Stolen Laptop Computer?

Has your laptop or notebook computer been a target for thieves? My sister-in-law recently had her Powerbook G4 stolen right from her apartment. No forced entry, just a laptop gone forever (perhaps being pawned off on eBay). What can you do?

The first step is to report it to the police and for Pete’s sake you should have the serial number ready to give them. Without it, the Police have no way of tracking it. The second thing is to report the theft to your home owners or home renters insurance company. If you don’t have insurance, then you’re out of luck and will have to resort to other means of tracking where the laptop may have ended up.

Before going into how one may recover your laptop via alternate means, I’ll outline some preventive measures that you should be following. One thing you should be doing regularly is to have a backup of all your most important files. That makes it a little more bearable. The other thing to do is to secure your computer, your folders, and files via some kind of password protected encryption. Mac OS X Panther has a feature called File Vault built-in. I recommend turning this on if you have sensitive information stored. If you’re a Windows PC user, then there are a lot of third party products that do a similar thing.

Ok, how we track your laptop? We will assume that the laptop is much more valuable to the thieves in tact than as spare parts. If the thief is stupid enough, you can see if these steps can help you track him down. The petty thief may decide to go online with your laptop. This is your opportunity to track him down. If your laptop’s internet connection was dialup and you saved your password in the settings, then you can notify your ISP to track any connections made using your account. Who knows, they may even be able to narrow the IP address to a location. If the thief connects using high speed cable modem or DSL then the only way to track the laptop is via a third party tracking software (preferrably installed in a hidden partition). This third party tracking software that you hopefully installed on your laptop should send a unique ID back to the tracking station whenever the laptop goes online. It should report back to the tracking station enough information for them to pinpoint whose cable modem or DSL modem that laptop is making the connection from. With any luck, the police will knock on the door of the culprit and retrieve your laptop.

It is easy to say in hindsight that you should have done this or done that. The true feeling of having your laptop stolen is like losing all your photo albums, and all your memories. It is a devastating experience. It doesn’t have to happen that way, if you take the steps to prevent it. However, if it does happen, you should now know how to deal with it.