Can Reset AirPods Be Tracked? – Tracking Lost / Stolen Ones

Author: James Potts | Updated: | This post may contain affiliate links.

AirPods are popular for their sound quality, durability, and style. They’re also incredibly easy to set up and use, especially when used with an iPhone. One of the major pulls of using AirPods with an iPhone is the Find My app can be used to track and locate your AirPods should you ever lose them.

But how does this work? If someone steals your AirPods, can you track them down, or can the thief just turn off the tracking? If they reset your AirPods, can you still track them?

Well, the answer is Yes. Features added in recent versions of iOS included firmware updates for AirPods. The situation used to be different, and you’ll find a lot of conflicting information online about this.

A lot of articles were written explaining that once your lost/stolen AirPods were reset, then they were untrackable. But Lost Mode, introduced in iOS 15, changed all that. However, it’s not a super simple and straightforward answer, unfortunately!

Let’s take an in-depth look at the answers to these questions and more, so you know where you stand if your AirPods are lost or stolen!

Find My

First things first – let’s discuss the Find My app on Apple devices and understand how you can set it up to track your AirPods if they are lost or stolen.

Find My is a stock app on all Apple products that allows you to track and locate devices and accessories associated with your Apple ID. If you’ve removed it from your device, you can download it again for free from the App Store.

To use it to track your AirPods, you first need to set it up. To do this, open Settings, tap your name at the top of the screen, and select Find My.

Activate Find My AirPods (in this instance – you can use it for AirTags, other iOS devices, and Macbooks), then turn on Find My AirPods.

Your AirPods should automatically do this when you pair them with your iPhone, but you can double-check and ensure you can find your AirPods even if they run out of battery by opening Settings > Bluetooth and tapping on the Information (i) next to your AirPods. Find My Network and make sure that it’s active.

It’s also in Find My that you’ll be able to access Lost Mode, which will help you track your AirPods – even after they’ve been reset.

Tracking Lost or Stolen AirPods

So now you know that your AirPods are set up in Find My, you can use the app to locate them if you lose them. The same goes for if they are unfortunately stolen, too.

Opening the Find My app should show the exact location of your lost or stolen AirPods.

If you have an iPhone 11 or later (excluding the SE model), and it’s a pair of AirPods Pros that you’ve lost, you can use precision tracking to accurately find your lost headphones. Precision tracking will provide you with directions and haptic and audio feedback to guide you to your AirPods Pro, provided they are close enough.

If the thief pairs your AirPods with their device, you will still be able to track and locate them. However, for older models of AirPods, once they have been reset, tracking is no longer possible. This goes for any model of AirPods older than 3rd Generation, AirPods Pros, and AirPods Max.

They are able to do this because AirPods don’t have the iCloud Activation Lock that other items such as the iPhone and Macbook have, which prevents people other than the registered user from using them once they’ve been locked via Find My or iCloud.

The question of whether AirPods can be tracked after reset is a tricky one. The answer used to be a straight no, but Lost Mode has changed that. However, some users claim that you can perform a reset while your iPhone is in flight mode, or even perform multiple resets, to disconnect the AirPods from their owner’s Lost Mode and iCloud.

Lost Mode

As of iOS 15, AirPods now have a feature called Pairing Lock, which will prevent your AirPods from being removed from the Find My network, essentially allowing you to track and locate them regardless of whether they’ve been paired with a new device.

The thief will still be able to use your AirPods however, they just won’t have access to all the features. They won’t be able to link your AirPods to their iCloud, and they won’t be able to set them up in Find My – your information is still registered to your AirPods in that regard.

You should be able to see their location on a map. You can even play a sound from your AirPods to help you more easily locate them if you think they might be nearby.

If your AirPods run out of battery or are reset, you will see a map showing their last known location.

Lost Mode will prevent the thief from pairing your AirPods to their iCloud and Find My, but it won’t stop them from using your AirPods. Contrary to popular belief (and the majority of online info), you can still track your AirPods at this point! Every time your AirPods are connected to an iPhone, they will trigger the Find My network to show their last location.

This gives you the opportunity to track them down and confront the thief, notify the police, or alternatively you can write a message that will display every time your AirPods are connected.

If You Find a Pair of AirPods

If you happen to find a pair of AirPods somewhere, and you’re not a thief, then the best thing to do is to hand them into a reputable establishment to allow the true owner time to locate them in the Find My app, and get down there to pick them up.

If that’s not an option, you can keep the AirPods on you and wait for the original owner to activate Lost Mode. Just be aware that if you go to your home address with the lost AirPods on your person, the owner may turn up at your address to reclaim them!

Alternatively, they may choose to send a message via Lost Mode, or update the message with contact information such as a telephone number or email address. This way, you can contact them to arrange a meeting point to return the AirPods.

If you do decide to reset the AirPods and use them as your own (perhaps they’ve been left in a lost and found for months – I’m not accusing you!), then you run the risk of being trackable every time you use them, if the owner has not deactivated the link between their AirPods and their Find My.

You can attempt to reset while in flight mode, as mentioned earlier, but this is only anecdotal advice, and the results aren’t guaranteed!

Selling or Gifting Old AirPods

Pairing lock also comes into play if you plan to gift or sell your old unwanted AirPods – or if you buy or receive a second-hand pair.

Before you give away your old AirPods or sell them on to a refurbisher, make sure you deactivate the pairing lock so as not to give the new owner a headache when they come to set up and use their new second-hand AirPods.

Here’s how to deactivate pairing lock. Remember, there’s more to it than just unpairing your AirPods from your iPhone!

  • Open Find My on your iOS device
  • Select Devices at the bottom of the screen
  • Select the AirPods you want to remove from the list of available devices
  • Select Remove This Device and then Confirm

That’s it! Your AirPods are now no longer pairing locked, and you can sell or gift them as you please without having to worry about the new owner struggling to use them.

Final Thoughts

This is really a lot more confusing than you might think, with outdated information abound on the internet, different models of AirPods having different capabilities, and of course, the firmware update included in iOS 15 which totally changed the game.

Double-check which version of firmware you’re running, and ensure that your AirPods are set up in Find My. This will give you the best chance of locating your AirPods should you ever use them.

Good luck!

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About James Potts

James is an amateur guitarist and home-recording enthusiast. He loves all things music related - writing songs, playing in a band, and finding the best ways to listen to it. It all interests him, from the history of acoustic guitars, to the latest Bluetooth headphones, to his (ever-growing) collection of vinyl records.

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