How to Completely Format Your iPhone: The Ultimate Guide

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how to format iphone completely

So you decided it’s time to do a complete format of your iPhone. Maybe you want to wipe your device before selling it or handing it down. Or perhaps it’s just running sluggishly and you want to start fresh.

Formatting your iPhone allows you to erase all contents and settings, restoring it to factory settings. This removes any lag issues, deletes all your data, and lets you set up the device like new.

Formatting an iPhone isn’t difficult, but it’s an important process to understand before getting started. This comprehensive guide will walk through everything you need to know to completely format your iPhone.

Overview of Formatting an iPhone

Formatting your iPhone essentially resets it to its original out-of-the-box state. When you format an iPhone, here’s exactly what happens:

  • All settings are erased – Any preferences, accounts, wallpaper, etc. will be wiped clean.
  • All data is deleted – Photos, messages, downloads, music – anything stored on the device will be removed.
  • Find My iPhone is disabled – You won’t be able to locate or track your iPhone after formatting.
  • iOS is reinstalled – The latest iOS version is freshly installed, which can fix software issues.
  • Apple ID is logged out – Make sure you know your Apple ID password, as you’ll need to log back in.

Formatting erases everything, so you’ll start your iPhone from scratch. Be sure to back up your iPhone before formatting so you don’t lose important data.

When to Format Your iPhone

There are a few common reasons to completely format your iPhone:

  • Preparing to sell or give away your iPhone – Wiping all personal data ensures the next owner starts fresh.
  • Fixing persistent software issues – A clean install of iOS can resolve bugs or performance problems.
  • Removing a passcode you forgot – Formatting lets you reset the passcode without needing to enter it.
  • Cleaning up storage space – Formatting deletes all data and apps, freeing up storage capacity.
  • Removing jailbreak remnants – Formatting eliminates any lingering jailbreak files or settings.

If your iPhone is experiencing crashes, running unusually slow, or acting up in other ways, formatting it could potentially fix the problem.

How to Format an iPhone Using iTunes

The easiest way to format an iPhone is by using iTunes on a computer. Here are the steps:

  1. Connect your iPhone to your computer using the included USB cable.
  2. Open iTunes on your computer. Select your connected iPhone by clicking the device icon in the top left corner.
  3. In iTunes, click Summary in the horizontal menu bar. Then scroll down and click Restore iPhone.
  4. A confirmation prompt will appear. Click Restore to continue.
  5. Enter your Apple ID password when prompted to turn off Find My iPhone. This disables activation lock so your iPhone can be set up as new after formatting.
  6. The formatting process will now complete. Your iPhone will restart a few times during this process.

Once finished, your iPhone will be ready to set up like new. You can go through the setup assistant and choose whether to restore an iTunes or iCloud backup during setup.

This iTunes restore method works for all iPhone models. It will install the latest iOS version compatible with your device.

Using iCloud to Format an iPhone

You can also format an iPhone remotely using iCloud. This is useful if you don’t have access to a computer with iTunes. Here’s how to format with iCloud:

  1. Make sure your iPhone is connected to the internet via Wi-Fi.
  2. Go to Settings > [your name] > Find My > Find My iPhone. Turn off Find My iPhone.
  3. Next, go to Settings > General > Reset.
  4. Tap Erase All Content and Settings.
  5. Enter your Apple ID password and confirm again that you want to turn off Find My iPhone.
  6. Tap Erase Now. Your iPhone will reboot and prompt you to set up the device again once formatting is complete.

The iCloud method works the same as using iTunes. All data is erased, and iOS is freshly installed. The benefit is you can format remotely without a computer.

Using Third-Party Software to Format

There are also third-party programs that can help format your iPhone. One popular option is dr.fone – Data Eraser.

With dr.fone, you can format an iPhone using a computer without needing iTunes. Here are the steps:

Format iPhone Using dr.fone Data Eraser
  1. Download and install dr.fone on a Windows or Mac computer.
  2. Connect your iPhone to the computer via USB.
  3. Open dr.fone and click Erase > Erase iPhone.
  4. dr.fone will load information about your connected iPhone. Click Erase Now.
  5. Enter “000000” in the prompt to confirm erasing data. Click Erase to begin formatting.
  6. dr.fone will erase all data and reformat your iPhone. This takes a few minutes.
  7. Once completed, you can set up and restore your iPhone from an iCloud or iTunes backup.

Programs like dr.fone provide an efficient way to format an iPhone on computers without iTunes. The process is basically automated.

What Gets Erased When Formatting an iPhone?

As mentioned earlier, formatting an iPhone deletes everything stored on the device. Here are some of the main types of data erased:

  • Photos and videos
  • Music, audiobooks, and podcasts
  • Contacts and call history
  • Text messages and iMessages
  • Email accounts and messages
  • Calendars, reminders, and notes
  • Apps and games
  • Home screen configuration and folders
  • Device settings and preferences
  • Health and activity data
  • Safari bookmarks and browsing history
  • Downloaded files and documents

Essentially, anything you’ve saved or done on that iPhone will be wiped out after formatting. The only things preserved will be the iOS version and some diagnostic/usage logs.

Make sure anything you want to keep is backed up to iCloud or iTunes before formatting your iPhone.

Will I Lose My Data Plan or Phone Number?

When you format your iPhone, your actual cell plan and phone number are unaffected.

Formatting erases the data stored locally on your device, but it doesn’t modify your account with your cell provider.

After formatting, you’ll simply need to re-enter your phone number to reconnect your iPhone to the mobile plan.

Does Formatting Disable iCloud Activation Lock?

An important note about formatting an iPhone is that it bypasses Activation Lock, which is enabled with Find My iPhone.

Activation Lock prevents anyone else from setting up your iPhone if it’s ever lost or stolen. Even after factory resetting, the device will still be locked to your Apple ID.

However, if you format your iPhone properly using iTunes or iCloud, Activation Lock is disabled. By turning off Find My iPhone before formatting, you ensure the next owner can set up the iPhone.

Can I Format an iPhone Without the Passcode?

Yes, you can format an iPhone without knowing the passcode.

If you forgot your passcode, you’ll need to connect to iTunes on a trusted computer where you’ve previously entered the passcode.

Then you can proceed with the iTunes formatting steps above without needing to enter the current passcode again. The format will reset it.

You can also use iCloud to bypass a forgotten passcode by erasing your device. Just make sure Find My iPhone is turned off first.

How to Format a Used or Second-Hand iPhone

If you purchased a used iPhone from someone else, it’s important to format it before using it yourself. This erases any data or accounts left from the previous owner.

Follow these best practices when formatting a used iPhone:

  • Turn off Find My iPhone – This will disable Activation Lock so you can set up the device. The previous owner will need to turn off Find My iPhone before transferring it to you.
  • Factory reset using iTunes or iCloud – Don’t just reset from the iPhone Settings app, as that may not fully erase everything.
  • Avoid software updates before formatting – If updates are pending, apply them after formatting to start fresh.
  • Check iOS version – Ideally, format and restore to the latest iOS version compatible with that model.
  • Log out of iCloud & App Store – Before formatting, sign the previous owner’s accounts out from Settings.
  • Check for water damage – Examine the liquid contact indicators to make sure the device wasn’t water damaged.

Following this strict process ensures you format a used iPhone safely and start with a clean slate.

PS: if you are looking for the best Samsung data eraser tool, just read more.

Tips for Formatting Your iPhone

Keep these tips in mind to ensure the formatting process goes smoothly:

  • Backup iPhone data first – Use iCloud or iTunes to back up your data before erasing your device.
  • Have your Apple ID password ready – You’ll need to enter it during the formatting process.
  • Update iTunes – Use the latest version of iTunes to avoid any compatibility issues.
  • Delete content manually beforehand – This can speed up the formatting process significantly.
  • Disable Find My iPhone – Don’t skip this crucial step! Otherwise, you can’t reactivate your iPhone.
  • Charge your iPhone – Make sure your device has sufficient battery life remaining to complete the format.
  • Allow enough time – Formatting and reinstalling iOS can take awhile, so set aside 15-20 minutes.
  • Restart your iPhone after – Power your device off and on after formatting completes.

Key Takeaways

To recap, here are the key things to remember about formatting your iPhone:

  • Back up your data first via iCloud or iTunes.
  • You’ll need to turn off Find My iPhone before erasing.
  • Connect to iTunes on a computer or use iCloud to format remotely.
  • All settings, media, and personal content will be erased.
  • Reinstalling iOS can fix software issues and performance lags.
  • Don’t update iOS before formatting if updates are pending.
  • Make sure to have your Apple ID and password ready.
  • Formatting bypasses a forgotten passcode and removes Activation Lock.

Frequently Asked Questions

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

How long does it take to format an iPhone?

  • The process usually takes 5-15 minutes depending on your iPhone model and amount of data. Expect longer times for models with more storage.

Will formatting delete my data permanently?

  • Yes, formatting permanently erases all data from the iPhone storage. However, any backups in iCloud or iTunes will be preserved.

Is it OK to interrupt the formatting process?

  • It’s not recommended. You should let the iPhone complete formatting fully to avoid potential software issues.

Do I need a computer to format my iPhone?

  • No, you can format remotely using iCloud. But using a computer with iTunes is simpler and tends to be more reliable.

Can I recover erased data after formatting?

  • No, data erased by formatting an iPhone cannot be recovered. That’s why backups are so important before formatting.

Will formatting speed up my iPhone?

  • Yes, formatting clears out clutter and gives you a fresh installation of iOS, so you will likely see improved speed and performance after.

Will I need to reactivate my SIM card after formatting?

  • No, your cellular plan and phone number will remain active after formatting. You’ll just need to re-enter your phone number to reconnect service.

Can I format an iPhone if Find My iPhone is enabled?

  • No, you have to turn off Find My iPhone first. Otherwise, Activation Lock will prevent you from using the iPhone after formatting it.


Formatting your iPhone completely erases its contents and settings, restoring it to like-new condition. This can fix persistent issues, free up storage, or wipe your data before selling or gifting the device.

While formatting may sound daunting, it’s a straightforward process using iTunes on a computer or the iCloud settings. Just remember to backup first and disable Find My iPhone beforehand.

Following this guide, you now have an in-depth understanding of how to format your iPhone properly. Use this knowledge to refresh your device and keep it running smoothly for years to come.


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

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