Can an Apple iPad Be Traced?

By Cheryl A. Frost

Locate your iPad on a map with Find My iPad.
i Peter Macdiarmid/Getty Images News/Getty Images

When you lose your iPad, you lose more than just the device itself. Your iPad contains valuable information, whether personal or professional, and even if you could get a brand new iPad replacement for free, there are some things that are just irreplaceable. The good news is that lost or stolen iPads can be traced, as long as the owner of the device plans ahead. There are multiple options for tracing an iPad, most of which are easy to set up and cost little or no money.

Find My iPad

IPad owners with iOS version 5.0 or later can use Apple’s Find My iPad feature to locate their lost or stolen device. You have to first set up a free iCloud account and then turn on Find My iPad in the iPad's Settings app. Find My iPad does not work if you do not do this ahead of time. With this feature activated, if you lose your iPad, you log onto from another device or computer and get your iPad's approximate location on a map. You can remotely play a sound from your iPad in case it’s hidden under a couch. You can also remotely lock the device so it can’t be used by thieves, or you can display a message on the screen. The most extreme thing you can do with the Find My iPad feature is to remotely wipe the device clean. Only do this if you have sensitive information on it and know where the device is or are certain you will never get it back. Once the iPad is wiped, you can no longer trace it.

GPS Tracking Apps

If you don’t have an iCloud account and don’t want one, there are some apps available that can trace an iPad. Life360 and GTX Tracking apps are primarily used to locate friends and family members but can also be used to track your own iPad’s location. Follow Mee is another GPS tracking app that works similarly to the other two, except it tracks every movement of the iPad and not just the current location. Like Apple’s Find My iPad feature, GPS tracking apps require setup in advance and can be controlled from a website.

Apple’s Support Profile

You may have already lost your iPad and are now kicking yourself for not having set up tracking features. There is still hope for you. Fortunately, when you first purchased and registered your iPad, you connected your contact information to the serial number of your device. It won’t help locate the iPad directly, but if the iPad is found by someone, police can trace the serial number to your contact information and then return the device to you.

A Note About Security

Using a third-party GPS application or even Apple's iCloud may have security risks. Research the risks carefully before signing up for these services. If you are uncomfortable with these tracking options or if your iPad contains highly sensitive content, consider the purchase of an insurance policy to replace the device, along with heavy encryption measures.