How to Erase an iPhone Completely: The Ultimate Guide for iPhone Users

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How To Erase Iphone Completely

As an iPhone user, you may eventually find yourself needing to wipe your device and erase all of its contents. Whether you are selling or giving away your phone, sending it in for repairs, or just want to start fresh, a complete erase is sometimes necessary.

Resetting your iPhone to factory settings can seem daunting, but it doesn’t have to be! In this comprehensive guide, you’ll learn several quick and easy methods to fully erase your iPhone.

Why You Might Want to Erase Your iPhone

Here are some of the most common reasons for erasing an iPhone completely:

  • Selling or gifting your device – Wiping it protects your personal information and gives the new owner a fresh start.
  • Fixing software issues – A clean reset can resolve bugs, glitches, and performance problems.
  • Removing a virus or malware – Resetting removes any harmful programs.
  • Freeing up storage space – Clearing all contents frees up room for new apps, photos, etc.
  • Fixing issues before repairing – Technicians often require a factory reset before working on an iPhone.
  • Removing activation lock – Erasing the device through Find My iPhone disengages the lock.
  • Starting fresh – Some users just like the feeling of a brand new device!

No matter the reason, a complete erase makes your iPhone like new again.

How to Back Up Your iPhone Before Erasing

Before wiping your device, it’s crucial to back up your iPhone to preserve your data. An erase will remove everything permanently, including:

  • Photos and videos
  • Contacts and call history
  • iMessages and text messages
  • App data
  • Settings and preferences
  • Apple wallet passes
  • Documents and files
  • Downloaded media like books, movies, and music

You have two options for backing up an iPhone – iCloud and iTunes.

Back Up to iCloud

  1. Connect your iPhone to WiFi.
  2. Go to Settings > [Your Name] > iCloud.
  3. Tap iCloud Backup.
  4. Tap Back Up Now.
  5. Your iPhone will back up to iCloud over WiFi. Progress is displayed on the screen.

Once finished, your most recent data is safely stored in iCloud.

Back Up to iTunes on Your Computer

  1. Connect your iPhone to your computer with a USB cable.
  2. Open iTunes on your computer.
  3. In iTunes, select your connected iPhone.
  4. Click Summary in the sidebar.
  5. Click Back Up Now under Backups.
  6. iTunes will back up your iPhone data to your computer.

After backing up, you have two copies of your iPhone data – one on iCloud and one on your computer.

Pro Tip: For extra redundancy, you can back up to both iCloud and iTunes before erasing your iPhone.

With your data protected, you’re ready to erase! Let’s look at your options.

How to Erase an iPhone Using Settings

The easiest way to erase an iPhone is directly within the Settings app. Here’s how:

  1. Open the Settings app on your iPhone.
  2. Scroll down and tap General.
  3. Tap Reset.
  4. Tap Erase All Content and Settings.
  5. Enter your passcode if prompted.
  6. Tap Erase to confirm.

Your iPhone will reboot and all data will be removed. The setup assistant will run to help you reconfigure basic settings. When finished, your iPhone is like new!

This process takes 10-15 minutes on average. An iCloud backup can speed it up.

Pro Tip: Make sure your iPhone is charged to at least 50% before erasing to avoid it powering off during the reset.

Resetting through Settings is quick, easy, and gets the job done. Next, let’s look at options using iTunes and Finder.

How to Erase an iPhone Using iTunes or Finder

You can also wipe your iPhone by connecting it to a computer with iTunes (Windows) or Finder (Mac).

On Windows (iTunes)

  1. Connect your iPhone to your PC with a USB cable.
  2. Open iTunes on your computer.
  3. Select your iPhone from the menu.
  4. Go to the Summary tab.
  5. Click Restore iPhone. This will erase and reinstall iOS.
  6. A pop-up will warn you that this will erase your iPhone data. Click Restore to confirm.

iTunes will download the latest iOS software and install it on your iPhone after wiping it. This takes a bit longer but is handy if you need to upgrade iOS at the same time.

On Mac (Finder)

  1. Connect your iPhone to your Mac with a USB cable.
  2. Open Finder on your Mac (it replaces iTunes).
  3. Select your iPhone in the Finder sidebar under Locations.
  4. Go to the General tab.
  5. Click Restore iPhone.
  6. Confirm again that you want to erase data and reinstall iOS.

Finder works the same way as iTunes, wiping your device and reinstalling iOS.

Using iTunes or Finder gets the job done if you prefer connecting to a computer. Next up – remote erase using iCloud.

How to Erase an iPhone Remotely With iCloud

Thanks to Find My iPhone, you can erase your iPhone remotely if you lose it or it’s stolen. Here’s how.

On another iOS device:

  1. Open the Find My app.
  2. Sign in with your Apple ID if required.
  3. Select your missing iPhone.
  4. Tap Erase iPhone at the bottom.
  5. Tap Erase again to confirm.

Once erased, your iPhone will be removed from Find My iPhone. The thief won’t be able to use or reactivate it without your Apple ID.


  1. Go to and sign in.
  2. Click Find My iPhone.
  3. Select your device.
  4. Click Erase on the menu.
  5. Confirm again that you want to erase your iPhone.

Remote wipe via iCloud is useful for lost or stolen devices. But for normal resets, the local options are quicker.

Erase an iPhone Using Reset All Content and Settings

For a more thorough local erase, try using the Reset All Content and Settings option under General > Reset.

This resets your iPhone to default factory settings and erases all data, but also:

  • Removes all settings and preferences
  • Returns all built-in apps to default
  • Disables Find My iPhone
  • Turns off passcodes and Touch ID/Face ID
  • Deprecates the iCloud account on the device
  • Removes device restrictions and parental controls

Basically, it makes your iPhone like it just came brand new out of the box. This is the most direct way to completely erase and reset an iPhone.

Software to Erase an iPhone Securely

If you want to be extra sure your data is wiped for security reasons, you can use iPhone eraser software. Here are two top options:

Dr.Fone – iPhone Data Eraser

dr.fone iPhone Data Eraser

Dr.Fone is an excellent program for securely wiping iPhones. It deletes all content and settings, just like standard resets.

But it goes further by overwriting the data up to 35 times using military grade algorithms. This prevents any chance of recovery, even with forensic tools.

Dr.Fone also bypasses locks and removes Apple accounts so you can erase and resell devices easily. Overall, it’s the safest way to thoroughly erase an iPhone while preventing personal data leaks.

iMobie PhoneClean

PhoneClean System Clean

PhoneClean makes a popular iPhone manager for Windows and Mac. Their Phone Clean feature goes beyond a standard reset in two key ways:

  1. Overwrites all data using government-level techniques.
  2. Generates a detailed report once completed as proof of the erase.

You can customize how many overwrite passes are done (up to 35). iMazing also removes activation locks and disables Find My iPhone when wiping.

This provides excellent protection and peace of mind when donating, recycling, or selling your device.

Both these tools are trusted solutions for military grade secure iPhone data deletion.

Will Erasing Delete Pictures From iCloud?

A common question is whether erasing your iPhone also deletes photos or other data from iCloud.

The short answer is no. Erasing your iPhone only affects data stored locally on the device itself. Your iCloud content remains completely intact.

As long as you have iCloud Photo Library enabled, all your photos and videos are safely stored in the cloud separately from your phone.

The same goes for things like contacts, calendars, reminders, and documents synced to iCloud. Erasing your iPhone does not affect that cloud content whatsoever.

So feel free to wipe your device without worrying about losing iCloud data! Just be sure to back up locally stored items like messages.

Can You Recover Data After Erasing an iPhone?

Standard resets make data recovery impossible. However, with advanced forensic tools, it’s sometimes possible to recover some data if the iPhone has not been reused.

But if you use a secure erase option that overwrites all data using military grade techniques, recovery becomes virtually impossible.

So unless you have access to million dollar lab equipment, consider all erased data to be gone permanently! That’s why backing up locally stored items before erasing is so important.

Frequently Asked Questions

Here are answers to some common questions about erasing an iPhone:

How long does it take to completely erase an iPhone?

  • It typically takes 10-15 minutes to fully erase all contents and settings. Larger capacity iPhones with more data can take up to 1-2 hours.

Is erasing the same as a factory reset?

  • Yes, erasing reverts the iPhone back to original factory settings, removing all data and customization.

Does erasing delete everything including photos?

  • Yes, a full erase will permanently delete all photos, messages, accounts, apps, settings, and other data from the iPhone.

Can I reactivate my iPhone after erasing it?

  • Yes, after the erase is complete you can reactivate the iPhone with the same or a new Apple ID and use it normally.

Is there any risk of erasing an iPhone?

  • There is a very minor risk of data loss if the erase is interrupted. As long as the iPhone remains powered on during the reset, this is unlikely.

Do I need to update my iPhone before erasing it?

  • No, you can erase an iPhone on any version of iOS. Updating beforehand is not required.

Also read: How to fix stuck iPhone when updating iCloud settings?

Key Takeaways

  • Always fully back up your iPhone locally before erasing. iCloud backups will not be affected.
  • Resetting erased all contents and settings, reverting iPhone to factory defaults.
  • Use Settings > General > Reset to erase quickly from the device itself.
  • Connect to iTunes or Finder to erase while reinstalling the iOS firmware.
  • Enable Find My and use to remotely wipe lost or stolen devices.
  • For maximum security, use data eraser software that overwrites all data.
  • Erasing the iPhone does not affect your iCloud account or online backups in any way.
  • Once erased, local data is permanently deleted unless recovered forensically.

Erasing your iPhone gives you a fresh start and protects your privacy. With this guide, you now have all the tools to wipe your iPhone cleanly and securely. Just remember to fully back up first and you’ll be all set!


Skilled software testing specialist with expertise in comparisons and research, passionate about blogging, reviews, and creating video tutorials.

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