Realising you’ve misplaced your iPhone or iPad can be a heart-stopping moment. Thankfully, the bag of tricks for these technological marvels includes the ability to tell you where they are. All it takes on your part is a little forethought and the free Find My iPhone (or iPad, or iPod touch) service for iPhone 4, fourth-generation iPod touch and iPad users.

Read next: How to turn off Find My iPhone

Enable the service

The first thing you need to do (presuming that you don’t already have a MobileMe account) is set up a free MobileMe account on your iPhone (this just gives you an Apple ID, it won’t allow you access to all the other MobileMe features that come with the £60 service). To do this tap Settings > Mail, Contacts, Calendars > Add Account... From the Add Account list pick MobileMe, then at the bottom of the next page tap Create Free Apple ID. Now you create your account. The email address you input will be the one that any Find My iPhone (or iPad) alerts will go to.

Once your account is set up in the Mail, Contacts, Calendars section of the Settings app, it’s time to turn on the device-finding service. Navigate to Settings > Mail, Contacts, Calendar and tap on your MobileMe account, where you’ll see a Find My iPhone/iPad slider. (The last word will be the name of the relevant device.) When you flip the switch on, you’ll be notified that this feature allows your device to be located on a map; tap Allow, and then tap the Done button in the top right corner (on the iPad) or the Mail arrow in the top left (on the iPhone and iPod touch).

Once you are registered with Find My iPhone, all you need to do is visit to get a map showing where your missing device is hiding

Test the service

Now that your device is set up, test things out via Apple’s MobileMe website ( Once you sign in, you’ll see a map of the world, along with a list of your devices running down the left side of the page. A green dot next to a device means that it has been located; a red dot means that it can’t be found (usually because the device is powered off or in Airplane Mode). Clicking any device will show you the device’s location on a map, with the precision of the location depending on whether your device has a GPS chip.

Clicking on a blue arrow by the device gives you options for remotely controlling your device. If you’ve misplaced your iOS device and you want to offer a reward or provide contact information, you can opt to display a message and play a sound. If you’ve left your unprotected iPhone or iPad somewhere – in a restaurant or on a train, say – you can secure the device by sending a remote lock command. In the worst-case scenario – the kind where you don’t expect to get your device back – you can make sure that nobody else has access to your data by completely erasing it. Just click Wipe, and select the checkbox to confirm that you know this decision is irreversible.

Using the Find My iPhone App

If you have access to another iOS device when your own device goes missing, turn to the Find My iPhone app. Just enter your Apple ID and password, and the app will show you a list of iOS devices associated with that account.

At that point, you can use the app to do everything that you are able to do via the web interface on the move, including wiping your lost device remotely.