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What to do if your AirPods get stolen or go missing

Place your AirPods into Lost Mode when they go missing

If your AirPods get stolen or disappear, you can use Apple's Find My app to locate them and possibly get them back. Here's how.

Unlike an iPhone or iPad, AirPods don't have valuable user information so having a pair disappear due to theft or loss isn't as critical. However, they are a financial investment, so you'll want to pursue them if there's a chance of getting them back.

Apple sells a variety of AirPods, but the risk for any earbud-style device is the same — losing one or both earpieces, the charging case, or the whole set. Luckily there's a way to track down your lost or stolen AirPods.

Ensure Find My is enabled ahead of time

Thanks to Apple's Find My network, you'll likely be able to pinpoint precisely where your AirPods are, or at least where they most recently were. Note, only the earbuds themselves can be tracked, not the Charging Case, because the case itself doesn't have Bluetooth or speakers.

You have to have enabled Find My before your AirPods went missing, or you can't use Find My to locate them.

How to set up Find My on your iPhone

Follow these steps to ensure Find My is enabled on your iPhone. Once enabled, accessories associated with your iPhone will be available on the Find My network.

  1. Open the Settings app.
  2. Tap on your name at the top.
  3. Tap on Find My.
  4. Verify "Find My iPhone" is on.

Additional settings can be found in this menu to enable participating in the Find My network and sending your iPhone's last known location before battery exhaustion.

How to be notified if you leave your AirPods behind

If you have an iPhone 12 or later, you can set up separation alerts for AirPods, AirPods Pro, or AirPods Max. This is accomplished from the Find My app's devices menu.

Get notified if you've left your AirPods behind
Get notified if you've left your AirPods behind
  1. Open the Find My app.
  2. Tap the Devices tab at the bottom of the screen.
  3. Locate your AirPods from the list and tap them.
  4. Tap "Notify When Left Behind"
  5. Toggle the feature on and setup exceptions like your home address.

The feature functions similar to AirTags and will notify you when your AirPods lose Bluetooth connection unexpectedly due to distance.

Using Find My to locate lost or stolen AirPods

The Find My app can locate your missing Apple devices, AirTags, and some third-party accessories using the Find My network. Every iPhone, Mac, and iPad that isn't opted out of the network acts as a beacon for missing devices.

If you've lost your AirPods or suspect they are stolen:

  1. Open the Find My app.
  2. Tap the Devices tab at the bottom of the screen.
  3. Locate your AirPods from the list and tap them.
  4. Use this menu to find your AirPods or activate lost mode.

The map will show the last location the AirPods were connected to a device within the Find My network. If the AirPods are in the charging case and they haven't been connected recently, they will not be able to update their location on the map.

Play a sound from your AirPods to help locate them
Play a sound from your AirPods to help locate them

If the AirPods are free from the case or the case lid is open, the AirPods will attempt to connect to any nearby device and update their location. Use the "Find" or "Play Sound" function if you know the AirPods are nearby and need help locating them. However, these functions will only work if the iPhone can connect with the AirPods via Bluetooth.

Connecting to the AirPods and playing a high-pitch sound can be helpful in several situations. The most obvious use cases may be locating an earbud that slipped between some couch cushions, but the feature also comes in handy for finding a stolen device.

Many of us have been in a situation where a coworker or classmate might have sticky fingers and "borrow" more things than we'd like. When this occurs with AirPods, the location and sound playback features can quickly settle an argument over which device belongs to who.

For more severe theft cases, you will need to rely on Lost Mode and the authorities.

Lost Mode

The Lost Mode in Find My tells a device it is missing and can notify the owner when it is located. From the AirPods Find My menu, select "Activate" beneath "Mark As Lost." This initiates the Lost Mode system for the AirPods.

Since AirPods cannot connect to the internet on their own, Lost Mode doesn't do anything until the AirPods connect to a new online device. Stolen, lost, or otherwise, the next time your AirPods connect to an Apple product, a message will appear, and the owner is notified with an updated location.

You can leave a custom message along with your email or phone number when a device is placed in Lost Mode. So if you suspect the AirPods are stolen, a message of "We have your location and police have been notified" may be apt.

AirPods will notify someone if they are already attached to an iCloud account
AirPods will notify someone if they are already attached to an iCloud account

Lost Mode doesn't prevent the AirPods from being used, and whoever has them can connect and use them as Bluetooth earbuds. However, the iCloud data will remain attached to the AirPods, and the device name will show up as "Not Your AirPods."

Escalation and involving police

While some situations won't warrant police, like the aforementioned coworker, others will. AirPods are small devices that can be swiped from a table in a second, and your only recourse would be to involve the police.

Never chase down a thief or use Find My to track stolen devices to private property. AirPods aren't worth your life.

If your AirPods are stolen, and the thief tries to use them or sell them, chances are, Lost Mode will tell you exactly where to find them. Notify the police, file a police report, and hope for the best.

Since AirPods lack personal information and are relatively inexpensive, having a set stolen isn't a world-ending scenario. There's a slight chance a stolen set could be recovered, but you're likely going to be buying new ones.

Ordering replacement parts

Apple can provide a new earbud or charging case at a reduced price if one goes missing. Provide the serial number to Apple Support to set up a replacement.

The AirPods serial number is stored on your iPhone:

  1. Open the Settings app.
  2. Tap on Bluetooth.
  3. Locate your AirPods in the list and tap the "i" icon.
  4. The serial number is listed here.

Apple doesn't offer insurance for lost AirPods with AppleCare as it does for iPhone. So, if an entire set of AirPods goes missing, then you'll have to buy a new set at retail price.

Find out what to do if your Apple Watch is lost or stolen or your iPhone is lost or stolen.