How to turn off Activation Lock when selling your Apple device

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How to turn off Activation Lock when selling your Apple device
Activation Lock prevents anyone else from taking over your Apple device. Here’s how to turn it off.
Graphic: Cult of Mac

When you sell an iPhone, Mac or other Apple computer, it’s critical to turn off Activation Lock or else the buyer won‘t be able to use the device. It’s easy to do when you still have the product, and not that much harder if you’ve already sold it.

Here’s what you need to know to prevent problems.

Activation Lock changed the world

A few years ago, there are a crime wave of stolen iPhones. People around the world were mugged every day just for iOS handsets. In 2012, Apple product theft accounted for 14% of all crime in New York City.

Then Apple created Activation Lock. It makes stolen devices useless because a new Apple ID can’t be added until the Lock is removed. What used to be a valuable stolen computer is instead a paperweight. And that was the end of the crime wave.

But the security system can also be a challenge for anyone buying or selling an Apple computer. Fortunately, turning it off is easy.

How to disable Activation Lock

Activation Lock is built into iOS, watchOS and macOS. And it’s activated when Find My [device] is. It’s not intuitive, but that’s the key to unlinking a computer from its owner’s Apple ID is turn off Find My.

If you still have the device, it’s easier. So try, try, try to remember to do this before you sell your computer. Or donate it. If you’re buying a used device, be sure to ask if they did this.

To turn off Activation Lock/Find My on an iPhone or iPad, go to Settings > [USER NAME]. That’s the very top item, right under the word “Settings.” Then tap on Find My. At the top of the resulting page, toggle off Find My [DEVICE]. This label will specify iPhone or iPad. You’ll have to enter your Apple ID password to complete the change.

Deactivating Activation Lock requires turning off Find My [device].
Take these steps to turn off Find My iPhone.
Screenshots: Cult of Mac
On a Mac, go to the Apple menu > System Preferences. Click iCloud, then deselect Find My Mac. You’ll need to enter your Apple ID passcode.

Deactivating Find My on an Apple Watch requires the iPhone it’s paired with. First, power down the wearable. Then open the Watch app on your iPhone, tap My Watch at the bottom of the screen, then tap All Watches at the top of the resulting screen. On the following page, tap the round Info button next to the device you’re unpairing, than tap Unpair Apple Watch.

Alternatively, you can do this process from your Mac. Open the Find My app on your computer. Then click Devices. On the list, select the device you want to remove. Next, click the round Info button on the map, then click Remove This Device.

If you don’t have the device in hand

If you’ve already sold the computer or given it away it’s possible to remove Activation Lock remotely. (You might be reading this because the buyer is emailing you complaining that they can’t activate the device you sold than.)

From a web browser, sign in to iCloud.com with your Apple ID. Then hit Find iPhone. This will open a map showing the locations of your Apple products. Click All Devices at the top of the screen. Select the computer that you want to remove from iCloud. It can be a Mac, iPhone, iPad or Apple Watch. Click Erase [device]. Select Next until the device is erased. Then click Remove from Account.

Turning off Activation Lock from the iCloud website is a breeze.
Head to the iCloud website to turn off Activation Lock on a device no longer in your possession.
Photo: Cult of Mac

If you need more help, visit Apple’s support site for its guide on how to turn off Activation Lock.