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How to disable your iCloud account on an iPhone you donated or sold

For iPhone, iPad, or iPod touch users, it is not difficult to come across a device that malfunctions or looks dead. It may be tempting to donate or sell the device, but you may be risking the security of someone's private details and online accounts. It's common that when selling or passing on the gadget to someone else, you forget to log out of your iCloud account, back up or forget other personal settings on the device. So, see how to do this in the walkthrough below.

How to clean your iGadget before passing it to someone else

Try using the Search app (formerly Find My iPhone)

If the iCloud-based device discovery service has been activated before the device becomes unusable, try to locate it and send a command to delete itself. Even if your device doesn't turn on a screen or can't be controlled via the touchscreen, if you can turn it on and go online, the Fetch service can turn it off. The service was called Find My iPhone before iOS 13 / macOS 10.15 Catalina and now just Search.

Connect to a Mac or Windows system to use Restore

If the screen is not responding or working, you can still use the device buttons to put it into recovery mode. Then use Apple's instructions to clean your content using the Restore option while connected to a Mac (via iTunes, or Catalina using Finder) or a Windows system with iTunes installed. Restoring erases stored data and keys and installs a clean version of the latest iOS or iPadOS.

Apple Return Program

If you can't get your device to a point where you can erase it, I strongly suggest you use Apple's environmental return program. Much valuable and potentially accessible information may remain retrievable on the device, depending on how it is configured. Apple's Trade In program offers credit for working hardware, but Apple also pays shipping for the return of devices that no longer work, which promises to be processed ?in an environmentally responsible manner?.

What to do if you already sold or donated the device

If you have already delivered a device, you may still be able to perform some remote actions:

  • Try deleting it via the Search app, as noted above. Even if the device is not currently online, if anyone can connect to the internet or an active cellular network, the exclusion policy will be received.
  • Sign in using the iCloud account associated with the device at On a mobile device, go to Settings> Account Name> iCloud on iOS or iPadOS; on a Mac with Mojave or earlier, open the iCloud Preferences pane and click Account details and then click Devices; or on a Mac running Catalina, open the Apple ID Preferences panel and scroll down on the left side. Find the hardware in the device list, select it, and tap or click Remove from account and confirm the removal. This also clears all associated Apple Pay accounts.
  • Change your iCloud password.
  • Change the password for all applications you remember to have installed on your device that do not require an access password. This may include the shopping app from Amazon, Netflix, eBay and many others. Also change the password for any ecosystem services, such as Google, Amazon, Facebook, and Twitter, and any email account used with the device.

These steps should minimize or eliminate the ability of anyone who owns your device and can make it work or gain access even by accidentally interacting with any of your stored data or accounts.