How to Erase Your iPhone in 6 Simple Steps

Rachel Kuzma/Thrillist

You could easily induce a panic attack if you stopped to think about how much potentially incriminating info is on your iPhone (nude photos... bank accounts... your Spotify streaming history... ). To make sure it's not falling into the wrong hands, you'll want to successfully clear off all your personal data from the device before you trade it in, sell it for some cold cash, or give it to your grandma for Christmas. Next time you're eligible for an upgrade, follow these simple steps to wipe your iPhone.

Screenshot via iOS 9

First, back up your phone

To ensure you don't lose your contacts, calendars, notes, photos, or apps, back your phone up to either your computer via iTunes or to the cloud. If you're unsure why you might want to choose one method over the other, here's a pretty good overview, but keep in mind that your iPhone automatically syncs to your iCloud account by default. Make sure your phone's been backed up recently by tapping Settings > iCloud > Backup. Also, if you've paired your device with an Apple Watch, make sure you unpair it.

Sign out of iCloud...

Tap settings, scroll to the bottom, and press Sign Out. Or, if for some godforsaken you're still running iOS 7, tap "Delete Account."

... then tap Sign Out again

Follow up by hitting Delete from My iPhone, and entering your passcode.

Screenshot via iOS 9

Turn off iMessage

If you're switching to a non-Apple phone and you forget to turn these off, your phone number will continue sending them instead of text or SMS messages. That's bad. Tap Settings > Messages.

Restore to factory settings

Tap Settings > General > Reset > Erase All Content And Settings. You may need to enter your Apple ID at this stage if you had Find My iPhone turned on, then tap "Erase." Shed a single tear.

When all else fails, erase it remotely

If you lost your phone, had it stolen, or just forgot to wipe it before trading in, you can easily erase it from afar if you've been using iCloud and Find My iPhone. Simply sign in to your account here, select the device in question, and click erase. Then once it's erased, hit "Remove From Account," Lastly, call your carrier and tell them to disassociate the device from your account, and breathe freely.

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Joe McGauley is a senior writer for Thrillist. He wonders who, if anyone, is using his long-retired 3GS right now.