccessful at finding your device/computer. After you erase your device, you wont be able to use Find My iPhone to use either the Sound or Location function again. However, you may still be able to locate your Mac after using Find My Mac to erase its contents.

Erasing the info on your lost device

- If your device is online when you chose the erase function, the remote erase process begins and a confirmation is sent to the email address associated with your Apple ID.

- If your lost device is offline, the remote erase process will begin the next time it comes online.

- If you chose to erase your iOS device and find it later, you can restore your information using iCloud Backup, so long as the backup feature was turned on before the information was erased.

- If all functions fail and you don’t expect to find your device, contact your wireless service provider (if applicable) to cancel your service so you aren’t responsible for any of your plan’s terms or charges.

Erasing the info on your lost Mac

- As with an iOS device, if your Mac is online when you chose the erase function, the remote erase process begins.

- If your Mac is offline, the remote erase process will begin if the computer comes back online.

- If you erase your Mac and find it later, you can restore your information using a Time Machine backup.

How do I turn off or remove Find My iPhone/Mac?

If you stop using a device or computer and wish to sell or otherwise dispose of it, you can remove it from your Find My iPhone/Mac and iCloud account. When you remove a device from your list of registered devices, the device is disabled from your Find My iPhone/Mac account and Activation Lock is automatically turned off. If selling or donating your device or computer, make sure you erase all of your personal information, content, and preferences through the general settings menu first.

Find My iPhone is now included by default on all fourth and fifth generation iPhones, iPads, and iPod Touches and on Mac computers operating on OS X or later. The app will run in the background of your device and constantly track its whereabouts so, if it goes missing, you can use the apps features along with your iCloud account to locate it.

Pros of Find My iPhone/Mac

- Locate your iOS device or Mac computer on a map

- Can display message on screen to prompt call

- Play sound on full volume for 2 minutes

- Remotely lock device

- Erase all data (last resort)

- App is free

Cons of Find My iPhone/Mac

- Compatible only with iOS devices and Mac computers running on OS X 10.7.5 or later

- iCloud must be enabled to run app

- Data unrecoverable after remote erase on iOS devices

- Service features only applicable if passcode is already in place or you activate Find My iPhone/Mac settings immediately after misplacement

Tips for Using Find My iPhone/Mac

- Leave Wi-Fi settings ON at all times to allow access to the app and iCloud in absence of 3G or 4G network or Ethernet connection.

- Keep device or computer fully charged whenever possible.

- Stay signed into iCloud and leave app ON at all times for it to function.

- Install recommended updates whenever prompted to keep your device or computer current.

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQ)

1. Can I put any contact information on my device’s lock or home screen in case someone finds it?

- Yes. Find My iPhone/Mac allow you to remotely display a custom message with contact details on the main screen of your device or computer.

2. Can I locate my device/computer on a map if the Find My iPhone/Mac app wasn’t enabled?

- No. Both the app and iCloud must be configured to locate your device.

3. Can I find my device or computer if the ‘Location Services’ setting is turned off?

- No. The GPS tracking configuration settings on your device/computer must be turned on in order to report its location.

4. Can I locate my device/computer if it is turned off or the battery is dead?

- No. Your device or computer must be on and have a network connection to be located by the app. If it is turned off then subsequently turned back on, the app will resume as long as it was running when misplaced.

5. Can I locate my device is the SIM card has been removed?

- Yes. You may locate a device without its SIM card as long as it is turned on and connected to a network.

6. Can I find my device/computer if it has been erased or restored to its original settings?

- No. If you perform a remote erase of your device, or someone else does it before you utilize the app, you will no longer be able to track it.

7. What is the first step to take upon losing a device?

- If you realize you have lost or misplaced your device or computer, as long as Find My iPhone/Mac was turned on you can request an email alert to notify you when it has been located.

8. When should I perform a remote wipe erase of my device or computer?

- It is only recommended that you perform a remote erase if you think you have no chance of recovering it, or if it contains extremely sensitive or private contents that you want to remain unseen.

9. Can I register an iCloud account after my device or computer has been lost or stolen?

- No. An iCloud account is integral to the operation of Find My iPhone/Mac and must already be set up on your device in order to locate it.

10. If I already had a passcode on my device, will someone else be able to crack it?

- It is unlikely that a thief would be able to break into your phone. In most cases if an incorrect code is entered too many times the person will be locked out of the device. When this happens, the device will remain locked until it is synced to the last computer to which it was connected, rendering it useless to anyone but you.