How to find your lost phone or tablet with Android Device Manager

Florence Ion

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I carry both my smartphone and my tablet with me on a daily basis. I can’t imagine what I’d do if one of those devices went missing, what with all the sensitive data contained on them—not to mention my library of precious photos and e-books.

Google introduced the Android Device Manager (ADM) last year to help users locate lost devices, and quell security fears. Not only will ADM show you the location of a wayward device, it will also let you erase the data on the device if you suspect the hardware has been stolen.

ADM is extremely easy to set up, so you have no excuse not to use it.

Getting started

The Android Device Manager will keep track of any phone or tablet you’ve linked to your Google account. It’s compatible with any device running Android 2.2 or later, and it works even if you don’t have location history turned on. 

adm web

When you first get your phone, head over to the Android Device Manager page to ensure that Lock and Erase are enabled. Google will send over a test message to your device to ensure that it works. Tap “Activate” to enable the remote wiping features.

Find your device

In the future, if and when your phone does go missing, just head to the ADM site. From here, you can select any of the Android devices you have linked to your Google account.

If you think the device might be buried under a pile of couch cushions, select Ring and the device will blare its ringtone for about five minutes. When you find it, press the power button to stop it. 

adm ring

If you think you left your hardware in a taxi cab on the way home from last night’s escapades, you’ll want to lock it up to keep prying eyes from accessing your precious data. Select Lock and ADM will ask you to create a new lock screen password. There will also be an option to write a Recovery message that will appear over your lock screen. This is your opportunity to type a message to the person who may have found your phone. 

adm lockscreenpass

If you think your phone might really be in the wrong hands, or that it’s long gone and you'll never see it again, you can erase all of its data with Erase.

adm erasealldata

Use the app to find a device, too

adm app

Someone terrible ran off with your Nexus 7, and, frankly, that’s pretty awful. Before you do anything, contact law enforcement and file a report. Phone theft is an epidemic, especially in urban areas.

If you’re fortunate enough to have a second Android device in your possession, download the Android Device Manager app from Google Play to get access to all the same features available online. If you’re bored, waiting in a doctor’s office or something, you can also use the app to individually rename each of your devices.

Keep in mind that ADM won’t work with devices that are offline or powered off, so if a thief puts your device in Airplane Mode or the battery dies out, you’re out of luck. 

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