Stolen Laptop: Prevention and recovery

November 25, 2009

This is Part 3 of a series on my stolen laptop.

As I look back on the theft of my laptop from my car, I realize there are things I could have been done to prevent the laptop from being stolen. I also learned that there are steps you can take in advance to attempt to recover your laptop after it has been stolen.

This begins the “practical” part of this series, and I hope you will find it helpful. But I am also writing for myself, so that I can think it through and learn from my mistakes, and from your recommendations.


My biggest mistake, of course, was leaving my laptop bag in the “cabin area” (what is it called?) of an unattended car, thinking that by laying flat it on the floor it would not be noticeable. I should at least have left it in the trunk.

But this gets me thinking about protecting my laptop in other places. Workplace theft is not uncommon. I should really get a security cable for locking the computer to something sturdy. Time to pay a visit to our local Apple Store…


Another step I could have taken is to install theft recovery software. I’ve read about one person who used MobileMe “Back to My Mac” screen sharing and the built-in iSight camera to photograph the thief, but that’s a do-it-yourself operation. Besides, trying to take a photo of the suspect using Photo Booth is, shall we say, a dead giveaway with its beeping countdown and flash.

So rather than a do-it-yourself approach, I looked at the software options listed described in this review. The last one, Undercover, looks like the best combination of “We do it for you,” and “We stay out of your way.” The program tries to determine the computer’s location, takes screenshots, and snaps photos—but the results are processed by a team dedicated to laptop recovery. (There’s even a clever “Plan B” if recovery is unsuccessful. What do teach our children about abduction? Shout as loud as you can!)

Your Turn

Questions for you:

  • How do you physically secure your laptop? (Or do you?)
  • Do you use any theft recovery software? What’s out there for Windows users?

Next time, I’ll look at security settings (so let’s not discuss those yet).

Stolen Laptop series:

  1. In broad daylight
  2. Violence and forgiveness
  3. Prevention and recovery

Jon Reid

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As an American missionary kid who grew up in Japan, I'm a child of two cultures, while not fully belonging to either. This gives me a sightly different view of the world.

3 responses to Stolen Laptop: Prevention and recovery

  1. Undercover is a really cool thing, I wonder if there is anything like that for PCs? I don’t worry too much about my laptop, since I mostly use it at home, and hardly ever take it anywhere. But it only takes once, I guess.

  2. Samia, I’m afraid I don’t know what’s out there for PCs. (…Anybody?)
    But the risk is really much lower if your laptop stays home.

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