How to Track Stolen Laptops With a MAC or IP Address

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If your laptop is stolen, you might be able to track it.

Computrace LoJack for Laptops states that more than 600,000 personal computers are stolen each year. When a laptop disappears at an airport or coffee shop, the greatest chance of recovery results from pre-planning. Installation of anti-theft software offers more protection than trying to track stolen laptops with a MAC or IP address. Protect expensive equipment, personal information and confidential data by practicing prevention.


Step 1

Notify your network administrator of the theft. Locating a stolen laptop using a MAC address isn't possible unless the thief gets on the same LAN. This makes recovery unlikely, with the exception of a computer used on a corporate or college network. In such a case, let the network administrator know of the theft. Supply the MAC address of the laptop and the network administrator can watch for the laptop to log on to the network.


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Step 2

Forget about tracking a stolen laptop over the Internet using a MAC address -- it's not possible. This second-level information is not passed through the router to the third-level ISP (Internet Service Provider).

Step 3

Increase your chances of recovery by preinstalling anti-theft software that "phones home" to a service provider.


Step 4

Contact your ISP to see if the thief has accessed the Internet using your service. The ISP issues a location-specific IP address when a computer accesses the Internet. If the owner of a stolen laptop discovers an IP address assigned to her computer since the theft, then the police can track its location.


Step 5

Investigate whether programs such as Yahoo Messenger or email software that automatically logs on at boot-up are still being accessed. Contact the service provider with appropriate police report documentation and a subpoena to obtain a recent IP address for a stolen laptop.

Step 6

Use preinstalled anti-theft clients to obtain a recent IP address for the stolen laptop. Supply the IP information to law enforcement.



Step 7

Contract with a third party for anti-theft protection. Computrace LoJack for Laptops offers a three-year anti-theft guarantee for its software. Buyers subscribe to a service that uses installed BIOS firmware to track a stolen computer and supply recovery information to the police. Computrace LoJack claims to recover three out of four stolen laptops using its service.


Step 8

Download and install an open source anti-theft client. There is no charge to install the software, which monitors and stores location data.

Step 9

Check manufacturer service plans for theft protection details or call customer support. Some computer manufacturers, such as Dell, offer tracking, recovery and data deletion for stolen laptops.




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