Mission Impossible: Finding a Lost Laptop

Losing a laptop would make anyone frantic. It recently happened to a friend of mine, who left his laptop on an American Airlines flight. "This is not happening," he texted me. Not only did it happen. He never recovered it. The airline said it never turned up. My pal is incredibly tech savvy, proving that this kind of thing can happen to anybody. Don't let it happen to you. Here are some options for making sure you find your laptop in event of loss.

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Find iPhone App

If you use iPhone and Mac devices, you have built-in GPS. Use the Find iPhone app on your iPhone. It finds MacBooks too.


Just make sure you've enabled Find My Mac in your computer's system preferences. See instructions here. As long as that's enabled, when you go to Find My Mac and log in with your iCloud password you'll be offered three options under Actions: Play Sound. Lock and Erase Mac. The first will emit a high-pitched alert. The second locks your Mac and tracks it, and the third, well, that's the nuclear option.

Find With iCloud

You don't need the Find iPhone app to locate your MacBook. You can do the same thing by logging onto iCloud from any browser. You'll see Find iPhone among the apps on your iCloud's home page. Once selected, clicking on the location of your MacBook offers the same three options as using your iPhone App. There's even a battery icon with your Mac's power level. My MacBook actually appeared in a lake during testing. I live next to a lake not in a lake. So if your Mac's location appears to be under water, don't panic. There's still hope.

Finding a Windows PC

For a long time, Microsoft lagged behind Apple in the lost & found department. But in November 2015, Microsoft took a big step forward by introducing a way to track your Windows 10 PC. In Settings under Update & Security choose the Find My Device option to activate it. Should you lose your PC, log in to your Microsoft account from any browser to see its last known location.

Third-Party Software


If you like redundancy and don't quite trust the above options to do the job, then third-party software will help give you that extra peace of mind. Prey and LoJack are two device-locating software makers that have survived the test of time:


Prey gets high marks. It sends you information about your device's location, including pictures of the culprit who's stolen it. It allows you to wipe you computer or lock it down. And it will do this anywhere in the world. Prey offers several pricing options, including a free Basic plan.

LoJack for Laptops

Thanks to excellent branding with its car security products, LoJack for Laptops may be the best brand to supply peace of mind. What's cool about this software is that it embeds in your firmware, allowing it to survive factory resets or hard wipes by a would-be thief. It works with both Macs and PCs. LoJack offers a 30-day risk free trial. It's standard 1-year coverage starts at $40.

Tracking Devices


Tile, Protag, and TrackR are a few tracking devices that have appeared in the last few years. They emit an alarm or play music on your smart phone to alert you if you move a certain distance away from your keys, wallet, or in this case, laptop. They work best at very short distances -- 100 to 150 feet. If my friend had one of these trackers he may never have left the plane without his laptop. The alarm on his cellphone would have sounded as he left it behind. These devices vary in price from $25 to $80.

LaptopĀ Locks

We leave the realm of retrieval and enter that of prevention. You never lose your laptop to begin with because you bolted it to a desk.


Even if you forget it, it's unlikely a thief will be able to make off with it. By the time you remember you've forgotten your laptop, you can return to its last location to find it waiting for you. There are a plethora of laptop locks on the market, including the Targus Defcon CL for $30 and Guardian's Laptop Cable Lock for $28.

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