Laptops are lighter and more powerful than ever; they’re also easier to steal. Luckily, you may be able to recover your lost laptop. Below are some guidelines to help you secure your laptop so that you can recover it.
Use open source free tracking software
There are powerful track-and-recover applications which are free like Prey. Here’s how Prey works, and how it could save you a month’s rent in new laptop cost. On a laptop with a webcam, a Wi-Fi chip, and Prey installed, it’s a good bet you’ll have a photo of your thief and an approximate location on them just as soon as they have your computer running for a few minutes. You don’t have to actively search, either—devices with Prey installed in the background “phone home” to your web-based account every 20 minutes by default (you can decrease this interval), spilling their guts about everything they’re doing.
Webcam snaps, desktop screenshots, lists of modified files and running programs, network data galore, and much more are provided to those who want to quietly track their prey. If you’d prefer to think that maybe someone just your device, you can set read-aloud alerts, fire off alarms, change the system wallpaper, lock it with a password, and remotely wipe out your browser data—all from any browser you can get to.
Gmail offers IP location tracking. If you saved your password for Gmail, the thief may inadvertently (or intentionally) access your e-mail account, which would identity their location. Look at the bottom of your gmail page for “last account activity”. It will show the IP addresses used to read your e-mail.
Have you heard of Dropbox? It’s the most popular cloud storage website and software on the market. If installed on your laptop, it has the added advantage of giving you information on the precise location of your laptop, if its connected to the internet. Which means if the thief so much as connects to the internet, their location would be revealed.
These options offered are free but depend on internet accessibility, and you need to take precautions. If you do take them, your chances of recovery may actually be pretty good.
I’m only talking about recovering the hardware. The chances of recovering the files stored on that laptop are just about nil. Thieves and fences generally wipe the hard drive very soon after acquiring a hot PC. Of course, if you’ve been diligently backing up your files as you should, that’s not a serious problem.
Even if you haven’t taken precautions, you should report your loss to the police. If you have the serial number, include that in the report. Without it, should the cops recover your laptop along with other stolen loot, they’d have no way of knowing that the laptop was yours. And you’d have no way of proving it, either.
Your likelihood of success goes up considerably if you prepare for the theft before it happens–and I don’t just mean writing down the serial number. Consider subscribing to a service that will help you track the laptop via the IP address should it be stolen.