Technology · June 23, 2022

Tech Security: How to wipe your phone or computer if it’s lost or stolen

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Selling your old technology can put cash in your pocket, but don’t forget that your devices store sensitive data that you don’t want a stranger to access.

Your smart speaker, for example, knows your location and can even save your voice recordings locally. Tap or click here for steps to delete and deregister your Amazon Echo before selling it.

Now think about what your phone knows. No wonder you get that awful sinking feeling when you can’t find it. How to find a lost phone even if the battery is dead.

But what if your phone, tablet or laptop is lost for good? Don’t let anything stored there fall into the wrong hands. Here’s how to erase all that personal data from anywhere.

Keep in mind that you need to set this up in advance

Imagine you are traveling and your phone or computer is nowhere to be found. If your passcode is easy to guess — or worse, you never set one up — you might be giving out everything from your bank login to your social media accounts to who knows who.

The ability to remotely wipe your devices is incredibly useful. But you need to set up the function in advance. If you wait until you need this feature, it’s too late. Now take some time to set it up with the following steps.

Erase your Android

If you lose your Android phone, you can find, lock or erase it remotely. You must have Find My Device enabled before you can use these features. Here’s how.

  • open that settings apartment
  • Beat security > Find my device. If you don’t see Security, tap Security & Location or Google > Security.
  • Make sure Find My Device is turned on on.

Follow these steps to wipe your phone remotely

  • Go to android.com/find and sign in to your Google account. If you have more than one phone, click phone lost at the top of the screen. If your lost phone has more than one user profile, sign in with a Google account in the main profile.
  • The lost phone will receive a notification and you will see its approximate location on a map. If you can’t locate your phone, you’ll see the last known location.
  • Choose Enable Lock & Erase if needed.
  • Choose delete device permanently erase all data on your device. Note: After completing this step, Find My Device will not work on this phone.
Erase your personal information from your smartphone before selling or otherwise disposing of it.

Erase your personal information from your smartphone before selling or otherwise disposing of it.
(iStock)

Erase data from your iPhone, Mac or iPad

You can use Apple’s Find My app to remotely erase an iPhone, iPad, or Mac. As with Android, make sure you have Find My enabled beforehand.

Enable Find My for iPhone and iPad:

  • open that settings apartment Tap yours Surnamethen tap find mine.
  • Beat find mine [device]then switch on find mine [device].
  • To see your device even when it’s offline, turn it on Find my network.
  • Turn on this option to send your device’s location to Apple when the battery is low Send last location.

To turn on Find My for your Mac:

  • press the Apple menu > system settings > security. press the privacy Tab. If the padlock is closed at the bottom left, click on it and enter your password.
  • Choose location servicesthen select the Enable location services check box. Make sure the check box next to find mine is selected.
  • click Finishedand then return to the main System Preferences window.
  • click AppleID > iCloud. Check the box next to Find my Mac.
  • To make sure you can find your Mac if it’s ever lost or stolen, click options. Check that Find My Mac is turned on and Find my network is enabled.
  • click Finished.
In this image, an Apple iPad shows its home screen.  (Photo illustration by Peter Macdiarmid / Getty Images)

In this image, an Apple iPad shows its home screen. (Photo illustration by Peter Macdiarmid / Getty Images)
(2014 Getty Images)

Let’s say your iPhone, iPad or Mac is lost. How to wipe all data stored on it remotely.

  • Go to icloud.com and log in to your account.
  • click find my iphonethen All devices. (Note: If you don’t see All Devices, you’ve already selected a device. Click the current device’s name in the center of the toolbar to access the device list, then select a new device.)
  • Select the device you want to erase and click on it Extinguish [device].
  • Depending on what you want to erase, do one of the following: iPhone, iPad, iPod touch, or Apple Watch: Enter your Apple ID password. If you’re not using a trusted browser, answer your security questions or enter the verification code sent to your other devices. Mac: Enter your Apple ID password. If you’re not using a trusted browser, answer your security questions or enter the verification code sent to your other devices. Enter a passcode to lock the Mac. You have to use the passcode to unlock it.
  • iPhone, iPad, iPod touch, or Apple Watch: Enter yours Apple ID password. If you’re not using a trusted browser, answer your security questions or enter the verification code sent to your other devices.
  • Mac: Enter your Apple ID password. If you’re not using a trusted browser, answer your security questions or enter the verification code sent to your other devices. Enter a passcode to lock the Mac. You have to use the passcode to unlock it.
  • If the device is lost and you’re prompted for a phone number or a message, explain that the device is lost or, if applicable, how you can be contacted. The number and message will appear on the device’s lock screen.
  • If your device is online, the remote wipe will begin after you follow the on-screen instructions. If your device is offline, remote wipe will start the next time it is online.

MORE TECH SMARTS: Every iPhone and Android user should know these ingenious commands

Always erase your personal information from laptops and other electronic devices before disposing of them.

Always erase your personal information from laptops and other electronic devices before disposing of them.
(iStock)

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You can also wipe your Windows laptop remotely. Make sure you have the Find My Device feature enabled before this happens:

  • Sign in with your Microsoft account.
  • In Windows 10 go to settings > Updates & Security > Find my device and make sure the feature is on.
  • In Windows 11 go to settings > Privacy & Security > Find my device and make sure the feature is on.

Next, you need to enroll your computer with Microsoft Intune, a cloud-based service that allows you to remotely manage devices and applications. Install the app from the Microsoft store or Sign in to the Company Portal website.

If your laptop is lost, you can now wipe it remotely.

  • Go to portal.azure.com/#home and sign in.
  • Choose All services and filter intune.
  • Choose Microsoft Intune and select Devices.
  • Select the device you want to wipe remotely.
  • click Wipe and then Yes.
  • The next time you turn on your laptop, all your data will be erased within 15 minutes.

Delete yourself from the internet

Take another smart step to protect your privacy while you’re on the move. Here is my latest guide on how to delete yourself from the internet. It’s almost impossible to completely wipe yourself off the internet, but you can wipe quite a bit if you know where to start.

PODCAST CHOICE: Traffic Trick, YouTube Shortcuts, Golden Privacy Tip – Komando.com

Do you want to delete yourself from the internet? Here’s how. I will also tell you how to predict traffic conditions months in advance. You’ll learn about some YouTube keyboard shortcuts you’ll always use and Netflix changes that could be coming later this year. Also, a piece of history died in a ransomware attack. Here’s what you need to know.

Watch my Kim Komando Explains podcast on Apple, Google Podcasts, Spotify, or your favorite podcast player.

Listen to the podcast here or wherever you get your podcasts. Just search for my last name “Komando”.

What questions do you have about the digital lifestyle? Call Kim’s national radio show and Tap or click here to find it on your local radio station. You can listen or watch The Kim Komando Show on your phone, tablet, TV or computer. Or tap or click here for Kim’s free podcasts.

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Find out more about the latest technology on The Kim Komando Show, the nation’s largest weekend radio talk show. Kim takes calls and shares advice on today’s digital lifestyle, from smartphones and tablets to online privacy and data hacks. For her daily tips, free newsletter and more, visit her website at Komando.com.