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How to Locate a Stolen Laptop

by Staff | January 25, 2016

How-To Life Hacks Tech Computers

Benjamin Franklin once said this handy-dandy proverb: “An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure.”

In other words, preventing problems is the best way to solve them. We could probably all agree on that. But what happens when you just can’t avoid certain events like Murphy’s Law says, “Anything that can go wrong, will go wrong”?

Obviously, nobody ever wants bad things to happen to them…and if you’re the clueless type, it’s possible that you have a tendency to lose things.

  • Say you lose your computer. After you’ve cursed yourself in every possible way, you’d start thinking about all that information and work you had on there. (As a matter of fact, due to your carelessness or clumsiness, you might as well could’ve just lost your head off your shoulder and still feel less adrift.)

Regardless if we can’t prevent ourselves from losing our valuables and, even less, be victims of theft, we can have precautions in place that will surely make these kinds of events less traumatic.

Nevertheless, prevention is key.

The thing is, once you lose your computer, there’s not much you can do; however, for right now since you still have it at hand, you can start taking precaution and prevention by installing some app.

Yes, it’s that simple.

  • For example, if you’re an Apple customer, rest assured that you’d at least be able to track down your Mac or remotely delete sensitive information. Apple’s “Find my…” services are integrated into their devices – iPhones and iPads also have this software integrated – and are one of the best solutions.

In case you want additional assurance, or you are a customer of other brands, there are several programs you can install on your computer right now.

Computer Tracking Software

Almost all tracking services work under the same premise: you install a piece of software and set up an account – which will allow you to go to the service’s website and remotely control your device as well as view its location.

– Apple’s “Find My…”

For Mac OS X and IOS

This integrated feature allows you to remotely lock your Mac computer. The computer will immediately shut down, and the thief will have to enter a firmware password set remotely by you. If you have any sensitive data, you can also wipe it off your Mac remotely.

You can also locate your Mac by searching for it on a map or playing a sound to help you find it.

This service already exists on your Mac and all you need to do is activate it before anything should happen to your computer. You can activate it by simply turning it on in System Preferences > iCloud.

Remember: Set up your Mac before it gets lost or stolen and (given that the laptop is turned “ON”) you should be able to relocate it or, at least keep your information away from thieves.

You can learn more at


For Windows, Mac OS X, Linux, and Others

Prey is an app that will help you find your devices easily through a web control panel. Remember that Windows, Linux, and other systems don’t have integrated services like Apple does. So you’ll have to download a third-party computer tracking solution to be able to track down your laptop.

This app provides not only tracking but also a timestamp report on the current location of your laptop and the possibility to remotely wipe your stored passwords to keep your personal information safe.

It can also provide a candid picture of the thieve as well as a screenshot of the current session.

This app is free for three devices and offers a variety of other features in a paid version with plans starting at $5/month.


For Windows

This app provides tools for spying on your thieve so you can find their location, take screenshots and pictures, and see browsing history so whatever it is the thieve are doing on your stolen laptop, you will know it.

With this one, you can also remotely retrieve or delete files from your stolen computer, in case you need to get a hold of important files that you did not back up.

LockItTight is free for five devices and paid plans start at $2/month.

LoJack for Laptops

For Windows and Mac OS X

Lojack was originally a service for tracking stolen cars, but now it has extended its services to laptops, tablets, and even smartphones.

Once you’ve installed it, the software will lock the BIOS itself (in compatible laptops) and will not be removed even if the hard drive is wiped out.

So if your laptop contains really important data that cannot be seen by others (maybe you’re some sort of government employee with high-level access to information or maybe you just don’t want those scandalous photos of you getting out to the public) this is a great option for you to consider.

The upside of this service is that not only will it help you track down your laptop and keep your data safe, but it also offers the possibility to send a team of investigators to retrieve your laptop. And if they can’t do it for the next 60 days, you’ll get a reimbursement of $1,000 (talk about a bright side to getting stolen, huh?).

Plans start at $15/year and have a 30-day free trial.


It’s a free open source tracing system that offers privacy-preserving tracking, which means that only the owner of the laptop can use the tracking system – keeping your personal location private when there has been no thievery.

Adeona is designed to use the open source OpenDHT distributed storage service to store location updates sent by a small software client installed on an owner’s laptop. It continually monitors the location of the laptop, obtaining useful information (such as IP addresses and local network topology) to locate the device.

It is an easy and safe way for an owner to retrieve location information.

The LaptopLock

It’s a free software that allows you to delete and encrypt files, send messages to the user, execute programs, and play a sound remotely – but does not offer a tracking option.

The great use of this app is that it keeps your information safe and sound, and more importantly, away from the hands of thieves.

It allows you to send notifications and also, you can launch a program when the laptop is reported as stolen; for example, you could start your webcam and take pictures of the thieves.

Find Stolen Laptop without Tracking Software

There is another way of tracking down your computer without previously installing a program on your computer.

You can try to track down your laptop with Dropbox, Facebook, or Gmail if you were already logged in prior to losing your computer since these websites automatically register and store your IP address upon access.

So, if someone tries to use your laptop to check out your Facebook profile or emails, you have a might have a chance of getting that person’s IP address; however, possessing an IP address doesn’t mean you will have the exact physical address that is assigned to that IP.

Now the Internet Service Providers (ISPs) do have the exact address location information, but they won’t give it away that readily, plus you’d need a warrant to get it.

You could always try going to the local authority and explain your situation.

If you do manage to get the IP address of the person using your laptop, you can use any IP locator website out there (e.g., IP Location Finder, IP Locator, etc.). Although it won’t be 100% exact, the site will give you an estimate proximity of whether your computer is in the same area or nearby. Think of IP address more like latitude and longitude coordinates.

Therefore, it’s better to just get one of the mentioned software before. It will save you a lot of headaches, and you’ll be in good hands.

Another difficulty you might find when trying to track your laptop is that, unlike smartphones, your lost/stolen computer might not be connected to Wi-Fi at all times or will simply be turned off.

So it’s worth sounding like a broken record here…prevention is key.

The Personalized Prevention Act

You can always make serious modifications to your laptop so that it won’t go “missing/stolen” that easily.

Add a bunch of stickers, a glued cover, a unique engraving, or anything of that sort to the exterior. This will – at least – make it harder for the thieves to sell your computer to someone else.

If your laptop is so personalized and conspicuous, then the thieve will more likely think twice before stealing it due to the fact it will be easy to spot by others (and you) or will be difficult to resell. (The only one minor downside is, you can’t resell it of course.)

Think of it like this: people will pay no heed to or forget the same old generic white-colored car, but everybody will remember a car painted in a rainbow color that stands out being unforgettable. It’s too conspicuous, which is bad for wannabe thefts.

The Anti-Theft Protection Alert

What you should start doing is be conscious that the risks of having your belongings stolen are real. If you lose sight of them for a minute, it could be gone before you know it.

So yes, personalize and download a software that allows you to track down your laptop, but also be aware and alert of public places and don’t leave your computer unattended.

Nobody wants their laptop to get stolen. Whether you’re just a student or a professional, we keep valuable and sensitive data on our laptops, and the best thing you can do to prevent this from happening is to keep your eyes open and alert and leave that trusting nature of yours aside when it comes to being in public places with your personal valuables.

If you’re reading this because you already got your computer stolen, keep in mind that you’ll have to alert computer support and authorities about your situation, and hopefully you’ll find it.

On the other hand, if you’re reading this just to learn how to keep your information safe, then go on and choose the best option for you.

Be quicker and smarter than the thieves by implementing precaution and prevention, and do your best to find your precious laptop if it is too late.


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