Follow these steps before passing on an old iPhone or iPad

iPhones tend to hold their value better than any other brand of smartphone, and so if you’re thinking of upgrading it’s most certainly worth hawking the old one to help fund the new purchase. Or perhaps you’re feeling generous, and just want to pass your old device onto a friend or relative. Either way, there are some important steps you should take before parting company with an iPhone (or iPad, for that matter).

Follow our guide to ensure you don’t leave any personal data on your old device, and to make certain you’ll be able to restore your data onto a new one. We’ll also give you practical advice to help improve its retail value!

Back up your device

Before anything else, it’s important to back up the contents of your iPhone. This will mean you don’t lose any of the stuff stored on the device and will make it easy to transfer all your files to a new one. You can either back up over the Internet using iCloud, or with a wire and computer by plugging into Finder. Both are fairly straightforward – we’d recommend iCloud as the simpler, quicker option.

To create a backup using iCloud:

1. Ensure you’re connected to a Wi-Fi network.

2. Open Settings, then tap your name at the top.

3. Choose iCloud.

4. Select iCloud Backup and ensure iCloud Backup is toggled on.

5. Tap Back Up Now to save a current backup to iCloud. It may take a short while.


If you use iCloud, this is the easiest way to store a secure backup

To create a backup using Finder:

1. Connect your device to a computer using a wired cable.

2. Open Finder, scroll down to Locations, select your iPhone, and choose Trust.

4. Choose Back up all the data on your iPhone to this Mac (or PC).

3. Decide whether to Encrypt iPhone Backup. This is necessary if you wish to save passwords and Health data.

4. Finally, choose Back Up Now and your iPhone will be backed up to your computer.

Unlock the iPhone

This is an optional step, but can significantly increase the resale value of the device. “Locked” iPhones will only work with a particular carrier, thus lowering the pool of people who might be able to use it, and it’s common practice for iPhones to be locked down when sold as part of a fixed-term contract. Methods for unlocking vary by carrier, and it can seem like an overwhelming task – but it’s worth taking the time to do it.

The easiest way to achieve this is to call your carrier and ask them to do it for you. They can also confirm whether the device is locked or not if you’re not sure. There may be a charge if you’re still in contract, otherwise it’s typically a free service – but it will usually take a few working days. The carrier will ask for your device’s IMEI number, which you can find from Settings > General > About. It’s quite a long series of digits – it’s a good idea to write these down for easy reference, as you won’t be able to access this number again after the next two steps.

Remove the SIM card

Some providers don’t issue one, and if you’re following these instructions with reference to a Wi-Fi-only iPad you won’t have one either. But if you have a SIM card, you’ll want to remove it as your phone number and cell plan are linked to it. Even if you’ve never had to do it before, removing a SIM card is easy.

You’ll find the SIM tray on the side of the device – look closely and there’s a tiny pinhole opening, used to pop the tray out. Insert the “SIM-eject” tool that came in the original packaging, or use a bent paperclip if you don’t have the proper tool to hand. Apply a bit of pressure and the tray will pop out. Remove the SIM and then click the empty tray back into place. You may need this SIM card for your new iPhone, so keep it somewhere safe.

Erase and reset the device

You’ll want to remove all the personal data on the iPhone before passing it on. Luckily, apps, emails, music, photos and the like can all be deleted in one fell swoop; no need to manually trash anything.


This will reset the device to factory settings

Open the Settings app and go to General > Reset > Erase All Content and Settings. A dialog box will ask you to confirm this action; press Erase iPhone. Your device will spend some time removing everything, reboot and then come back to life as if it were a new device. It’ll be on the introductory welcome screen that lets new users get set up – perfect for the next owner!

If you don’t have the device anymore

If you’ve already parted with your device – especially if it was lost or stolen – you’ll be pleased to know it’s possible to wipe all your personal data remotely. Sign in to and select Find iPhone. Click All Devices, choose your iPhone, then press Erase iPhone. Next, press Remove from Account. This decouples the device from your Apple ID, and will cause it to delete any of your files left on it, too.


You can also remotely erase a device from the Find My iPhone app

Where to sell

There are a lot of ways to sell an old device, and choosing what to do really comes down to whether you prioritize convenience or cash. You’ll get a much better price if you sell privately through a service like eBay or even Facebook‘s marketplace section (accessed via the shop tab in the app). If that sounds like a lot of effort there are a number of third-party services such as the app Gone or websites like and that appraise your device with minimal effort and even come and pick it up!

Lastly, perhaps the easiest option of all is to trade it back to Apple. You won’t get the best price, but the money can go directly towards the purchase of a new iPhone and it removes the middleman. For more details, it’s worth investigating Apple’s iPhone Upgrade Program.

Good luck, and happy selling!