How to Factory Reset Your iPhone to Delete Everything on It

Updated: Jan. 29, 2024

Ready to upgrade your iPhone? Before selling or recycling your old one, take these steps to protect your personal data.

Selling or recycling your iPhone is a great way to earn some cash and help the environment. But if you don’t remove personal data from your iPhone first, you could become an easy target for hackers. Fortunately, Apple has made it easy to erase all content and settings on iPhones as it works to improve privacy protection for customers. And no, you don’t have to know any special iPhone hacks or tricks to get it done—you can do it right from your phone. Here’s what to do before selling or recycling your iPhone, including how to factory reset an iPhone. After you read up on this, learn how to fix a frozen iPhonehow to save battery life on iPhone, how to clean iPhone charging port and what to do if your iPhone is disabled.

Why it’s important to remove personal data from your phone

Forgetting to factory reset your iPhone before trading it in could put your private information at risk. Why? “When you sell or recycle your phone, you don’t know where the phone goes,” says Eva Velasquez, president and CEO of Identity Theft Resource Center. “If you do not remove that personal data, it travels with the phone.” All of that data—including financial account information, frequently visited locations, and even behavioral biometrics—can easily be used by criminals for fraud, scams, and identity theft. That’s not the only cybersecurity secret hackers don’t want you to know.

Take these steps before you factory reset your iPhone

Back up your iPhone

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Any personal files stored on your phone that you want to keep, such as music, photos, and documents, will need to be saved on a separate device before you factory reset your iPhone. You can back up these files to a memory card or computer, or upload them to iCloud.

Back up your iPhone to iCloud

An iCloud backup is simple and quick:

  • Step 1: Make sure your device is connected to a Wi-Fi network
  • Step 2: Go to Settings
  • Step 3: Select your name
  • Step 4: Tap iCloud—> iCloud Backup—> Back Up Now. Don’t disconnect from Wi-Fi until the process is complete.

You can check the status of your backup, and see the date and time of your last one, by returning to the “iCloud Backup” folder and tapping on Back Up Now.

Sign out of all of your online accounts

It may seem like overkill, but signing out of your accounts and deleting any stored log-in information can go a long way when it comes to protecting your info from hackers. “That data could be readily used to make you a victim of identity theft or scams,” says Steve Weisman, author of Identity Theft Alert. Log out of Apple accounts including Apple Music, the App Store, and Find My Phone, and don’t forget to turn off Activate Lock, remove your iPhone from iCloud, and sign out of other linked accounts such as Facebook or Twitter.

Remove your SIM card

SIM cards store a lot of information about you and your phone, including your contacts, telephone number, and SMS messages. To stop thieves from swiping that data, Weisman recommends removing the SIM card before trading in your iPhone. Here’s what hackers can do with just your cell phone number.

Transfer data to a new iPhone

If you have iOS 11 or later, you can use Apple’s Quick Start feature to transfer your backup files to a new iPhone. To do this:

  • Step 1: Place both devices close together and wait for the Quick Start screen to appear on your current device
  • Step 2: After choosing the Apple ID that you want to use, tap “Continue;” an animation will appear on the new iPhone
  • Step 3: Hold your current device over the new one, centering the animation in the viewfinder

A message will pop up that says “Finish on New [Device],” and you will be prompted to sign in and manage the settings on your new iPhone. You can also restore your data, apps, and settings from your most recent iCloud backup, or do the transfer from a backup on your computer.

How to factory reset your iPhone

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Once you have safely backed up and transferred your personal files, it’s time to factory reset your iPhone. Here’s what to do:

  • Step 1: Go to Settings
  • Step 2: Tap General
  • Step 3: Tap Reset
  • Step 4: Select Erase All Content and Settings

After you enter your passcode or Apple ID, the iPhone will begin deleting its data, apps, and settings. This process will erase all of your personal information, restoring the phone to its original factory settings.

Now you can recycle, sell, or donate your iPhone knowing that your personal data won’t fall into the wrong hands and you don’t have to throw it in the garbage.


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