Blog Post

How-To: Remotely Wipe an iPhone Using Exchange

The thought of your iPhone or iPod touch falling into the wrong hands is enough to scare anyone. The iPhone does have the passcode function to keep prying eyes out, but what if that’s not enough?

In a corporate environment, the loss of a device like this is a major ordeal. Apple has touted the MobileMe remote wiping capabilities, but what if you don’t use MobileMe? If you are in a corporate environment, you probably connect to an exchange server for mail. Using OWA (Outlook Web Access) you can remotely wipe your lost or stolen iPhone/iPod touch and breath easy knowing your data is safe.

As I stated, this relies on using the Exchange email push functionality in the iPhone OS. I have only tested this with Exchange 2007 so I can’t verify how or if this works in older versions of Exchange. OWA is Microsoft’s fancy name for web mail so the first thing you need to do is access your company’s web mail.

  1. After you successfully login, click on the Options button in the top right.
  2. Now click on the Mobile Devices option in the left-hand menu.
  3. You should now see your iPhone or iPod touch device listed. Click the radio button next to your device and the click Wipe All Data from Device…
  4. You will get a confirmation dialog to confirm you really want to do this. After you confirm, the Status will change to Pending Wipe.
  5. The next time your iPhone/iPod touch has an internet connection and checks in with Exchange, a secure wipe is initiated. This is what the screen looks like to the user.
  6. After the wipe has been started, the status for the device in OWA will change to Wipe Successful and you can remove the device from the list.

You can give this a try on your own device if you want to see the magic. Be advised that it will take about an hour to wipe the device so you can’t use it during that time. After the wipe, you can restore from a backup in iTunes. Since this is done in OWA, you don’t even have to bother your Network Admin. Maybe you are a little embarrassed that you lost your iPhone. This way no one has to know. Your secret will be safe with me.

48 Responses to “How-To: Remotely Wipe an iPhone Using Exchange”

  1. Interesting article, I had seen it in OWA, but I obviously forgot it, since I was curious to know how to remote wipe if it would get actual…

    “A question on how effective this security function is – I’ve read that if the phone is stolen and the thief pops the SIM out, then any attempts to wipe the handset via the OWA security functionality won’t work. Is this right – is the wipe dependent upon the original SIM being in the handset, or is it tied to the Exchange login?”

    –> I’d really want to know the answer to that question too.

  2. I lost my iPod 4g touch, after a few days with many attempts at finding it using the “Find Me” feature and still no delivered (All Pending) messages. I initiated the remote wipe… I didn’t know that once it wipes I will no longer be able to track it if it should show up… is there a way to cancel the remote wipe once it has bee initiated? Please help.

  3. A question on how effective this security function is – I’ve read that if the phone is stolen and the thief pops the SIM out, then any attempts to wipe the handset via the OWA security functionality won’t work. Is this right – is the wipe dependent upon the original SIM being in the handset, or is it tied to the Exchange login?

  4. I just lost my iPhone and immediately (thanks to having read this blog post and others like it) logged into OWA and sent a wipe command. While I’m saddened by the loss of my device, I’m happy that my device and all the apps/photos/videos won’t be used for nefarious purposes…

  5. ifail_lol

    Thanks for the info. It just saved my @$$. Its embarassing enough to lose an iphone, but on top of that all my company data was on there. I’m still kicking myself in the pants for losing the phone, but I feel a huge sense of relief in knowing that the security breach won’t happen. Some lucky bastard has my phone… _insert charlie brown yell here in 3,2,1,… AUUGHH!!!!!!!!!!!!

  6. I have accidentally turned-on the wipe remote on one of my ipads does anybody knows how I can cancel this aright now the iPad is not on line and it is saying pending

  7. Tested the remote wipe with exchange 2007, it works.
    but.. see only white apple after booting up me iphone and its not detected by itunes as well. somebody help pls.

    thanks in advance.

  8. Mojogirl

    I found this thread doing a search after the following happened to me:

    * touched down in Chicago enroute to Rome; used iPhone for email during taxi and then went to use again about 10 mins later in the terminal and YIKES! iPhone acted wiped!

    * opened iPad to get important phone numbers and YIKES! iPad acted wiped!

    I did not initiate a remote wipe of either device. I _do_ have both MobileMe AND an Exchange 2007 server at work. Both devices are set up for email through both systems. I begged a person with a MacBook to let me look at my MobileMe account, where I found an email that indicated the iPad wipe I’d initiated (excepted I didn’t) had been completed. Later, while overseas, I logged into MobileMe and that email had been deleted (not by me).

    WIthout question, this was a huge headache, as I was traveling to a country that requires an in-country bank account to get a SIM or mobile phone. I also lost all my travel itineraries (shame on me for no paper copies, but I had iEverything!) and documentation.

    I’m back in the US and trouble-shooting to find out “what happened???”, and appreciate this thread of info about the Exchange server. I’d forgotten about that link and now am suspicious that something happened via our IT admin at work.

  9. Francis Younger

    I read Todd’s comment the other day, so I decided to check out the above site. He was right. I had been dealing with my sync issues for weeks. Could not get my iphone to work with our exchange 2003 server. I tried many suggestions from the internet. Kept on getting that crazy “Cannot Get Mail the Connection to the Server failed” message. I am glad I had contacted and went through with their flat rate setup process. It truly was amazing to see my iphone working within 30 minutes. Do yourself a favor, give them a call.

    • Darrin Thompson

      My iphone exchange account won’t verify yet. I did my research too. Appears there is a lot of information about RPC and iPhone sync. I recently found a page on the computer repair site where it points out some of the google posts. I’ll be calling them on monday. I did search their site for information about remote wipe. I am concerned about someone getting my client information. Some forums say 2003 supports it and other say it does not. After call these techno koz people, i’ll get their answer and post it here for everyone.

  10. Todd McNickle

    Great article. I’m going to have to test this out now that my iphone exchange sync works. I’m not sure how many of you had issues getting the iphone to setup properly with exchange, but I did. Spent weeks with my tech guy. He kept on wanting me to upgrade my server to 2008. Yet, we just purchased this system. Finally came across these flat rate guys. Boy, worth every penny. I think from start to payment it was only about 20 minutes. Check them out.

    • Tami, unfortunately contacts under SIM card remains.

      Tested the remote wipe with exchange 2007, it works.
      but.. see only white apple after booting up me iphone and its not detected by itunes as well. somebody help pls.

      thanks in advance.

  11. The reason I couldn’t use it is because I didn’t know it was possible to use it. I recently bought an iPhone and had been told office outlook is “not supported” on iPhones. I also googled “OWA iPhone”, expecting to find a plethora of how-tos, but I only saw people speaking of doom and gloom regarding OWA and iPhones. Did I get something wrong in my search terms? Nevertheless, I’ve got it working now. Works fine, except for Calendar, but I can live without it.

  12. Wait. Forgive me for sounding naive, but will SOMEONE PLEASE make an app that lets me use OWA on my iPhone without it being completely sucky and annoying?

    Between me accidentally arranging messages to appear by “subject” instead of by date (funny how I haven’t gotten an email in an hour…guess there’s nothing going on) and me barely even being able to reply to an email without a major headache (why would I want to start writing at the bottom of the email?), I am GETTING REALLY DESPERATE FOR A GOOD OWA APP. Why is this impossible?

  13. Also, I have a passcode lock on my iPhone! When, the remote wipe was initiated by SOMEONE ELSE, my phone immediately asked for my passcode. I entered it and it said it was the wrong passcode!!! This passcode is the same one Ive been using for a year! I entered it three different times, all of which it said was wrong (which it was NOT) and poof, all my information was wiped clean by an ex who was seeking revenge…

    Beware even if you have a passcode lock and beware of vindictive exes who have ever checked their email through your phone =(

    • Trace – There is a built-in feature to wipe your device if you get the password wrong (10 times I think).

      If you did somehow forget your password 10 times in a row (unlikely), and had the option enabled (possible), then your ex would not be at fault here.

      Another scenario is that someone got hold of your phone and changed your password – again, they would need your current password, and you’d need to get it wrong 10 times, and have the wipe option, in order to trigger the wipe.

      Yet another possibility is that your ex, or the administrators for his email initiated the remote wipe to prohibit you form accessing his email. If it was your ex, he may not have realised it would completely wipe your phone.

      Finally, yes – he may have done it maliciously – I guess it depends on the circumstances in which you parted company.

      In any case, you do have a backup from a month ago, so *all* is not lost – just recent items.

      The lesson to learn here: BACKUP any device before it leaves your house.

      As for the virus you had – you could always get a mac? :-)

  14. HELP! A remote wipe of my iPhone was initiated by an ex. Apparently, she had checked her email/logged on via my iPhone when living with me. Now, disgruntled, she initiated a remote wipe since my phone had been synced once with her account.

    So, if you have an ex spouse or partner who initially had a sync with YOUR PROPERTY, they have access or the right to wipe clean your personal property???? This is an outrage! I need an attorney. Why would apple allow her to do so without testing if the device even was her property?

    Beware, any disgruntled ex who has ever synced with your phone (maybe your not even aware) can at anytime do a REMOTE WIPE of YOUR property. I lost everything – sentimental photos, important notes and reminders, contacts and calendar events – ANYTHING you have is gone since your last sync!!!! Unfortunately, my computer had a virus and I hadn’t synced my phone in one month – SO EVERYTHING IS GONE!!!!

    • voiceOFreason

      so let’s get this straight.. you:

      1) allowed YOUR PROPERTY to sync up with someone elses account, or left YOUR PORPERTY unattended and not-passcode protected and someone else synced up their email to it at one point

      2) did not use any antivirus on your PC, and

      3) did not sync your iphone for a month despite having many sentimental photos and such on it.

      I don’t feel too sorry for you. with #3 alone you could have dropped your phone in a pool/puddle/toilet. But you also were careless with your phone to not password protect it or notice any ‘extra’ exchange accounts on it.

      Yeah, it is a cautionary tale and sucks for sure but you could have avoided it. If this didn’t happen you probably would have lost your data eventually some other way given your careless attitude – so you can take some solace in that.

  15. bradleyspurr

    Here’s another solution for you:

    Somewhere between the Exchange option (good for corporate users) and the MobileMe option (expensive, but good if you want the other MobileMe extras), there was need for an additional option: a remote wipe stand-alone service. So I created it!! :)


  16. I have a couple of questions on this:

    If the remote wipe takes 1 hour, what happens if the thief gets bored looking at the wipe screen, or the battery runs our during the process? Does it stop/resume?

    Also, is this a total wipe of the device (apps & all data), or just wipe of exchange sync’ed data?

    • thanks for the reply.

      So if you’ve lost your device, resetting it will make it impossible for a law abiding citizen to return it to you, or for you to prove that it is yours, should it ever be found… Unless you write an ‘if found’ contact email address on the back of the device…

      So if you reset it, you KNOW you’ll probably never see it again.

  17. @Dean L: If you use a passcode, make sure you never break your screen. If you try and sync a broken iphone to get a backup, you will be unable to sync without first putting in the passcode, but if you cannot access the touch screen due to damage, then you will be unable to sync it again…just a thought.

    • @SuddleD: Whenever I dock my iPhone, it automatically syncs and backs up without asking me to unlock. Maybe someone else can confirm this? Another thing I do often is recharge daily, so if I had to restore from a backup that’s a few days old, that’s better than nothing.

  18. When traveling to Europe this past Thanksgiving, I was concerned that having my iPhone lost/stolen would be a big crisis, especially since I have such sensitive information stored in my Exchange account. Before leaving, I looked into remote wipe on Exchange 2003, but didn’t have a chance to thoroughly test it.

    That’s when I discovered Settings – General – Passcode Lock. You can set iPhone to require a passcode to unlock after xx minutes of inactivity. There is also an option to “Erase all data on this iPhone after xx failed passcode attempts.” So what I ended up doing was just turning on passcode lock. Now losing my iPhone would be a big annoyance rather than a big crisis.

    Thanks for this article, because when we move over to Exchange 2007, it will be nice to know that I can easily force a remote wipe if necessary.