How To Find Your Stolen iPhone or iPad Free

Up until recently, locating your lost iOS device was a feature only paid MobileMe subscribers enjoyed. However, with the most recent software update Apple decided to toss in this service free of charge for all devices (how very un-Apple!).

This process is pretty straightforward and is even laid out pretty well on Apple’s site, but for all those who missed it or have been avoiding the task, you’ll want to check out this quick tutorial. The entire setup only takes a few minutes and you’ll definitely be glad you did it!

The Heads Up

I remember hearing something about this service switching over to free but I really didn’t give it much thought until iTunes gave me the message below encouraging me to set it up on my iPad.

screenshot

The friendly iTunes reminder

This little screen obviously did its work effectively. I’ve never been a MobileMe subscriber so the promise of getting one of its best features free immediately snagged me. After going through the process entirely I can honestly say that this isn’t a gimmick. There’s no lengthy sales pitch or limited trial, just a free service that you should be using just in case the worst-case scenario ever comes true and you find yourself without your precious Apple device.

Still skeptical? Let’s check out how to set up the service and look at the features so you can see exactly what you’ll be signing up for. We’ll be walking through an iPad setup but the iPhone version is basically the same.

Some commenters have pointed out that this free service is only available on the iPhone 4 and not any older iPhones, unfortunately leaving tons of iPhone owners out. Sorry guys!

Adding A MobileMe Account

The first thing you want to do on your iOS device is go to Settings and tap on Mail, Contacts and Calendars. From here you want to Add a MobileMe account. Don’t worry if you’re not signed up for MobileMe, as long as you have an iTunes account you should be fine.

screenshot

Tap Add Account then select MobileMe

Once you’ve selected a MobileMe account, you’ll be asked to sign in. This part is the most confusing and had me scratching my head for a minute to figure out what was going on. The easy part is typing in your ID and password. This is simply the email address you use for iTunes along with the password you use when downloading apps.

screenshot

Enter your iTunes info

Now, once you’ve signed in, you may or may not receive a message saying that the MobileMe terms have changed (I did). If you do, simply read the 32 page agreement (yeah right) and hit “accept” at the bottom. Once you do this, the Settings app quits. It just goes away! I thought it was crashing but it turns out I needed to verify my new MobileMe account. As it turns out, the Find My iPhone service is still very much a part of MobileMe, so this process signs you up for the free portion of the service.

Eventually, I figured out that the next step is to check your email. Here you’ll find a verification message like the one below. Simply click the “Verify Now” link

screenshot

The verification email

This will take you to Apple’s website where you can verify your account. Here you once again just type in your iTunes credentials.

Start Over

Once you’ve verified your account, go into Settings on your iPhone/iPad and see if the MobileMe account has appeared. If not, tap Add Account once more, select MobileMe and log in with your iTunes account. If you think this all sounds terribly redundant, you’re right, it is.

The good news is that from here the headache is over. This time adding a MobileMe account should give you the option to turn on “Find My iPad.” Flip the switch and hit “Allow” to activate the service.

screenshot

Turn on Find My iPad

That’s it! Now you’re signed up and your device will begin tracking its own location.

Now What?

So now that you’ve got the service all up and ready, where do you go to see it? It turns out there are two options. The first is through any web browser. Stop by Me.com and sign in with the same info you just used forty-two times above.

screenshot

Me.com

Once you’ve signed in, you should see a simple Google Map showing the location of your device. Tapping on your device will bring up three options: Display Message or Sound, Lock and Wipe.

screenshot

The map

If you’re like me, you’ve got plenty of personal information floating around in apps like Evernote so it’s really nice to be able to lock or wipe the device remotely. Obviously, at this point you would call the police and kindly ask them to go beat the crap out of the dirty thief who took your iPad.

The App

The second option for viewing this data is the free iPhone app from Apple, Find My iPhone. From here you can track multiple devices (obviously, if one is stolen, you’ll have to use another) and perform the same actions as we saw on MobileMe: send message, wipe or lock.

screenshot

Find My iPhone app

It’s interesting to note that the sound will go off even if your device is on silent. This alarm will sound for two minutes and is sure to freak out the abductor. From here you can continue to berate him/her with scary messages.

screenshot

Sending a message

Conclusion

To sum up, a once premium service is now provided to you free of charge from the good folks at Apple inc. Though you’d like to think that your iOS device will never be lost or stolen, the simple truth is that it happens all the time. Take the time to make sure that if it ever does happen, you’ll be prepared and protected.

Leave a comment below and let us know whether you’ve signed up yet or not. Do you think it’s great of Apple to provide this for free or is it just some underhanded tactic to try to hook you on MobileMe? Weigh in below!


  • Anthony

    I got a question for you. When I go to type in my information (Apple ID & Password) in the Add Account fields, it says “Device Not Supported. This iPhone is not qualified for free MobileMe Service”

    Why am I not qualified? Is it because I own the 3G?
    Thanks,

    • Anthony

      Never mind. I went to the site and realized it is because I don’t have the iPhone 4. So dumb, for Real.

      • Marcus

        it’s such a scam

    • http://surreystore.com iMacker

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  • Brian Lang

    This only works on iPhone 4. iPhone 3G and 3GS not supported.

    • Pete

      NOT true. As long as you set up your mobile me account from an iphone 4, you can use find my iphone for your 3g or 3GS!

  • http://fairheadcreative.com Adam Fairhead

    Since I use a 3GS, no love for me until I next upgrade. Ah well, it’s a step in the right direction, I guess.

  • http://kreddibletrout.com Will

    Do you need to keep your location settings on for this dealio to work? I don’t like my location services on. Creeps me out.

  • http://www.coroflot.com/joshuajohnson Joshua Johnson

    Whoa, I didn’t even realize this was an iPhone 4 only service. That’s strange. Thanks for the heads up guys, sorry for the oversight!

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  • Vitor Ussui

    Wow, this is so astonishing. Even though it’s something from another world, I’m really happy to see it’s finally free of charge. Loved it!
    Thanks for the tip.

  • Anton B

    I got it on my iPhone 3GS? Wierd. But i don’t think that it is such an great application. Because you can go right into the preferences -> Email… -> MobileMe and then turn of the “Find My iPhone” option.
    And then, the game is lost.

  • Jessica

    My iPhone 4 was stolen and I am currently using my iPhone 3. Is it at all possible to use Find My iPhone *after* your phone is stolen?

    I do not have MobileMe so I am not that familiar with how it works. If I were to get MobileMe and have my lost phone activated (if possible/financially worthwhile), can I remotely install Find My iPhone on my stolen phone?

    Thanks for any advice or suggestions.

  • Bailey Smith

    so, if i don’t have a mobileme account already on my stolen iphone4, there is no way of tracking it?

  • Blah

    You know what sucks? Is that once the phone is turned off, the service is rendered useless. Then the person who stole my iphone 4 wins. Life sucks right now.

    • Chris

      Couldn’t the abductee simply turn location services off and then he cannot be tracked? Is there any way to lock location services without having to lock the iphone with a password itself(as i find this really annoying having to type a password each time to access my iphone)?

    • Montana

      Here’s an idea: allow the user to “lock” the on/off button. Either by setting a passcode for turning it off, or only allowing the device to be turned off at the home screen (the screen that shows all your apps).

      • Gerome

        even if you could set a passcode for turning it off, they can just put it into recovery mode or DFU mode, and restore it so theres no point in that option.

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  • Mora

    Its stupid. Not worth the time. It only tells you what “area” its in, not EXACTLY where its at. And for the part where you tell the cops to “go kik the robbers butt” they say what I just said above, “We can’t tell exactly where it’s at. And even though we have video feed of the robbers doing their dirty deed, we’ll pass the case from one department to another till it’s too late to retrieve the video. But what are you worried about? You didnt have to pay the charges incurred on your credit cards. iPhones get stolen all the time.” Guess what ppl kill other ppl everyday too, doesn’t make that alright, does it?

  • ahcanuck

    Hi,
    Can the thief just reset the iphone (a process used prior to jailbreaking)? Or is it possible to remove the battery pack (it looks difficult but hey…can be done right?) What if your phone is out of battery?
    I’m setting up everything for my mom on her iphone 4 right now and want to make sure everything is secure for her (she’s technologically challenged). I had my iphone stolen a while back and didn’t know about the available tracking methods. Just want to make sure it won’t be possible for that to happen again.
    Thanks for your help.

  • s

    Thanks for posting. My colleage’s phone just got stolen and he is kicking himself for not having set it up. Now I have learned from his mistake, with your help.

  • Colleen

    I had my iphone for two years , let someone i had known for yonks in my flat for social session ,after a long day I fell asleep ,only to wake up the next morning ,my pokets empty and my one possession thats worth more than gold to me “my iphone” was gone. the cash dvd player and movies meant nothing,my family being spread all over australia,meant contact with them was only possible on the phone. my children thinking something terrible had happened {suffer epilepsy} had decided if no contact is made in 24hours they were involving police. i learned the lesson a few to be honest Dont put all info on ur fone ,keep copies elswhere at home ,these iphones are more trouble than worth but i would have no other phone now ive had one . just have to save for it

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  • Yuliana

    Great deal!!! I DID IT… Thank you so much!!! I saved some $$

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  • Jennifer Freeman

    i have the iphone 4, it was stolen and we deactivated the number. can i still find it with mobile me? and do you hav to hav the mobile me app installed for it to work? please respond! thanks.

  • Giraffe

    What if u suspended ur iphone to prevent the thief from doing anything to it? Will u still be able to track it?

  • Richard

    Your 3G phone can be added to your account once it’s set up. Use the new program “Find My Phone”.
    So far I haven’t found a way to find my stolen iPad because I didn’t set this up BEFORE it was stolen. If you dial 911 the police know immediately where you are so I don’t know why it’s not the same thing? Cost?
    I’m hoping for ios5 with iCloud soon because it looks like as long as it hasn’t been wiped you can push the program onto the unit and activate it remotely
    Be aware criminals, we’re finding were and better ways to find you and a lot of us will call our friends not the police.

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  • http://www.luxemix.com Jenni

    OMG thank you so much for posting this article. I got my iphone stolen tonight while I was at a store. I kind of had an idea who took it from my purse.. i stared him down for a few min while we were checking out. When I got home I was fuming mad I’d gotten my phone stolen so I searched for “stolen iphone” and came to this article. I’d forgotten all about my mobile me GPS tracking!! Thanks to your article I checked the location and it showed it was still in the same area as the store I was at! I drove back and the manager of the store helped me find it in the parking lot where the stupid guy had dumped it. He must have gotten scared I knew so threw my phone out. I know a lot of other cases the thief would likely turn the phone off but in mine.. it totally worked. Thank you App Storm!

  • Clarence Bouse

    My wife and I purchased two new iPad2′s. However in shipment our iPads were stolen before they reached us here in Russia where we live. Obviously, I have the serial numbers, but I need a free service that I can use to find my stolen iPads. Apple has not been very cooperative either in assisting us to find our stolen iPads. We’ve spent $2,000 plus shipping for our iPads and smart covers and would like Apple to step up and be responsible and help us. But since they’re not, I’m forced to try to find them on my own. Any suggestions??? PLEASE help us. Thank you in advance.

  • Emil Cristian

    Yesterday some guys tryed to steal my iPhone 4 . I was on my way home when 3 gypsies followed me, one of them comed at me and the other 2 stayed back, i punched the guy and run away. Now i took the securty mesures: I had MobilMe account before that happend , but now i have the “Find my Phone” app too. I am very disapointed about this part with phone thiefs and they should be punished severley.

  • Robin

    Don’t waste your time setting it up unless you only need to find a misplaced iphone or ipad. When the device is powered off by a thief it cannot be located. Also, if the device is “jailbroken”, it no longer can be traced. Most thieves are aware of this and will never be caught. Apple needs to come up with a way to trace the serial number from devices that are being “reset”. It sounds simple enough – so why isn’t anyone doing anything about it????? Apple isn’t helping anyone with this app except for maybe the absentminded who are always misplacing their iphones or ipads.

    • melissaelvis

      Agreed. This function is useless if your iPhone is stolen. My phone disappeared two days ago and within an hour of me realizing it was missing, I looked on my “Where’s My iPhone?” function. The “location was not available,” which means that someone took out the SIM card or the phone had been turned off by someone (not me); this told me the phone was not lost, but stolen.

      This function is good in letting you know that your phone is indeed gone for good. If your phone is lost, you might find it with this feature. But if it’s stolen and the person who took it has a clue, you’re unlikely to find it unless you monitor Craig’s List.

  • Kashish

    I just lost my iPhone 4. I had the Mobile Me account set up. Is there any way to retrieve it?
    The phone’s switched off as per now.

  • David

    Some of the complainers drive me nuts. Of COURSE it’s not a perfect solution. You can put lo-jack on your car, but smart car thieves can disable that too.

    What it is, is FREE. Simply having the ability to lock and wipe the phone remotely is good enough for me. Sure, maybe the cops won’t be able to do anything, but if I find out my phone is at the home of someone I know, I won’t be calling the cops anyway. I’ll be going there to kick that person’s ass myself.

    Thanks for the post!

  • ruth

    i had my iphone 4 stolen a week or so ago, i didnt have the mobile me set up is there anyway i can track it on my ipad? i have all the serial numbers everything (it was only new and i still have the box packaging etc) can i find it?? i have an apple ID so if i set it up on my ipad can i enter a device serial number of my iphone and find it that way??

  • Camila

    Hi! I lost my new ipad, but it wasnt even registered yet!! I didnt have the time to intall the mobile me or register it……is there any chance I can find it through my credit card’s number? Is there any chance we can locate it when the person that “found” it tries to register it??
    Thank you very much!

  • http://howtolocatemyiphone?someonestoleit... mizyl livingston

    Hello everyone,my iphone 4 has been stolen,what should I do?pls help me.Thanks

  • MacAfrican

    I have the location on my devices, but a friend recently had the misfortune of a violent home invasion during which his iPhone 4 was stolen. Is it possible, if you know the serial number of the unit, to find the phone after the fact?

  • skye molineux

    Is there any way of turning the lost locator after I lost my ipad?

  • James manns

    Does apple have a gps app that i can down load iin the event my ipad is stolen? Please email the name of the app nd the coat,,thanks James

  • Laura

    Until Apple can or will develop a way to completely disable stolen devices by owners thru the gps function thieves and “finders” will continue to keep them and just reset them. They don’t care if the data is lost or the phone doesn’t work-they want the iPod feature of the unit. My phone was lost a week ago and whoever found it has kept it turned off and ignored the push messages to call me to return it. It showed up only twice on the find my iPhone function. I even offered a reward. Until Apple finds a way to allow owners to completely disable their lost and stolen devices, finders and thieve will have no motivation to stop what they are doing.

  • ajay

    give imei number of iphone 4 i will find out it.

    • ec

      now how do you do that???

      • Gerome

        dial:

        *#06# in the phone

  • A.Aziz AlTaisan

    Good morning

    I have a problem and I hope I find a solution and answer.

    Stole two mobile iPhone and I have a Serial Number but I do not know what way to recover it.

    I hope your help.

    Thank you

  • ayeh

    Can you kindly help me to recover my iphone4? It was stolen yesterday I only have the serial #. And it has also a 4 digits security pin. Can I trace where it is now? Please help me. Thank you very much.

  • Mario

    Fantastic! Works very well; thanks for the detailed explanation.

  • betzey

    My daughter had the find my IPhone app on her phone and my ipod and on icloud and the phone was still stolen and the police could or would do nothing. We know who the culprit is but her work place won’t get involved. The app only gives you a general location. My suggestion to Apple, you should have to register your phone or any other apple product and once registered you can’t reactivate it, unless you unregister. Something to stop these senseless people. Carma is wonderful I hope it bites you!

  • Demii

    how can you track it if it has already been stolen and you didnt do all that?
    can someone please help me :(

  • howard artiste

    my computers, both were stolen doing a break in. i have all information on both computers, one a laptop the other one a ipad. with this information how can i locate/in finding these computers??

  • http://www.ablogaboutlove.com dannyk

    I left my iPad and laptop on a plane this week, returning 20 minutes later to find it stolen. I used “Find My iPhone” to locate the stolen iPad and track down the thief. Check out the full story I posted here http://www.ablogaboutlove.com/2012/01/apparently-god-now-has-tech-support.html

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  • karonhiokwas horne

    i tried this app ! for a very long time! i tried it all the time n the mobile me part kept telling me my apple id was wrong n i had to change my password… so i did n it still didn’t work! i have an iPad,iPhones n a macbook. all my stuff is apple. n my iPad was stolen! now i don’t’ know how to track it! i don’t know if i had this app on my iPad but i do on my iPhone! how could i track it? its the first version iPad..

  • Krazzy Hawaiian

    Another reason why you should jailbreak your idevice.
    in cydia there is a app called igotya. when activated and if your iphone is pass protected it will take a snap shot of the thief and send the exact location of where he/or she is at. you can even set it up to send a message to the thief and disable the hold down power off button so i cant be turned off. while pass protected the thief will try at least once to unlock it and that’s all you need…

    • hazel

      wow! this is what i was looking for! great share! great info! Just recently lost my iphone 3gs from some guy i knew from before. I hope next time I can prevent this from happening again by jailbreaking my phone before going out into this bitch we call world.

  • Vybhavi Pruthvi

    My husband lost I phone 4 today how to find it please help us!!!

    • Monica

      If he add the featured app Find my Phone or Iclouds you can track it on your computer by going to iclouds.com and signing in your Itunes ID and password… mines was stolen last week and i didnt know about this app…. hopefully this helps you:)

  • Monica

    i just got an iphone for Xmas and i was robbed on Jan.20 the problem is I was not aware of this feature when i got the iphone…. In my itunes Match i see it reconizes my iphone but idk how track it any suggestions???? thank you in advance…

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  • Estalin

    hola perdí mi iphone!. ya se donde esta !. de que me sirve bloquear el teléfono? si lo ago jamas podrá accesar a el cel la persona que lo tiene!?. o si existe forma de que lo vuelva usar esa persona mientras no valla por el?

  • Brian

    Question: I have both the iPad and iPhone how do I use my iPhone to find my iPad and my iPad to find my iPhone?

  • http://Gmail Yin Wai Wai Oo

    I lost my iphone 4S, Can I get back my iphone , is it possible?
    How should I do?
    Please advice me.

  • dwayne

    i know you have my ipad and i know where you live

  • Kathy

    My fiancé lost his phone last night–he’d added every app you could think of, etc
    and had failed to register for this free service. I had signed mine up and asked him
    him if he had his– silly man. When he sees that mine can be located within minutes
    who is the dumb one.!!!!!

  • Marilyn

    Unfortunately, I’ve just lost my ipad without installing icloud or mobileme. Can I still get one of those after the fact and still find my ipad? I have my serial number etc. but apple doesn’t support that.

  • Sean williams

    Where is my phone

  • Vincent Foo

    Thismis Vincent Foo’s iPad 4G
    My contact no is 92726056

  • Elroy

    Can this been turned off by the thieve? If so, what prevents that from hapenning.

  • asma

    what if its jailbroken or something?

  • Arlene smith

    Thanks

  • howard artiste

    what if my item wasn’t a apple product, can i still track it AFTER it was stolen??

  • Betsy

    I really wish there was a way to require a password to turn the device off!! Someone stole my iPhone and although I had the app and the iCloud set up, I wasn’t able to find it bc they turned it off :(
    I password requirent for the power button would be awesome. Any ideas if something like this is out there?!?

  • http://LeftMyiPadontheplane Sheridan

    It is now nearly a week since I left my iPad in the front pocket of my seat on the plane. I remembered when I got home and as I have find my iPad and iPhone set up went to do this straight away. The problem I have is that the iPad was on plane mode and therefore not getting an internet signal. The airport have not found the iPad so I can only presume that somebody has stolen it, but they haven’t turned it on. I have sent a message and I have locked it. Have you any idea what I should do now? Claim the insurance and let it go or hope somebody turns it on at some point . I much prefer to have it back, I am lost without it.

  • julie leadbitter

    please find my i pad

  • http://www.katyboyd.com Katy Boyd

    I am not sure how old these comments are but I wanted to point out that the ‘Find My iPhone’ app is not restricted by device but by operating system. Your 3Gs can have the app as well if you upgrade to iOS 5 … honest…

  • Gerome

    hmmm…..this sux for me cause i had my iphone 4s for max an hour b4 it was stolen -___-

  • John

    If a iPad was stolen and they had this app. And the person reset the iPad can you still locate it??

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  • jojo

    I get a message saying that this account has already been migrated to iCloud.

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  • alex

    Need to find my stolen ipad and i don’t have a found my ipad account but i have a icloud account .

  • virginia

    This review tutorial was very helpful to me. I am very grateful that I have mobileme when I first bought my ipad I set it up but didn’t realize how helpful it would be. I was able to go thru your tutorial and learn how to use it. It’s 2 am in the morning and I can sleep now. Thank you.

  • craig harvey

    my ipad was stolen from a mates house not sure whether or not app for find my ipad was on ,is it possible to find my ipad through police by giving them the IMEI number???

  • http://madeworthy.com Chris

    Isn’t it amazing that the governement does not have to put a chip in people to keep track of them now? Everyone is carrying the very device that will allow them be monitored every second of the day, and even when it starts to become a problem and starts to be used in a way that is a true invasion of privacy (and it is coming), who will be willing to give up their precious tracking device (cell phone)?

    But hey…What the heck can I say? I have one myself!

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  • Peter Pipper

    No need for Mobileme to find your Ipad or Iphone. Just use the LostAndFound.com Mobile App at www,lostandfound.com/app

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