Can I Track My iPhone Via Computer?

By Jen Cordwainer

Apple's Find my iPhone feature combined with the phone's Assisted GPS chip can help owners track down their lost or stolen devices with real-time location data. Find my iPhone can only be disabled with your iCloud password, making it a formidable challenge for smartphone thieves. However, there are some limitations to the Find My iPhone feature that you must keep in mind, including its reliance on a data or Wi-Fi connection. IPhone identifying information and location records can be provided to the police in an effort to recover your lost or stolen iPhone.

Current Location

IPhone owners can access the Find My iPhone Web app by visiting the iCloud website (see link in Resources). After logging in with an iCloud account and selecting "Find my iPhone," you will be able to view the location of all online Apple devices linked to your account, even multiple iPhones. After selecting the specific device you wish to locate, a green dot appears on a map, displaying its current location.

Find My IPhone Limitations

Find My iPhone must be enabled on your iPhone before it is lost or stolen. It cannot be enabled remotely, after an incident has occurred. Also, the current location feature only works when an iPhone is connected to a Wi-Fi or cellular data connection. If the device has switched off or if it has run out of battery, then the iPhone cannot be tracked right away.

Future Notifications

If the location of your iPhone is currently unavailable, the Web app displays an "Offline" status. However, you can select "Notify me when found" to receive future email notifications once your iPhone connects to the Internet again. This means that once the phone is powered on or within range of a cellular or Wi-Fi connection, you will receive an email with the device's current GPS coordinates. Once your iPhone has an "Online" status, you can enable Lost Mode to send a custom message to the iPhone's screen and lock it against unauthorized use.

Using Data Safely

If you suspect that your iPhone has been stolen, present all location information to your local authorities. Never attempt to confront people about your missing iPhone. To aid in an investigation, you can also provide the police with your iPhone's unique serial number, which can be found on the iPhone package, in an iTunes backup or on your Apple sales receipt.