How to Prepare an iPhone for Resale


It’s been a week since the next-generation iPhone 5s as well as the colorful iPhone 5c have gone on sale. Despite the iPhone 5s being an “s” upgrade, there are quite a few new features that make the purchase worthwhile, especially for owners of the iPhone 4s or older iPhones.

If you’ve already bought or plan to buy the new iPhone, and planning to trade-in your old iPhone, here are some tips to make sure all your personal data has been wiped off the device’s storage. You’ll be surprised how many people sell their iPhones without doing anything to remove personal data.

Follow these simple steps to make sure that your personal data such emails, text messages etc. cannot be accessed by a stranger.

Backup your iPhone’s data:

Before you erase your iPhone’s data, it is important that you first take a backup of your data, so that you can restore it to your new iPhone.

You can backup to your local machine via iTunes or backup to Apple’s servers via iCloud, or do both to be double safe.

Backup using iTunes

  • Connect your iPhone to the computer that you normally sync it with.
  • Open iTunes and select your iPhone under Devices in the left-hand navigation pane
  • Right-click (or Control-click) the device and select Back Up

Note: If you’ve purchased some items on your iPhone and haven’t transferred these purchases to your computer yet, right-click the iPhone and choose “Transfer Purchases” to transfer the purchases prior to backup.

Back Up via iCloud:

iCloud automatically backs up most of the important data on your iPhone (running on iOS 5 or higher) on a daily basis. But you can manually take a backup one last time before we show you how to delete your personal data.

  • Please ensure you’re connected to a Wi-Fi network.
  • Launch the Settings app
  • Navigate to iCloud -> Storage & Backup
  • Tap on Back Up Now

This can take several minutes depending on when your iPhone was last backed up to iCloud.

icloud backup ios 7

Note that even if you have iCloud Backup enabled, you can still manually take a backup through iTunes to be double safe.

Turn off Find My iPhone and Activation Lock

If you’re planning on selling an iPhone running iOS 7, you’ll have to make sure that Activation Lock is turned off. Activation Lock is a new feature in iOS 7 that ties your iPhone, iPad or iPod touch with your Apple ID so that if your phone gets stolen, the thief has to know your login credentials to turn off Find My iPhone or erase the phone to factory state.

To turn off Activation Lock:

  • Navigate to Settings > iCloud
  • Scroll down to Find My iPhone and turn it off


You can even disable Activation Lock remotely via iCloud’s web interface:

  • Go to and sign in to your account.
  • Open Find My iPhone
  • Click on the “Devices” button to see a list of all your iOS devices
  • Click on the iPhone you’ve sold, and tap on the cross icon next to it.

Turn off iMessage

Unless you explicitly turn-off iMessage, there’s a slight possibility that your iPhone continues getting iMessages addressed to you, even after it has been sold. To avoid this turn iMessage by going to Settings > Messages > and turn off the switch against iMessage.

Erase all your iPhone’s Data and Settings:

Now that you’ve taken a backup of your data, you can follow these steps to delete the data and settings from your iPhone.

Note: It is advisable that your iPhone has full charge or connected to a power source before beginning this process.

  • Launch Settings app
  • Tap on ‘General’
  • Scroll down to the bottom and tap on ‘Reset’
  • Tap on “Erase All Content and Settings” option


  • If you’ve set a passcode, it will prompt you to enter the passcode
  • After entering the passcode, it will prompt you one last time if you want to delete data and settings from your iPhone.
  • Tap on ‘Erase iPhone’ button

During this process your iPhone will display the Apple logo and a progress bar. The process may take few minutes to several hours based on the version of your iPhone and the amount of data on your iPhone.

If you’ve jailbroken your iPhone then it is advisable to erase all your iPhone’s data and settings by plugging it your computer and clicking on the “Restore” button.

To be on the safe side, before erasing your data, you can sign out and unlink your device from online services like Google, Dropbox, Pandora etc.

Unlink/Unregister your iPhone:

It may be also be a good idea to unregister your iPhone from Apple’s website so that it is no longer linked to your Apple ID.

  1. Go to:
  2. Log in if not already logged in.
  3. Click on “edit products”
  4. Click on the “x” to the right of the product.
  5. Click “Unregister”

Remove SIM/deactivate device

Before shipping or handing your phone off to the new owner, make sure you remove your SIM if you’re on a GSM network or request deactivation of your device by contacting your carrier if you’re on a CDMA network.

Unlock your phone

If you’re planning to sell your iPhone directly to a buyer then you can ask for a much higher value if you unlock your phone, enabling it to run on most GSM networks all over the world. If your contract period with AT&T is over, you can request an unlock from them by following the instructions in this post.

That’s it! As you can see, it is very simple to prepare your iPhone for resale. If you’re planning to sell your iPhone, be sure to check out the best places to trade-in your iPhone.

If you’ve any questions, please feel free to ask them in the comments section below.

[Image via SAI]

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  • Jason Burroughs

    Is there really a chance imessages could continue to come in, even after wiping the data? I haven’t heard that problem existing for several years/ios versions.

    • Abel Goddard

      I recently heard about that. Do a quick google about iMessages because its a problem for some people.

  • Tony

    I upgraded and immediately requested an unlock for my off-contract 4S from AT&T. The next day I got back an email stating that they couldn’t complete the unlock because I had a recent upgrade on my account. The message suggested I wait 21 days and ask again. I don’t understand why they refuse to do an unlock so close to an upgrade but you may want to keep that in mind when trying to follow this article.

  • Friv Para

    It’s great, I’m looking forward to this iPhon 6

  • Sellingthe4s

    I am looking to get rid of my iPhone 4s by giving it away. With that being said, I would like for it to remain jailbroken as the new versions can not be. Is there anyway to delete everything off of the phone, without restoring it on itunes(which gets rid of a jailbreak), or erasing all contents and settings on the phone which also gets rid of the jailbreak??? I don’t want to have to delete each contact and text message, and photo, and note ect, one at a time. I want a clean phone, with the jailbreak remaining. Possible?

    • bdone

      Do a semi-restore with the one tool that works and is trustworthy. It will take everything but Cydia off your device. They can load all new Jb tweaks and insert personal information themselves. :)

      • Sellingthe4s

        Is this a joke? Or is there really such a tool that you can’t remember the name of?
        And if it matters, Im using a mac computer/

        • bdone

          did you get my reply? there is really a tool, if you want the name of it, msg me at

  • jd_steel


    I skipped a couple of steps while preparing my iPhone 4 [iOS 7] [ATT] for sale.….yeah, I read this article AFTER doing the following:

    -Backing Up
    -Erasing all Content & Data

    I don’t know if I:
    -Turned off Find My iPhone and Activation Lock

    I seriously doubt I:
    -Turned off iMessage

    I have yet to remove the SIM card. When powered up, the screen wants me to access a WiFi signal. I am reticent to do this, as I just wanna sell this phone, and don’t want to link it to any servers, so the buyer can do all that.

    Is there anyway to leave the SIM card in it, while erasing the data on the SIM card? I have no use for the physical card, as I’m onto a new cellular provider.
    Do I need to double back to turn off iMessaging and turn off Find My iPhone and Activation Lock? Apple doesn’t show the phone as currently registered…..

    Thanx in advance,


  • Bis

    I have an iphone 4s and i factory restored it but it says is linked to a certain apple account, how can i unlink it? I dont have have any way to contact the previous owner so how can i unlink it on my own?

    • Marmalade

      you have to look for someone who can do some hacking for you. It will disable the previous account registered in the server and you will be able to log-in using your own account after that

  • Sathish Kumar

    Even after removing iphone 5 from icloud its ask to turn off Find My Phone to restore…
    i forgot my passcode..
    PLZZZZ Help…!!!!!! Thanks in Advance

    • Michael

      Something happened here >…<

  • perla

    i got an i phone but when i reset it it told me that it was linked to another account , and idk the account username or password . is there any way other way to get into it ?

    • Gautam

      No, it’s probably because the Find my iPhone feature is enabled, which needs iCloud login details to disable it.

  • gmike

    How do I get thisbto stop popping up