Android Device Manager

Whether it's under the couch or in the hands of the bad guy, Android Device Manager will help you find or erase your missing phone

Android Central University — SecurityWhile we hope you'll never need to use it, Android has a great native tool to help locate and remote wipe a lost or stolen phone. It's called Android Device Manager, and all you need is a Google account to set it up on your phone, and you can use any other online device to track it down or wipe it. The important thing, though, is that you need to have it set up and ready before anything bad happens.

That's where we come in. We'll help you get it set up and have a look at what you can do with it. In just a few easy steps you'll know all there is to know about Android Device Manager.

Installing Android Device Manager

Android Device Manager

This part is super-simple. Fire up your phone and open the Google Play app, and search for Android Device Manager — it's the first search hit. If you're reading this on your phone, I'll make it even easier: Download Android Device manager from Google Play. The app installs just like any other app, but you'll need to go to your settings and allow it to act as a Device Administrator. This way, it has permission to wipe or lock your phone. You'll usually find the Device administrator settings under security. Once that's done, you can fire up the app and get it activated!

Signing in to Android Device Manager and finding your phone

Android Device Manager

You'll need a Google Account to download the Device Manager app from Google Play, and you'll also need one to get signed into it. You can use any of the Google accounts that are on your phone, and you'll find them in a drop down list when you open the app. The password field wants your Google Password, and the blue sign in button does just what it says — signs you in.

Unless you have more than one device signed into Google, you'll probably see a map with your current location, and the make and model of your phone listed below. You'll also notice it tells you when you located it last, and where it is — in your hand. If you have multiple devices and have set up Android Device Manager on them, you'll find them in the drop down list at the bottom.

Android Device Manager

You may have noticed that there was an option for a "Guest" to log in to Android Device Manager when you first signed-in. That allows someone else to find, lock or wipe their device using the app on your phone. We'll talk more about that below.

Locking and ringing your Android over the Internet

Android Device Manager

When you've lost your Android, a method to find it is really only useful if it's on the web. The Android Device Manager website is a simple affair, and usable by just about every web browser out there. Fire up a computer or a tablet or a phone and click the link to the page. You'll have a few seconds wait to see if your phone can be located, and once it (hopefully) is, you have a few options.

Android Device Manager

The Ring option does just what you think it should do — rings your phone even if you have the ringer turned down or off. Click the button, and give the OK in the pop-up, and your phone will ring at full volume for five minutes, or until you hit the power button and quiet it down. Perfect once you use the map to get close to your phone. Or if your phone is lost under the couch.

Android Device Manager

The Lock option will allow to set or change a PIN or password on your device, as well as display a message on the locked screen. This is useful if you think someone else may come across your phone and you never set up a password. Or when that friend calls you and says "Dude you totally left your phone here last night, and I'm going to go on Facebook and post under your name!"

You can try both of these things with your phone in your hand by going to the Device Manager page on any computer. Or as we mentioned earlier, a friend can let you sign in as a guest on his or her Android Device Manager app. Give these a try before you need them so you know what to expect!

Wiping a phone that's gone forever

Android Device Manager

I once left a phone at a Denny's in Schenectady New York, but i didn't realize I left it until I was in Virginia. It sure would have been nice if there was a way to remotely wipe that phone just in case someone figured out how to get around my password. I called the phone, and the people working at the Denny's were happy to mail it back to me, so it all worked out — but often we're not that lucky and need to wipe out a phone that we're just never going to get back.

You do it just like you set a password or ring it. Be aware that everything is gone when and if you do this, and your phone is back to the same settings it had while it was brand new in the box. This means that the Android Device Manager app isn't installed nor signed it, and you won't be able to track it any longer.

This also works when the power is off. Google gets a push message ready to go and as soon as the phone is on and connected to the Internet it will shut down and factory reset itself. It's the last-ditch effort, for when you need a last-ditch effort.


Again, we certainly hope you never need these tools. But it's a great idea to get your Android set up and learn how to track it down or wipe it clean just in case you do need to.

 

Reader comments

Using Android Device Manager

65 Comments

Zomg! That's a Samsung phone! TouchWiz is so slow that the bad guy would probably return the phone to you! Lawlz!

TouchWiz is so bad that's why the phone was hiding under the couch! It's tired of doing basic tasks! Lawlz!

TouchWiz comes into my room at night while I'm sleeping and sticks my hand in warm water and I wet the bed! Lawlz!

Samsux wouldn't give me the notification anyway because more than likely my battery would be dead! Lawlz!

I'm done.

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People, please make backups of apps and important data before using the "Lock or Erase" functions.
it will save you a lot of heartache.

You don't have to back up your apps. Those can just be reinstalled. If you store your data in the cloud, you lose nothing.

But you will lose your pictures and texts.

Take a look in settings / backup and restore.
It's already built into Android to back up your app data to your Google drive.

The apps can, but not the data in the apps, you lose all that, unless it's backed up to a cloud storage like Google apps.
What ever you use to backup data and apps, don't use MyBackupPro, they rip you off charging insane prices to use their cloud storage, and only theirs. They will not allow you to use another storage like Google Drive. I needed 8 GB to save all my data and they totally ripped me off like $20-30 just for the 8_10gb storage, and that's monthly reoccurring if you don't cancel, which I did after the first week. And you have to buy the app which gives you something like 100 MB free, whoopee

Thanks for this. My Nexus 5 and Nexus 7 are all set up. I expect this to be useful next time my phone is lost under the couch.

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It's a great feature, because we're all dumber about this kind of thing that we'd like to think. The last time I had to use ADM to ring my phone, it was in the pocket of a pair of jeans I'd thrown into the laundry basket. That could've ended disastrously.

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Good timing for this article. I've been trying to get this to work for the past week without success. Device Manager doesn't locate my phone. Any help would be welcome.

Moto X w\KitKat v4.4.3

I am signed in to Google+
Android Location service is turned On
Google Location reporting is turned On
Google+ Location sharing is turned On (don't know if that's required)

The Google map in Device Manager shows my location, but it says my phone is "Unavailable".
Any advice to get this app to find my phone?

Check the Google account you are using is set as an @gmail.com . If you are using @googlemail.com you will need to change it so device manager can find your phone. All you need to do is change the @googlemail.com ending to @gmail.com as it won't make a difference to anything else other than fixing device manager

Thanks sacollins for the reply.

Is a Gmail account required? I never set up Gmail in my Google+ account. Don't want it. Don't need it (until maybe now).

You don't need Google+ to use device manager (I don't use Google+ either because it annoys me)
Android phones require a Google account when you set it up in order to use the phone, play store etc etc and that's the account I'm talking about. Go to your settings, then under accounts it should say the email address your phone is set up to use as default. If the email address is @gmail.com then device manager should be working, but if its @googlemail.com then you'll need to change the ending to @gmail.com instead.

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Thanks sacollins. I have it working now.

I did not originally use Gmail as my Google account email. I used my ISP email address.

I just setup another Google account with a gmail address. Logged into Android Device Manager with that second account and it worked fine. So apparently (and sadly) you do need Gmail to make this work.

There is no longer a "Gmail" or "Google+" account. It's all just a "Google" account that comes with access to GMail. Most of Google's services require a Google account, since you have to be able to authenticate with their servers.

Yes that's true, but apparently the Google account has to have a Gmail email address or it doesn't work in this case. Prior to this, I had been using my Google account without a Gmail email address with no issues.

Hmm... OK. I wasn't aware that you could have a Google account without a Gmail address. Good to know.

I'm guessing the reason it won't work without is because Google's "push messaging" system is someone using their email technology? Just a guess, but it's the only reason that makes any sense to me.

It's important to note that the account you're using on your phone must be an @gmail.com email address. Using @googlemail.com makes device manager useless as it won't locate, wipe, or remotely do anything with your phone.

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I've set a password remotely before through device manager but never figured out how to remove the password after setting it. anybody know how?

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The way Apple addresses this is definitely better. That said I'm sure Google is working on something to combat this.

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That works pretty nicely. I was able to quickly find and ring my Galaxy Nexus and my Nexus 7 (2013) with no problem. I found that using my Lookout app for comparison, I couldn't find the N7 tablet.

I wonder if there is any Google Chrome app or extension available to find the Android devices? I couldn't find any. That would make it easier to quickly deal with a lost or stolen Android device when an alternative Android device isn't close at hand.

Did something about this change? To my knowledge, you do not need to download the Android device manager app to be able to use the Android device manager website. I used it just the other day to ring my wife's phone, and I know for a fact that she didn't install the app. The only setup step that I know of is enabling the ability to lock or wipe the device from within the Google Settings on the phone, if you want those features available.

+1 you DON'T NEED THE APP. just need it to be available through device administrator in settings.

John Hancock

Switched it off on all devices a week ago. Too much wakelocks and battery drain with ADM enabled. My private data is among others aes-256 secured enough too lose device without stress And everything always recently backupped.

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I don't think I'm familiar with what you mean. How is your private data secured exactly?

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Concerning data protection:
With strong algorythm encrypted containers mounted r/w as local folder in Android with EDS (€ 4 or 5,-.). Set to auto-dismount period unused, etc. Containers interchangeble and compatible to use with Windows/Linux/OS X. Also just folders and files can be encrypted off course. And smb-support.but have not tried that.
Some private cloudfiles and folders with Boxcryptor Classic (Free). (Not other version, is for companies with key saved on Boxcrypto-server instead of own memory, because sharing keys among lot of employees is unmanageble). With Boxcryptor Cl. local folder/file encryption possible too. One can also open and use containers in cloud with EDS.
A very east way to encrypt files might be 7-zip a file with aes-256 encryption. For instance with Zarchiver or Arc File Manager in Android and 7zip on PC.
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I have 2 Samsung Galaxy phones on ADM, a S2 and a Note 3. I loaned my S2 to someone, realised later I didn't fully reset it properly, just cleared cache, so I used ADM to lock it when it's turned on, and left a screen message to contact me so I can direct them to reset it via Recovery.

I checked my Note 3 a few days later in a coffee shop, and instead of just pinpointing where it and I were on a map, it actually said "Just now. In your hand", which it was.

So was that just default terminology by the app to personalise it, or does it use and record accelerometer and gyro readings to know I was holding it, instead of my using it while lying on a table, as I normally do. Conundrum!

Note: ADM may NOT actually lock the phone. Here's how:

1) Settings|Security|Power button instantly locks = OFF
2) Automatically lock is set to some extended period of time (e.g. 10 minutes).

Result:
Log into ADM on web browser, send LOCK command and set new PIN.
Phone appears to lock, screen changes and message is displayed.
Press the "back" button on phone.
It's now unlocked.
Booyah.

tested on Moto X.

The Android Device Manager drains your battery badly if it's enabled. I have the AVG Anti Theft enabled and its much better on battery life.

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Heyy can anyone plz help me. I dropped my s5 in the pool and the back covee was slightly open . It went 5 cm down in water before I removed it. It was turned off . I didn't try to turn it back on . I just removed all the parts and placed it in the sun to dry. Can it be fixed or im screwed? ??

Leaving it in the sun was either a really good idea or a really bad idea. I've always towel dried and left sitting in a box of rice for a week.

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This. Remove the battery, wipe off any and all water that you see. Place the opened-up phone into a sealed container with at least a pound of uncooked rice. 48 hrs is usually enough time. Install battery and back cover (all the way on this time!), power on.

Device manager has helped me find my phone or tablet so many times. When I just had a tablet, I used to use Android Lost which can do more but Device manager is more reliable and so easy between the tablet and the phone. Fortunately I've never needed to try the remote lock or wipe features.

Awesome! Thanks for the guidance! Always nice to have a refresher course on how to protect your information.

This is a great tool as well, I don't often use a password to protect my phone since I have kids and it drives them crazy for me to have to unlock it for them when they want to watch a show or play games etc (currently we don't have a tablet or other device for their use), and they are also really good at leaving things places they shouldn't.

Great way to have that last ditch protection you need, just in case!

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Recently lost my phone. I'm devastated. Tried the ADM location option, but it says location unavailable. I used the lock option to put an alternate phone number on the screen, and now I'd like to try the 'ring phone' option as a last-ditch effort to make sure it's no where in my apartment. But if it's not here, I don't want it to ring for 5 whole minutes at full volume for fear that it will kill the battery, and no one will see the alternate number on the screen. Is there a way, once I've clicked "ring phone" to stop it from ringing from my computer? Or is the only way to stop it from the device itself?

Is there any way I can do to retrieve my files especially photos on my Android phone which was lost last night. I don't remember if I have back up

ADM is the flakiest app Google has ever made. Back of the envelope it works maybe one out of 7 or 8 times. The rest of the time 'location unavailable'. It's free and you don't have to install gorp ON the phone but it's really a piece of junk.