How to find and disable lost devices in iOS 13

Learn how to locate misplaced Apple mobile devices or remotely disable them by enabling the Find My feature of your iCloud account.

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Image: CNET

It's never fun to lose track of your iPhone, iPad, Apple Watch, or AirPods; fortunately, Apple provides excellent tools for tracking down the whereabouts of your devices. Using the Find My service (which is part of your free iCloud account), you can have peace of mind in knowing where your devices are and that you can remotely disable them and still protect your data.

In this tutorial, I'll walk through how to enable the Find My feature in iOS 13, how to track down lost devices, and how to disable the devices if you cannot physically find them.

SEE: Apple iOS 13: A cheat sheet (free PDF) (TechRepublic)

How to set up the Find My service in iOS 13

To use the Find My service that's part of iCloud, you will need to set up an iCloud account if you don't already have one, and then ensure that you're logged in on the iOS devices you wish to use this feature with. For more information on setting up a free iCloud account and signing in on your devices, Apple offers help

Once you've signed in to iCloud, enable the Find My service by performing the following steps.

  1. Open the Settings app.
  2. Tap your name at the top.
  3. Select Find My | Find My (iPhone/iPad) (Figure A).

Figure A

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Once you're in the Find My configuration view, enable the switch for Find My (device), and then enable the other two sections: Enable Offline Finding allows your device to be tracked when it's not connected to Wi-Fi or cellular, and Send Last Location allows for your device to automatically report its last location before turning off if the battery becomes critically low.

When you set up the service on an iPhone, any paired Apple Watch or AirPods will also be available for tracking. 

To enable this service on the Mac, perform these steps.

  1. Select the Apple menu.
  2. Select System Preferences.
  3. Click to Apple ID, and then the option for Find My Mac (Figure B).

Figure B

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How to track a lost device

There are a few ways you can track devices once they are set up to send location data to your iCloud account.

The first is by logging in to iCloud.com and selecting Find My from the main menu.

The second way and the most useful is the ability to use the mobile iPhone and iPad application that is pre-installed in iOS 13. Launching this app will show the device list for all devices associated with the same iCloud account or ones from family members that have been added through iCloud Family Sharing.

You can view the map to see where the devices are located; the most detailed view with the estimated address for the location can be found by tapping a device from the device list under the Devices tab (Figure C). 

Figure C 

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Here's what each of the actions does in this view:

  • Play Sound will cause your device to play a 30-second "pinging" sound at full volume, which allows you to better locate the device audibly.
  • Directions will open Apple Maps and provide you with driving or walking directions to the location of the device.
  • Notifications: If your device is not able to be found (due to bad cellular signal, for instance), you can enable the toggle for Notify When Found.
  • Mark As Lost will allow you to write a message on the lock screen of the device (providing an alternate phone number, for instance) so that anyone who finds the device may be able to turn it back over to you.
  • Erase This Device is for when all hope is lost. If you are unable to determine the location of the device, you can use this option to erase it remotely, which will perform a factory reset on the device. The device will still be locked to your iCloud account so that no one will be able to re-active it; your data will be erased to protect your privacy.

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