How to wipe all personal data and erase your iPhone and iPad

Screenshot of settings to erase data from iphone and ipad
(Image credit: Apple)

Most of us use our iPhones and iPads all day, every day. Over the lifespan of a device, we accumulate lots of sensitive data and information, including messages, photos, videos, contacts, credit cards, passwords, and much more. That's why it's important to make sure you have a backup of all of your important stuff so you can get rid of it before you sell it off or hand it down to someone else.

If you have a new device, you'll want to make sure that you get everything transferred over to your new iPhone or iPad first. Then, before you sell or give away your old device, you'll want to wipe all personal data and erase your iPhone or iPad to make sure all of your sensitive information is gone from the device.

Thankfully, iOS makes it super easy to do this, and all you need is a few minutes, whether you're wiping your data from an ancient iPhone or one of the latest iPhone 14 Pro handsets.

How to back up your iPhone or iPad before wiping it

Before you do anything else, you'll need an up-to-date backup of your iPhone so that the information you erase is stored somewhere. iCloud automatically creates a backup overnight as long as you're plugged in and on Wi-Fi, but a manual backup will make sure you're absolutely up to date.

  1. Make sure your iPhone or iPad is connected to Wi-Fi. (If you're low on power, plug-in the device as well)
  2. Launch Settings from the Home screen
  3. Tap on the Apple ID banner at the top
  4. Tap iCloud

To backup your device, make sure it's connected to Wi-Fi. Next, launch Settings, then tap on the Apple ID banner, tap iCloud. (Image credit: Apple)
  1. Scroll down and tap iCloud Backup
  2. Tap the switch to turn it on
  3. Choose Back Up Now

To backup your device, scroll down and select iCloud Backup. Tap the switch to turn it on. Choose Back Up Now. (Image credit: Apple)

Wait for your iPhone backup to complete before moving forward. You can also back up your iPhone or iPad with a computer, this might be a better option if you're pressed for time.

How to erase all data from your iPhone or iPad

iOS makes erasing your device simple and returns you to the setup process after so that you have a clean device to start over with or sell.

  1. Launch the Settings app from the Home screen of your iPhone or iPad
  2. Now tap on General
  3. Scroll to the bottom and tap Transfer or Reset iPhone

To erase your device, launch the Settings app, then tap General. Scroll, then tap Reset. (Image credit: Apple)
  1. Tap Erase All Content and Settings
  2. Tap Continue
  3. Enter your device passcode
  4. Enter your Apple ID password to turn off Activation Lock and remove the device from Find my iPhone

Erase data on iPhone: Tap Erase All Content and Settings, tap Continue, enter passcode, proceed with on-screen instructions (Image credit: Apple)

Once the process is complete, you can give or sell your device to someone else without any worries of a personal data breach.

Your data is precious

Some may say that your iPhone or iPad is your most personal device. iOS is filled with information from your home location to your pictures of your children, that's why it's so important to make sure you've erased data on your old device. 

By backing up your data so that it's always available, you will never have a situation where precious photos get lost or key information disappears into the abyss.

If you're giving away an old Mac, or you've bought yourself a new one, you'll need to do the same thing. Follow our how to transfer data to your new Mac from your old Mac guide. 

John-Anthony Disotto
How To Editor

John-Anthony Disotto is the How To Editor of iMore, ensuring you can get the most from your Apple products and helping fix things when your technology isn’t behaving itself.

Living in Scotland, where he worked for Apple as a technician focused on iOS and iPhone repairs at the Genius Bar, John-Anthony has used the Apple ecosystem for over a decade and prides himself in his ability to complete his Apple Watch activity rings.

John-Anthony has previously worked in editorial for collectable TCG websites and graduated from The University of Strathclyde where he won the Scottish Student Journalism Award for Website of the Year as Editor-in-Chief of his university paper. He is also an avid film geek, having previously written film reviews and received the Edinburgh International Film Festival Student Critics award in 2019. 

John-Anthony also loves to tinker with other non-Apple technology and enjoys playing around with game emulation and Linux on his Steam Deck.

In his spare time, John-Anthony can be found watching any sport under the sun from football to darts, taking the term “Lego house” far too literally as he runs out of space to display any more plastic bricks, or chilling on the couch with his French Bulldog, Kermit.