Remotely Erase a Stolen Windows Phone

March 2, 2011, By Christian Cawley

One of the biggest risks of owning an impressive smartphone is the threat of theft or damage. While damage can be dealt with by insurers, theft can require a bit more work. While you can insure against theft, you cannot insure against the effects of data loss. If you were able to find your phone then it might be possible to deal with the information on it, perhaps locking the device permanently or even wiping it to prevent your personal details being used by fraudsters.

Remotely erase a stolen Windows Phone

Find My Phone is the name of the Windows Live tool that is used to trace, lock and possibly even wipe a lost Windows Phone 7 device. Offering a range of tools, this free service is activated when you input your Windows Live account details into a Windows Phone handset.

Getting Started with Find My Phone

Available once you have signed into windowsphone.live.com, Find My Phone offers four options:

  • Map it – the current location of your phone will be displayed on a Bing map.
  • Ring it – your phone will ring for a minute using a dedicated ringtone, even if the phone is set to silent or vibrate.
  • Lock it – this will lock your phone to prevent anyone else from using it, and display a “return me” note on the screen
  • Erase it – finally you can restore your phone to factory settings, deleting any data that is stored.

The Map it tool can be configured on your Windows Phone to automatically check the location of your phone periodically. This is enabled via Settings > Find my phone > save my location periodically for better mapping.

Ring it and Lock it

The outcome of checking the location of your missing Windows Phone on the map will be one of two things – you will either want to ring the phone (via the Ring it option) so that you or a friend can search the house looking for an unusual new ringtone (called findphone_beacon, and available to listen to on the windowsphone.live.com once you’re signed in) or you will want to Lock it.

When you use the Lock it option, a new window will be displayed asking you to enter a message asking for the phone to be returned. You will also be able to force the phone to ring so that anyone nearby can hear it and hopefully read and act upon the message you have sent.

Remotely Erase a Stolen Windows Phone

The final, ultimate and most devastating feature of Find My Phone is the act of destruction – remotely erasing your data.

This is something you should not do lightly – if your phone is left at a hotel in the next state, for instance, as long as the staff have it safe you should be OK.

However if you suspect your phone was stolen by organised criminals in a situation where it could end up in the hands of fraudsters ready to mine your handset for personal details in order to create hijack your identity, using the Erase it option simply display a brief Are you sure? message; you should click Yes to continue, or No to abort.

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