With how much we rely on our mobile devices, we wouldn’t ever wish to completely wipe them to factory settings unless it’s getting slow or buggy or you’re replacing it with a new one. If you’ve owned and used an iPhone for a long time, your device may have acquired a chunk of data, some of which may be sensitive and wouldn’t want others to see.
This accumulation may sometimes affect your device’s performance at which point you have two choices – reset your iPhone to factory settings or sell it to purchase another one. Regardless of your decision, it’s always safe to wipe your iPhone so that all of your personal data is erased from the device so that no one else can access it in the future, even if they get their hands on it, literally!
In this post, we’ll explain to you everything you need to know about wiping an iPhone, why and when you should do it, and what you need to know before you reset your iPhone back to factory settings.
Why and when should you wipe your iPhone?
No matter how well you’ve taken care of your iPhone, there will come a point when you’d have to wipe it back to its factory setting. If you’re wondering when you should do it, you can wipe your iPhone when:
- Your device has slowed down as it has a lot of data and apps stored in memory. If you want to improve your old iPhone’s performance, wiping it to default settings should make it fast.
- You have recently started encountering bugs and issues with the software which will need to be wiped to make your iPhone work again.
- You have a beta version of iOS running on the iPhone that you no longer want to use. In such cases, you can use Recovery Mode to wipe your phone’s data and settings and install a fresh stable copy of iOS on it.
- You’re about to sell your iPhone or give it away to someone. Others will only be able to use your device when you disable Activation Lock and wipe its contents.
What should you do before wiping your iPhone?
Performing a factory reset is a simple task as most of it can be done on your iPhone itself. However, before you proceed to delete its data, you must take care of the following things:
- Create a backup of your iPhone’s data on iCloud or the Mac so you can restore it on the same iPhone or a new iPhone when you need it.
- Disable your iPhone’s Activation Lock so the device can be wiped to factory settings and removed from your list of Find My devices.
- Deregister your phone number from iMessage and deactivate FaceTime so that you’re able to use them on other devices.
- Apple Watch owners will have to unpair their watches from the iPhone they’re about to wipe and connect them to another iPhone to continue using them.
- Remove your eSIM from iOS settings so you can use it on a new device.
- (Optional) Remove all the accounts you’ve signed in to on Apple apps and third-party apps you have installed on the iPhone to protect your data and privacy.
We’ll explain to you all the steps necessary to prepare your iPhone for a factory reset in the section that follows.
How to prepare your iPhone for wiping
Before you go ahead and wipe your iPhone, you need to m[ake sure all of its data has been backed up, you’ve unpaired accessories you previously connected to it, and have signed out of all the accounts that you have with Apple services and other apps on your iPhone.
#1: Back up your iPhone to iCloud or Mac
The most important step when it comes to wiping an iPhone is to save its essential contents elsewhere so you can have a piece of mind that your data stays safe even when your iPhone has been wiped. Backing up an iPhone is the easiest when doing it on your device itself as a copy of your iPhone’s content gets saved on your iCloud storage.
If you have enough storage space on your iCloud account or are only making a partial backup of your iPhone, you can back it up using iOS settings. For larger backups, we recommend using a computer and following the instructions given in the post linked below.
To create a backup of your iPhone over iCloud, open the Settings app on iOS.
Inside Settings, tap on your Apple ID name at the top.
In the Apple ID screen that appears, select iCloud.
On the next screen, scroll down and tap on iCloud Backup.
If you haven’t used iCloud to back up your iPhone before, turn on the iCloud Backup toggle at the top.
Once enabled, tap on Back Up Now to start backing up your iPhone’s content over iCloud.
All your iPhone data will now start getting backed up on iCloud and to make sure everything gets uploaded properly, keep your device connected to your Wi-Fi network. You can check the progress of the backup at any time on this screen.
When your backup is complete, the iCloud Backup screen will also show the last time it was able to successfully sync your iPhone data.
#2: Unpair your Apple Watch from the iPhone
Besides backing up your iPhone, you may also need to take care of other Apple devices that you may have connected to your iPhone when wiping your device. If you had previously paired an Apple Watch with the iPhone and now you’re going to wipe the latter, then you will have to unpair the Apple Watch from your phone so you can connect it to another iPhone.
To unpair your Apple Watch, open the Watch app on your iPhone.
Inside Watch, tap on the My Watch tab at the bottom.
On this screen, tap on All Watches at the top left corner.
To unpair your Apple Watch from the iPhone, tap on the i icon on the right-hand side of the Apple Watch you want to unpair.
On the next screen, tap on Unpair Apple Watch.
In the prompt that appears at the bottom, tap on Unpair <your> Apple Watch to confirm changes.
If the Apple Watch you’re unpairing is a GPS + Cellular model, you may have to go through additional steps to remove the cellular plan from the watch, if required.
Your iPhone will first create a backup of your Watch data and settings and then erase the Watch’s contents.
#3: Turn off Find My on your iPhone
If you wish to wipe your iPhone using methods #1 and #2, you will need to disable the Activation Lock on the device, to successfully erase its contents. This will make sure the device doesn’t show up inside your iCloud account or Find My app on other devices. Ensuring Activation Lock is disabled is necessary if you’re selling or giving your iPhone away to someone to use with their own Apple ID.
You can turn off the Activation Lock by simply disabling Find My on the iPhone you wish to wipe. To do that, open the Settings app on your iPhone.
Inside Settings, tap on your Apple ID name card at the top.
In the Apple ID screen that shows up, select Find My.
On the next screen, you may see the Find My iPhone settings marked On. To disable your iPhone’s Activation Lock, tap on Find My iPhone at the top.
Inside the Find My iPhone screen, turn off the Find My iPhone toggle.
You’ll be prompted to enter your Apple ID password on the next screen. Once you’ve typed the password, tap on Turn Off to disable Find My on your device.
Once disabled, the Activation Lock will be removed for the selected iPhone from your Apple ID account.
#4: Disable FaceTime and iMessage
If you wish to wipe your iPhone to move on to another iPhone or a non-Apple device, then you will be required to disable iMessage and FaceTime on the current device to make sure they can be activated on another device at a later time. De-registering iMessage is an important step when wiping your iPhone because leaving it enabled may prevent other devices from getting SMS/MMS messages.
To disable iMessage on an iPhone, open the Settings app on iOS.
Inside Settings, select Messages.
On the Messages screen, turn off the iMessage toggle.
If you no longer have access to your iPhone, you can deregister iMessage on it by going to the Apple SelfSolve page and entering your phone number to remove it from iMessage.
To disable FaceTime on your iPhone, open the Settings app on iOS and select FaceTime.
Inside FaceTime, turn off the FaceTime toggle to remove the iPhone from the list of devices where people can contact you over FaceTime.
#5: Sign out of all apps
Although wiping your iPhone will remove accounts you’ve signed into on each of the apps you have installed on your device, it’s always a safe approach to sign out of all apps. This can be time-consuming for someone of you who use a ton of apps and have accounts signed into each of them but doing this will make sure you’re able to use your account on another device without getting locked out.
Apple doesn’t allow you to sign out of apps from within iOS settings if the app you want to sign out from isn’t developed by Apple. So, to sign out of accounts from these apps, you will have to open each of them and take the necessary steps to remove all the accounts you’ve signed in to on them.
For apps made by Apple, you can sign out of the accounts you’ve signed in to by opening the Settings app and then selecting any one of Contacts, Mail, Calendar, Notes, and Reminders.
On the next screen, tap on Accounts.
In the Accounts screen, select the non-iCloud account you’ve added to the app.
On the next screen, tap on Delete Account at the bottom to sign out of the selected account from the particular app.
In the prompt that appears at the bottom, confirm your action by tapping on Delete from My iPhone.
You will have to repeat this step for other accounts and apps you’ve signed in to.
#6: Erase your eSIM from the iPhone
If the purpose of wiping your iPhone is to switch to another device, then you may need to transfer your SIM from the current iPhone to another device. This is a fairly simple process if you use a physical SIM as all you need to do is take the SIM from the SIM card tray on your current iPhone and then place it on the new device.
In case you use an eSIM, you will need to erase the eSIM from the iPhone you’re about to wipe before you can use it on another phone. To remove the eSIM from an iPhone, open the Settings app.
Inside Settings, select Mobile Data.
On the next screen, select the eSIM you want to remove from the SIMs section.
When the selected cellular network screen appears, tap on Delete eSIM to remove the eSIM from your iPhone.
You will now be able to add this eSIM to another device as you did on your current iPhone.
How to wipe your iPhone completely
There are a bunch of ways you can wipe your iPhone back to factory settings. Each of these methods can only be performed on certain devices and we’ll explain all of the steps involved for all of them. You can wipe your iPhone from your iPhone itself, or you can connect it to a Mac or Windows computer to get it erased. You can also factory reset your iPhone using another iPhone or an Apple device that’s signed into the same Apple ID as the device you’re about to reset.
Method #1: Using the Settings app on iOS
If you prefer to wipe your iPhone to factory settings, doing it on the iPhone itself is the easiest of all four methods listed in this post. This step requires that you disable Find My on your iPhone but even if you haven’t, you’ll have the option to disable it during the wiping process. After you’ve followed all the steps to prepare your iPhone for a complete wipe, you can activate the factory reset process by first opening the Settings app on your iPhone.
Inside Settings, select General.
On the next screen, scroll down and tap on Transfer or Reset iPhone.
In the Transfer or Reset iPhone screen, select Erase All Content and Settings from the bottom.
You’ll now see the Erase This iPhone screen that shows you the list of contents that will be removed during the process. To confirm your action, tap on Continue.
On the next screen, you’ll be asked to enter your device passcode. This is the passcode you enter when unlocking your iPhone when your Face ID or Touch ID doesn’t work.
If you haven’t disabled Find My on your iPhone yet, you will be prompted to enter your Apple ID password so that you can turn off Find My and remove the Activation Lock from your iPhone.
If iCloud Backup is enabled on your device, your iPhone will start creating a backup of your device data onto iCloud and then wipe your iPhone. If for some reason this backup fails, you will see this prompt on the screen. You can choose Erase Anyway to skip the backup process if you have already created a backup or tap on Don’t Erase iPhone to wait until your backup has been uploaded to iCloud.
Your iPhone will then start wiping all of your data and may restart a couple of times during the process. This may take a few minutes or longer depending on the amount of data you had saved on the device. When the process completes, you will arrive at the “Hello” screen, the same one that shows up when you set up a new iPhone.
From here, you can set up your iPhone as new, restore from a backup, or switch it off if you’re planning to give it away to someone else.
Method #2: Using the Finder app on Mac/iTunes app on Windows
If you don’t prefer using your iPhone for wiping itself, you can connect it to a Mac or a Windows PC to revert its condition to factory settings. For this method, you will need to ensure that Find My on your iPhone is disabled before you connect it to your computer. If you own a Mac, you don’t need additional software to be able to connect and wipe your iPhone. But if you’re using a Windows computer, you will first need to download the iTunes for Windows program on your desktop and install it before you can get started.
Once your Mac or Windows computer is ready, connect your iPhone to them using a USB-to-Lightning cable that came with your iPhone. When the devices are connected, open the iTunes for Windows application on Windows and click on the Phone icon at the top of this window.
On a Mac, open the Finder app from the Dock, Launchpad, or Spotlight.
Inside Finder, select your device from the left sidebar.
When your iPhone’s details show up, select the General tab at the top and then click on Restore iPhone under “Software Update” at the top.
In the prompt that appears, select Restore and Update to confirm your choice.
Your device will now be erased and a fresh build of the latest iOS will be installed on the same.
Method #3: Using the Find my app on other Apple devices
This method will be useful in case you’ve misplaced your iPhone someone or if it has been stolen from you. If you have no hope of getting this device back, the least you could do is remotely wipe all of your data from the device so that your personal and sensitive information gets removed from the iPhone and is inaccessible to anyone who has physical access to it.
To wipe your iPhone remotely, you need to make sure that Find My is enabled on your iPhone and that your current device is signed into the same Apple ID as the one on the iPhone you want to wipe. This method won’t work if you’ve already turned off Find My on the iPhone as your device won’t show up inside Find My when its Activation Lock has been disabled.
To start, open the Find My app on another iPhone, iPad, Mac, or Apple Watch or sign in to iCloud.com using your Apple ID and password. In this instance, we’ll be using the Find My app on macOS.
When the app opens, click on the Devices tab.
Now select the iPhone you want to wipe.
You will see additional options right away if you’re on the iPhone, iPad, or Apple Watch. On the Mac app, you need to click on the i icon adjacent to the iPhone from inside the map.
When a popup menu appears, click on Erase This Device at the bottom.
In the Erase iPhone prompt, click on Continue and follow the on-screen instructions to successfully wipe the selected iPhone.
Method #4: Using Recovery mode on iPhone
When your iPhone is unusable or doesn’t boot up as it’s supposed to, you can use Recovery Mode to wipe contents from it and reset it to factory settings. This method can also be used to repair an iPhone that has started misbehaving after a beta update as this resets your device back to a stable build of iOS.
To use Recovery Mode for wiping an iPhone, you need the following things:
- A Mac or a Windows computer.
- The latest version of macOS running on a Mac or the updated version of iTunes for Windows on a computer.
- A USB-to-Lightning cable to connect your iPhone to Mac or computer.
- An active internet connection on your Mac or computer.
Once you’ve taken care of these requirements, power on your iPhone and connect it to a Mac or Windows computer using a USB-to-Lightning cable. Once your iPhone and the computer/Mac are connected, you can go ahead and activate the Recovery Mode on the iPhone to get started. To enable Recovery Mode, you need to follow these steps in the order provided below:
- Press the Volume Up button and release it instantly.
- Press and Volume Down button and release it instantly.
- Now, press and hold down the Side button until you see the Recovery Mode screen. You shouldn’t let go of the Side button even after the Apple logo shows up but you only do when the Recovery Mode screen appears.
The Recovery Mode screen will show a Mac icon at the center and a lightning cable at the bottom half. Once your iPhone shows this screen, you can perform the next step on your Mac or Windows computer.
When the Recovery Mode screen shows up on the iPhone, open the Finder app on your Mac and select your iPhone from the left sidebar for it to show up. On Windows, open the iTunes app and click on the Phone icon at the top.
Inside the Finder or iTunes window, you should now see the “There is a problem with the iPhone” prompt. To wipe your iPhone, click on Restore iPhone.
Your Windows or Mac computer will now look for the latest non-beta software compatible with your iPhone. Once it finds the relevant update for you, you’ll see another prompt that reads “A software update is required to restore your iPhone”. Inside this prompt, click on Install to download the software and install a fresh copy of iOS on the iPhone.
The update will now get downloaded and then installed on your iPhone and upon completion, your iPhone will now reboot to the Hello screen. From here, you can either set it as new, restore using a backup or switch off the device if you don’t intend to use it in the future.
What happens when you wipe your iPhone to factory settings?
Performing a wipe removes all of the contents on your iPhone and forces it back to its original state, the same condition your iPhone came out of the box when you first set it up. When you wipe your iPhone to factory settings,
- All your data including photos, videos, and files saved on the iPhone will get removed.
- All the apps and games you previously installed on the iPhone will be deleted.
- Your iPhone’s settings will be reset to factory default including your Wi-Fi connections, cellular data settings, VPNs, app permissions, location settings, etc.
- Any temporary data including app and system cache will also be deleted from the iPhone.
- The iPhone will be removed from the list of devices signed in to iCloud and Find My.
- This iPhone will no longer receive your iMessage texts and FaceTime calls unless you set them up again on the device.
- When method #4 is used, your iPhone’s beta firmware will be replaced by the last stable iOS build released for your device.
When your iPhone is wiped to factory settings, all data that gets removed will be unrecoverable, so we recommend taking a backup of your device before you erase it.
How to wipe your iPhone without a factory reset
Erasing your iPhone completely wipes its data and settings from the device and returns it to its factory state. However, you can reset specific features on your iPhone without needing to perform a factory reset. If you wish to solve an issue or want to configure your iPhone slightly different from how you initially set it up, you can reset using any of these functions:
Reset Network Settings – This option deletes all of the current network settings from your iPhone and can be useful if you’re experiencing problems connecting to a Wi-Fi or cellular network.
Reset Keyboard Dictionary – This option resets your keyboard’s dictionary and helps solve problems with autocorrect, incorrect suggestions, and typos.
Reset Home Screen Layout – If you wish to return to the original iOS Home Screen layout, this option removes your current layout and resets it to its factory preset.
Reset Location & Privacy – This option resets all the settings you configured inside your phone’s location and privacy settings. Resetting this will revoke access you’ve granted to apps installed on your iPhone unloading location and you will have control over what access is being granted when the device boots up again after the reset.
Reset All Settings – This option resets all of the above settings including your network configuration and device preferences. Doing so will not delete photos, files, and apps from your iPhone as they’ll remain intact, unlike after a factory reset.
If you wish to reset any of your iPhone’s settings, you can do that by opening the Settings app on iOS.
Inside Settings, select General.
At the bottom of the General screen, tap on Transfer or Reset iPhone.
On the next screen, tap on Reset.
Now, select the reset setting you wish to perform and your iPhone will start the reset process.
Once reset, the device will reboot and you can use your iPhone again without restoring it from a backup.
What should you do if you didn’t erase your iPhone properly before giving it away?
If you forgot to wipe your iPhone before giving it away or if your device was misplaced or stolen, there are still a few things you can do to make sure the data on that device isn’t accessible to someone else. If the device you gave it away has been shared with someone you know, you can request to take it back from them so that you take the necessary steps to wipe your iPhone correctly.
If you don’t expect to get your iPhone back, you can wipe it away remotely using method #3 in the guide above. In this method, we use Find My to detect your iPhone but if this device is undetectable, you can wipe it remotely. In the Find My app, locate the iPhone you want to wipe and then select Erase This Device in the list of options. This will wipe all of its data from the selected iPhone.
After the wiping process is complete, you can remove this device from your Apple account by selecting Remove from Account or Remove This Device in the same list of options. Once you remove this device, it won’t appear inside Find My or on iCloud and won’t be traceable by you in the future. You can also remove a device from your Apple account from the Settings app on another iPhone/iPad or the System Preferences app on a Mac.
If Find My was already deactivated when you misplaced your iPhone or sold it, you cannot do anything about the data that was stored on your iPhone or iCloud. If you hadn’t wiped the data from your iPhone before, you won’t be able to remotely wipe it without having physical access to it.
Instead, you can choose to protect your Apple ID and prevent someone else from accessing your iCloud data by changing your Apple ID password. To do that, go to appleid.apple.com on the web and sign in to your Apple account. Once you’re signed in, go to Sign-In and Security > Password > Change Password to set a new password to your Apple account. This way, your Apple ID will stay protected and will be inaccessible to anyone other than you.
If the iPhone you gave it away was used to make Apple Pay transactions and you forgot to wipe its data, you can remove your saved back cards by going to iCloud.com > Account Settings > your device and clicking on Remove next to “Apple Pay”.
Your Apple ID account will now be secure and inaccessible to anyone else apart from you, even if you failed to wipe it in the first place.
That’s all you need to know about wiping an iPhone to factory settings.