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How to factory reset your iPhone

Before you sell or trade in your iPhone, it's important to remove all your personal information. We show you the simple way to do so.
jason-cipriani
Written by Jason Cipriani, Contributing Writer on
Reviewed by Christina Darby

It's easy to forget about your old iPhone when you set up your shiny new one. But after you've signed in to all of your apps, transferred your photos and contacts over, and double-checked that your emails are, indeed, still visible -- don't just put your old phone in a box and forget about it.

It's important to take a few minutes to factory reset your old iPhone, removing all of your personal information and files and wiping away any tracks of user data, especially if you plan on selling or trading it in. 

What is a factory reset? 

Also known as a master reset or hard reset, a factory reset means the complete removal of user data from your phone. A factory reset restores your software to its original manufacturer settings, so it operates as if you never even took the device out of the box.

Why should you do a factory reset? 

To state the obvious, nobody wants their data in a stranger's hands, right? If that reason isn't enough, it's important to mention that if you're trading your phone in and Apple's Find My service is still active, some companies will reject the trade-in and you'll miss out on any credits.

Wiping your phone only takes a few minutes, but it's incredibly simple to do.

How to factory reset your iPhone

Apple made the process of resetting or wiping your iPhone easy with iOS 15, so it's best that your iPhone -- even if it's about to be let go -- is updated to the latest software version. Now, instead of having to manually turn off Find My iPhone and Activation Lock before you reset your phone, the latest iOS version takes care of everything for you when you initiate the factory reset.

The reset process is mostly the same on iOS 16, from what we've gathered testing the beta version. 

Step 1: Open the Settings app

To get started, open the Settings app on your iPhone, then select General from the list of options.

Step 2: Tap Transfer or Reset

Scroll to the bottom of the page and tap Transfer or Reset iPhone. The next screen will give you the option to prepare your phone to set up another device. You can follow those steps if you're getting ready to transfer any files and app data onto your new iPhone. 

If you've already done that, just tap Erase All Content and Settings at the bottom of the screen. Enter your passcode when prompted.

iphone-reset.jpg

This photo highlights steps 1-3. Go to Settings>General>Transfer or Reset iPhone>Erase All Content and Settings> Erase This iPhone> press Continue. 

Screenshots by Jason Cipriani/ZDNet

Step 3: Go to "Erase This iPhone" 

The next screen, titled "Erase This iPhone" at the top, details all of the information that will be erased from your device. 

Here, you'll be informed that any cards, keys, or passes in the Wallet app will be removed. And, yes, Find My and Activation Lock will also be disabled.

Tap the blue Continue button. You'll be presented with an iCloud Backup screen that, if you let it run its course, will store one last backup of your iPhone before the internals are erased. 

More: How to reset AirPods on an iPhone

Step 4: Select "Turn Off" 

On the next screen, you'll be asked to enter your Apple ID/iCloud account password. 

This is the step that turns Find My off. After entering your password, tap on the Turn Off button in the top-right corner.

It may seem like nothing is happening when you select Turn Off, but give it a second or two before doing anything else. 

In my experience, your phone is trying to turn off Find My during this time, but it lacks any sort of progress indicator.

Step 5: Erase iPhone

Finally, you'll see another popup with a button labeled Erase iPhone. If you tap the button, your iPhone will reboot a few times and, once it's done, all of your information will be fully wiped from it.

You'll know it's done when you see the same boot-up screen that welcomed you years ago.

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