Losing your laptop or being a victim of theft can have disastrous consequences. There are steps you can take to protect your laptop and prevent a security breach if you were to lose this device.
Besides protecting your device with a password, we recommend using one of the built-in tracking tools offered by Windows and Apple. Enabling these features is quick and easy, and they provide you with a reliable way of tracking a lost or stolen laptop.
Finding a Windows laptop
With Windows 10, Microsoft includes a Find My Device ability for devices using the operating system. Enable this feature to help track your laptop when it goes missing.
Step 1: Go to Update & Security in Settings
Head to your Start menu and type in Settings, then select the Settings option that appears. Once there, look for the section that says Update & Security, and select this.
Step 2: Click Find My Device
Look to the sidebar menu and find the option that says Find My Device and select it. In the window that appears, look for the header that says Find My Device: ___ and see if it says on or off. If it says off, then select the Change button below to turn it on.
Step 3: Sign with Microsoft account.
Whenever you want to locate your laptop, head to the Microsoft account page and sign in with your account information. When you’re logged in to your Microsoft account, select the section labeled Devices. On the Devices page, select the device you want to locate. On your laptop’s page, select Find my device. You’ll then be taken to a page in which Microsoft will give you a map location for your device of where it was last detected, and when it was last detected. On the left side of the screen, if you click on the name of your device, a menu will pop up that may show more information about the laptop’s last known location as well as two options you can select: Find and Lock. Find will let you search for your laptop’s current location, not simply its last known location.
Finding a Mac laptop
On Macs, the tracking feature is called Find My Mac, and it enables you to pinpoint the location of your laptop on a map for retrieval or reporting. Here’s how to get started.
Step 1: Go to iCloud settings
On your Mac, head to your menu and select System Preferences. Here, go to the iCloud icon: This may require you to log in with your Apple account information if you haven’t already done so.
Step 2: Click on Find My Mac
Review your iCloud features and look for the option to Find My Mac. Make sure the checkbox is selected to enable this feature. If not, check it, and then select Allow when iCloud asks you if you are sure.
Step 3: Go to iCloud.com
Now that the feature is turned on, you can locate your laptop by logging into iCloud.com with your Apple account. Once logged in (you may have to verify that you trust the device you are working on), select Find my iPhone to get started.
Step 4: Find it on the map
You should now be able to find a menu of all the devices associated with your account. Select your MacBook from this list, and iCloud will bring up a map showing you where it is. You can choose to have your Mac play a sound if you want to find it, or display a custom message on the screen, or you can even remotely lock your Mac with a password to prevent access.
Extra tracking and protection apps
The native functions for both Windows and MacOS are fine if you want a quick way to track your laptop. However, they don’t offer a lot of extra security features. If you want enhanced protection, additional software downloads are crucial. You’ll also need to set up a complete tracking program. More thorough defenses are incredibly helpful in case of theft, but possibly overkill in terms of at-home devices. Regardless, we can recommend a couple of options you can use to get started.
PreyProject’s Prey: Prey is an excellent download that lets you sign up multiple devices for tracking. When you mark a device as missing, Prey can track it for you. The app helps you remotely lock your device, retrieve data from it, or ring an alarm to find it. You also have the choice to wipe data from your laptop completely to protect your privacy. When it comes to tracking criminals, the app can also create evidence reports with information on the device’s location. A report can also feature images taken from the device’s camera, which the police can use to help recover your belongings. There are several different tiers of service with Prey, but the basic package is free and tracks up to three devices.
Hidden: Hidden is another top tier tracking app exclusive to MacOS and iOS devices. If you have a MacBook, you may want to look into this app as well. It can track location, take images, log keystrokes, record spoken messages, enable remote access, and more. With Hidden, you can control your device from afar and even wipe data if necessary. The Personal package for Hidden costs $2.99 per month to use and covers three Apple devices. The Basic package costs $1.67 per month and protects a single Apple device.
Depending on what type of laptop you want to track, a handful of native functions, apps, and other downloads can help achieve your goals. Whether it’s defending against theft or absentmindedness, our list covers every aspect of device tracking you need for your laptop.