Find a stolen/lost iPhone/iPad serial number

7 February, 09:00 AM

If you lose your iPhone, iPad or iPod, or have it stolen, then the police or insurance company might ask for its serial number. But there’s a problem: Although this info is visible in iTunes when the device is attached or within Wi-Fi range, it won’t be visible when the phone is in the back pocket of a thief across town!

There’s a solution. First, install Xcode via the Mac App Store. This is free of charge but a multiple gigabyte download, so install it when you have a good Internet connection.

Close iTunes, then open a Finder window, hit Shift+Command+G, then type the following:

~/Library/Preferences

Look for the file that reads com.apple.iPod.plist (even if you haven’t actually got an iPod!) then double-click it. This will open it in Xcode’s Plist editor.

Under the Devices heading will be one or more strings of hexadecimal characters. Click the triangle alongside to expand each entry. Alongside the Device Class heading will be the type of device (iPad, iPod etc) and under the Serial Number heading will be the info you’re looking for.

There’s a small drawback. Entries for old devices will still be in the list. For example, on my Mac there’s an entry for an old iPad that I sold over a year ago. If so, you’ll have to use what clues are available to identify the missing device: for example, the Connected field shows when the device was last connected to your Mac.

Be careful not to modify the plist file while you’re viewing it. Just close it when you’ve finished, and quit Xcode.

Keir Thomas

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