Resetting an iPhone is simple, but there is one potential hangup. Here's the process at a glance:
- Open your iPhone's Settings app.
- Tap on your name at the top to open the Apple ID screen.
- Scroll to the bottom and sign out your Apple ID. This is necessary to disconnect Find My iPhone, which will prevent you from resetting your device.
- Follow the onscreen prompts to save ID-associated data to iCloud.
- Return to the main Settings menu. You should now be signed out and your name should be gone from the top of the menu.
- Scroll down to, and tap on, General.
- Scroll to the bottom, tap on Reset.
- Tap on Erase All Content And Settings.
- Confirm twice that you want to perform a complete reset. Your iPhone will restart and wipe itself.
Resetting an iPhone can be necessary for several reasons. It could be infected with malware, a departing user could be turning in a company-owned device, or you could be getting ready for an upgrade.
Regardless of the reason, it's important to know how to factory reset an iPhone to preserve privacy and data security.
Be careful when performing a full reset: If you haven't backed your iPhone up you'll be unable to restore its contents to a new device, leaving you forced to start from square one.
Factory resetting an iPhone
The process is simple, but searching online for reset steps reveals that users run into a common problem: Tapping on Erase All Content And Settings does nothing. You can thank Apple's security team for that—if Find My iPhone is turned on (which is highly recommended) iOS won't allow the device to reset, preventing a thief from covering their tracks.
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In order to do a complete wipe of your iPhone you need to first disable Find My iPhone. This is most easily done by signing out of your Apple ID, which you can do in the Settings app.
When you open Settings you'll see the screen shown in Figure A.
Tap on your name at the top of the menu to open the Apple ID screen (Figure B).
Scroll to the bottom of the Apple ID page and tap Sign Out. You'll have to enter your password to do so, and then you'll be asked if you want to save a copy of data associated with your Apple ID on the device. Since you're wiping it there's no need to save it, so just tap Sign Out (Figure C).
Once it's done cleaning up your Apple ID data, iOS will send you back to the settings screen, albeit without your name at the top (Figure D).
Scroll down to General, tap on it, and then scroll to the bottom of that menu, where you'll see Reset (Figure E).
Tapping on Reset will bring you to the screen shown in Figure F. Choose the second option, Erase All Content And Settings (if it doesn't do anything you're still signed in to an Apple ID that has Find My iPhone active).
Once you input your passcode you'll see the screen shown in Figure G. Tap it and it will reappear to confirm you really want to wipe your device. Confirm by tapping again, and the iPhone will wipe itself.
When the factory reset is complete, the iPhone will reboot to the Hello screen any new iPhone owner is familiar with. The device can be powered down at this point without having to worry about any user data being left behind.
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Brandon Vigliarolo has nothing to disclose. He does not hold investments in the technology companies he covers.
Brandon writes about apps and software for TechRepublic. He's an award-winning feature writer who previously worked as an IT professional and served as an MP in the US Army.