Apple’s MobileMe has at least one feature that you may find is worth the yearly subscription fee, even if you don’t touch any other part of the service. Find My iPad can locate your iPad on a map (even the Wi-Fi–only model, provided it’s connected to a hotspot), send sounds or messages to it, or remotely erase its data if you think you’ll never see it again.
Set Up Find My iPad
Do the following to make sure Find My iPad is active; you don’t want to discover too late that you may not have set up the feature.
1. On the iPad, go to Settings > Mail, Contacts, Calendars and tap your MobileMe (me.com) account. (If you haven’t created one yet, tap Add Account, tap MobileMe, and enter your account information.)
2. Set the Find My iPad option to On.
3. Tap Allow in the dialog that appears to grant the feature access to location data.
Note: For Find My iPad to work, the Location Services option (in the General pane) must be turned on.
Take Action on a Lost iPad
Whether your iPad has fallen behind the back cushion on the couch or fallen into the wrong hands, you can take several actions using Find My iPad to help locate it.
Find: In a Web browser, go to www.me.com and sign in. Then click the Find My iPad icon. After a few minutes, your iPad should appear with a map noting its location.
Unless there’s a solid fix on the iPad’s signal, the location may not be too accurate. After a few minutes, a better location is resolved. You can also click the Update Location button to refresh the view, which is if the iPad seems to be on the move.
Display a Message: If you suspect you’ve simply misplaced the iPad in your home (where the top-down map wouldn’t provide enough resolution), click the Display a Message button. Enter a message and optionally mark the option to Play a sound for 2 minutes with this message. (The sound resembles a submarine’s sonar ping and plays loud, despite the iPad’s volume setting.)
I was trying to be cute in the figure above, but if you think someone might have picked up the iPad, you could use the message feature to alert that the iPad is lost, offer a reward for its return, or just include a contact email or phone number.
Remote Lock: This feature locks the iPad immediately (even if someone is in the middle of using the device) with a four-digit passcode of your choosing. Pick a code that’s different from the screen unlock code in case whoever has the iPad might know your code. The new passcode replaces the one you set in the Passcode Lock settings on the iPad.
Remote Wipe: If you think the iPad is gone for good, or you don’t want to risk that someone may get past the passcode and access sensitive information, click the Remote Wipe button. You’re asked to confirm your choice and then click the Erase All Data button.
All data on the iPad is automatically hardware-encrypted, so performing a remote wipe actually changes the encryption key; it doesn’t remove any data (but the data that’s left is useless). As a result, wiping is fast, taking only a minute and a half.
If the iPad does turn up after a remote wipe, connect it to your computer and restore everything from the last backup.
Encrypt iPad Backup
Speaking of the iPad’s backup, you can perform remote wipes all day and it won’t matter if the computer you sync with was stolen along with the iPad. You can get some measure of relief if you also encrypt the iPad data backup that’s stored on the computer’s hard disk.
In iTunes with the iPad selected in the sidebar, go to the Summary pane and enable the Encrypt iPad backup option.