How to use Find My iPhone

Find My iPhone is a free app from Apple which lets you locate your smartphone or tablet when it's connected to the internet. See all Apple tutorials.

Quite why it isn't one of the default iOS apps is something of a mystery since it's very useful if you misplace your iPhone or iPad. It can also come in handy if your device is stolen. Visit: Taking the iPhone abroad? Avoid data roaming charges and How to change Apple ID on iPhone too.

Find My iPhone can show the position of your smartphone on a map, display a 'lost' message on the screen, force it to make a noise to help you find it (even if it's in Silent mode) and remotely wipe your device to prevent someone else seeing your stuff. It also allows you to remotely lock a device that's not protected by a passcode.

However, if you don't set it up properly there's every chance that a cunning thief can disable location services and prevent you seeing your iPhone or iPad's location, so here we'll explain how to configure everything and then track down a gadget that's gone AWOL.

We'll use an iPhone here, but the steps also apply to an iPod touch and iPad. Before following the steps below, you will need to have already set up iCloud on your device(s). If you skipped this during the setup assistant when you got your iPhone, simply go to Settings, then iCloud. Enter your Apple ID, or create a free one.

NOTE: Find My iPhone works as long as you have iOS 5 or later installed, and the Lost Mode requires iOS 6.

Step 1: Enable the Find My iPhone option. You'll find it under the iCloud menu in the Settings app.

How to use Find My iPhone: step 1

 Step 2: If you haven't already done so, set a passcode by going to the General section in Settings, and tapping Passcode Lock.

Step 3: Tap on Restrictions (also in the General section) and then Enable Restrictions. You'll have to set another passcode (preferably a different number to the main Passcode Lock) to do this.

Step 4: Scroll down to Location Services, tap it, and scroll down until you see Find My iPhone. Tap it, ensure Find My iPhone is set to ON and that Status Bar Icon is set to OFF. This prevents anyone knowing that you're tracking the phone's location using the Find My iPhone app.

Step 5: Tap the back button (marked Location Services) and scroll back to the top and tap Don't Allow Changes. Tap the back button (marked Restrictions) and you'll see a padlock symbol next to Location Services, indicating that no-one (and no new apps) can change the settings without entering the Restrictions passcode.

Step 6: Now head to the App Store and search for Find My iPhone. Tap the button that says Free, then tap again when it changes to Install app. Enter your password when prompted, and the app will install. The button will change to a progress bar, and then to an Open button.

Locating a lost or stolen iPhone or iPad using Find My iPhone

Step 7: Tap Open and Find My iPhone will ask you to log in with your usual Apple ID.

Step 8: The app will attempt to locate your devices which are connected to that Apple ID (which is also your iCloud ID). You'll see a list of the devices along with when they were last 'seen'. The status might show 'Offline' if the device isn't connected to the internet.

Step 9: Tapping on a device that has a green circle next to it will show its location on a map. A smaller circle means the location is fairly accurate, while a big circle means its position can't be precisely determined (typically because Wi-Fi is being used to figure out the location rather than GPS).

The location service works for the device you're holding, which is slightly odd. However, it's worth noting that you don't have to use the app to track your device: you can go to on any computer, log in with your Apple ID and click the Find My iPhone icon to access the same map and settings.

Step 10: With your device highlighted on the map, tap the blue arrow to show the options to play a sound, enable Lost Mode and erase the iPhone.

Step 11: Tapping Play Sound will do exactly that, and should mean you can track down your iPhone or iPad if it's within a few metres. The screen will also show a message: Find My iPhone Alert (or Find My iPad Alert if it's an iPad).

Step 12: Tapping Lost Mode prompts you to enter a phone number, which anyone finding the iPhone or iPad will see displayed on the screen when they press the sleep/wake button.

Step 13: Tapping Erase iPhone will wipe all your content and settings, and will prevent you using Find My iPhone to locate or track the device.

If your iPhone or iPad has been stolen, it's best to give any location to the police rather than trying to recover it yourself.