Can Stolen Laptops Be Tracked? Here’s What You Need to Know!

Can Stolen Laptops Be Tracked Here's What You Need to Know!

Bad guys are always lurking, no matter how protective you are with your laptop. If you misplace the precious device, or worse, it gets stolen — panic will naturally ensue. So, you may wonder, can stolen laptops be tracked?

Many laptop manufacturers have implemented features into their operating systems. So, that means there’s a chance you might see your laptop again soon.

This post discusses the possibilities of tracking stolen laptops, finding them, conman ways they’re stolen and preventing theft.

Can Stolen Laptops Be Tracked?

can-stolen-laptops-be-tracked

Yes tracking stolen laptops is possible, and you can do it yourself. Still, I recommend informing the authorities to catch the laptop thief better. Not to mention, it’ll be safer to involve the police instead of confronting the thug yourself!

How to Track Stolen Laptops?

Here are five foolproof ways to boost your chances of seeing your laptop again. But remember, these don’t guarantee you’ll catch the thief, so practice with caution.

1. Take Advantage of a Decent Tracking Software

The most efficient way to track your laptop is to install a tracking app beforehand. Although it can be expensive upfront, it can help you locate your device if it gets lost or stolen.

Here are flexible tracking apps that offer a more accurate estimation of your laptop’s location:

Absolute Home and Office

Although tracking dead laptops is impossible with many tracking software, Absolute can! It lets you locate your lost laptop through Wi-Fi geolocation. And through the Wi-Fi positioning system, you can see the last place your place laptop got connected to the internet. Hence, you can progress your search even if the device’s turned off.

Prey

Prey has free and paid plans, which works well on iOS, Mac, Windows, and Hp laptop. You don’t need to spend hundreds to find your stolen or missing laptop.

HiddenApp

Aside from giving an approximate location on your stolen laptop, this software can protect your data. It can recover all info from your device in the event of theft or loss. With this, you can save your laptops from data thieves as well.

2. Use Windows’ “Find My Device” Feature

Use Windows Find My Device Feature

If you’re dealing with a lost Windows laptop, take advantage of the brand’s “Find My Device” feature. Launched in 2015, this can help you find missing Windows laptops.

But remember, you should’ve enabled it before your laptop got snatched. If so, you can locate your stolen laptop in no time!

Here’s how you can find your stolen device via the “Find My Device” feature by Windows:

  1. Visit the official Microsoft website and log into the account on your laptop.
  2. Check out the list of devices provided, search for your lost laptop, and click “Find My Device.”
  3. As long as the gadget is online and running, Microsoft should be able to search for it.
  4. Once located, the website will let you know its approximate location.

Also, for your data’s safety, I recommend securing your laptop by enabling the “Lock” button. This way, the thief can’t get into your online information.

3. Use Apple’s “Find my Mac” Feature or iCloud

Use Apple's Find my Mac Feature or iCloud

Regardless if you use the regular MacBook, Air, or Pro, you should be able to track it like Windows. Instead of “Find My Device,” Apple offers “Find My Mac.”

Like Windows, you’ll need to have enabled this feature before your MacBook got stolen. If so, you can track the device, block off access or warn the miscreant.

Here’s how you can find your stolen MacBook via the “Find My Mac” feature by Apple:

  1. Grab your phone and log into iCloud via your Apple account connected to the stolen MacBook.
  2. Turn on the “Find My Mac” feature.
  3. Once confirmed, click on the stolen MacBook and search for its approximate location.

Your MacBook’s location should be revealed on a map. From here, you can trigger its alarm system, deterring the thief. With this, you should be able to find or lock the laptop to protect it and your data stored.

If “Find My Mac” didn’t work for you, try looking for your stolen MacBook via iCloud. It’s more precise, and you can search for your MacBook through your iPhone. And here’s how you can do it:

  1. Go to the iCloud official website and log in with your Apple ID.
  2. Click on “missing MacBook.”
  3. From here, you should see your stolen MacBook’s location.

If there’s no location given, your MacBook is likely turned off or doesn’t have an active network.

4. Go to Facebook To Track Your Laptop

It might be surprising to see Facebook here, but it works well tracking stolen laptops. We’ll rely on your IP (Internet Protocol) address for this method. And you can do this by doing the following:

  1. Log into your FB account and go to the general settings, then security.
  2. Once in, click on “Security and Login.” You should see a “Where you’re logged in” sub-section.
  3. Hover the cursor to the current location and note it alongside the IP address.

Once you’ve located your laptop, contact your local police and have them assist you in catching the thug.

5. Use Gmail or Dropbox

Use Gmail or Dropbox

Finally, opt for Gmail or Dropbox if the tracking features or tracking of the IP addresses didn’t work. And though it won’t be the most accurate, you’ll get a decent lead.

So, log into your Gmail account and start tracking!

  1. Go to the web version of Gmail and log into your account.
  2. You should see a window containing all the devices that used your Gmail account recently.
  3. Click the “Show Details” button if you suspect it to be your stolen laptop.
  4. Once confirmed, note the IP address and inform the authorities.

If you don’t have a Gmail account, Dropbox is the next best thing. And here’s how you can find your stolen laptop via Dropbox:

  1. Go to the web version of Dropbox and log into your account.
  2. Click on your Dropbox account icon and visit the “Security” tab.
  3. Once in, scroll down and hover your mouse over the “Most Recent Activity” section.
  4. From there, you should see an approximate location on your missing laptop.

Common Ways Laptops Get Stolen

Taken from your Ride

As safe as your car might be from thieves, think again. If you leave something as precious as your laptop inside for passers-by to see, it can be hard for them to resist. There is a high chance thieves will get tempted to break your car windows and grab the expensive gadget.

Generally, this happens in parked cars with little to no people around. But as thieves are becoming bolder, some are careless enough to steal the device with you inside the vehicle.

So, always remember to bring your laptop with you or hide it under your car seats before parking your car. Aside from that, try to park your vehicle in high-traffic or lit areas. After all, dark spots make it easier for these thugs to break into your car and grab your laptop.

Snatched from Free Wi-Fi Areas

Free Wi-Fi spaces are the perfect places for thieves to snatch up laptops. Most individuals don’t realize how easy it is to get robbed in these public areas. Depending on the thug, they might grab the precious device and run, while others can fight you for it.

Being alone makes it more probable that you’ll leave your laptop unattended.

Gets “Lost” While Going through Airport Security

A survey among 300 IT professionals states that most agree that 15% of laptop theft happens in airports. And this shows how risky it is to travel with a laptop, especially in third-world countries. But it doesn’t need to be scary since there are many ways you can protect your gadgets during traveling.

Airport security forces travelers to bring their laptops and place them in a box for scanning. When this happens, you’ll naturally need to wait in line for a couple of minutes. And once you pass the x-ray machine and go over the end of the scanner to get your things, your laptop might be gone.

Many scenarios could’ve occurred during your laptop’s journey alone in the scanner. You might’ve forgotten about one of your boxes, or someone grabbed it before you! And yes, all these shenanigans can happen even with security staff around.

So, I recommend you abide by the TSA’s guidelines to protect your laptop from getting stolen:

  • Always keep an eye out for your valuables and belongings while at the airport.
  • Insist to staff to bring your belongings to you for secondary screening.
  • Never store your laptops in checked luggage when traveling, especially abroad! After all, most airlines don’t insure lost baggage.

Pocketed At the Office

Don’t be too lax even if you’ve worked at your office long and know your colleagues well. Never leave valuables such as your laptop unprotected on your desk when you go out for lunch or take a break. So, unless you work in a small office space and trust all your coworkers, always bring your laptop with you.

Also, it doesn’t matter if your office has surveillance cameras since there are blind spots. And there might be individuals passing by your desk, making it challenging to see who could’ve stolen your laptop.

Silently Stolen At the Library

Finally, like offices, many assume that the library is a safe place to leave their laptops unattended.

Anyone can grab your unattended laptop while you’re off getting a book or taking a nap. So, don’t hang out in libraries alone unless you can keep an eye out for your device at all times. If not, you can rest by placing your laptop and bag under your arms as you nap. This way, you’ll be alerted ASAP once someone attempts to grab your things.

Additional Tips for Preventing Laptop Theft

Although tracking stolen laptops are possible, it doesn’t always guarantee recovery. So, instead of risking losing this precious and expensive gadget, practice theft prevention! Avoid contemplating what you could’ve done to prevent theft by acting beforehand.

Here are some proven tips to protect your laptops and other expensive gadgets, whether at home or on the go:

  • Never leave your laptop and other gadgets in your car. Avoid leaving anything in your vehicle, even if you’ve parked it in your garage or driveway. And yes, this applies to both unlocked and locked cars. After all, expensive stuff in plain sight is welcoming more trouble!
  • If needed, store your laptops under your car seats.
  • Carry your laptop in nondescript bags. Keep your laptops in unnoticeable bags, whether carrying a case or a briefcase. Placing your gadgets in bags made for them is an immediate sign for thugs that you have valuables with you!
  • Always have your laptop with you. Even in familiar settings like the meeting room, never leave without it! Always bring the precious device with you.
  • Install theft alarm systems on your laptops. Doing this deters thieves from continuing the robbery. And dealing with a broken laptop is better than a stolen one!
  • Disable all automatic log-ins. Understand that automatic log-ins make it easy for thieves to access your essential information and data once your laptop gets stolen. So, disable them or use an added password protection requiring people to log in each time it shuts down.
  • Always back up your data. Whether via cloud-based storage or portable media like flash drives, back up your data.

Flying With Your Laptop

There’s a scam going around airports, where people snatch laptops through scanners. It happens when you approach the X-ray machine, and the person in front of you is rushing while the one in the back is taking their sweet time.

You’ll notice the first person rushing getting delayed by the most random things, such as having pockets full of change. Meanwhile, those behind you will already have their stuff in the box. The one upfront will pick up the laptop and strut away, while the one on the back will continue holding the line.

It can be tricky to notice these tiny details when going through busy airport lines. So, I recommend only placing your laptop on the x-ray machine when you’re next in line. And remember, keep an eye out on your laptop and other gadgets as they come off the scanner.

Also, alert airport staff if you suspect anyone attempting to steal your laptop and other belongings ASAP.

Leaving the Store with a New Laptop

Be careful when leaving electronic stores with a new laptop on hand. After all, thieves are up-to-date and know the latest releases of most of these gadgets. And you’ll find them taking advantage of the hype and snatching newly bought items from excited customers walking out of these stores.

So, if you’re planning to buy a new laptop, always have these safety and theft prevention tips in mind:

  • Ask the personnel to install an online tracking system on your newly bought laptop.
  • When exiting the electronic stores, be alert and conceal your laptop if possible.
  • Don’t get distracted. Focus on your next destination, and keep walking! And don’t stop for people you don’t know!
  • If you suspect anyone suspicious going after you or other patrons, report them ASAP.
  • Never interact with other individuals inside the store except for the staff.
  • Buy the laptop with someone else. Laptop thieves often target vulnerable individuals who shop alone. So, prevent your new laptop from getting snatched, and go with someone when shopping.

You can avoid all these hassles by shopping for your new laptop online.

Embracing Theft Prevention Technologies

Modern theft prevention technologies can help you find your missing or stolen laptops in no time. And here’s how most of them work:

Two-way Wireless Security Alarm

This theft prevention technology consists of an alarm built-in on your laptop and a separate keychain device. If it detects suspicious actions, it’ll first check if you’re nearby the device or not. And if not, the keychain will alert you, making a “chirping” sound.

You can trigger the alarm on your laptop or have it ring once it detects unusual motion. And these include unauthorized restarts.

Another kind of alarm protects your laptop by setting up a security perimeter. And once the device gets moved beyond the set location, it’ll set off the alarm. Aside from that, it’ll lock keys to your encrypted files while disabling the laptop itself. Hence, your device will become 100% useless to thieves.

Commercial Software

Readily-available software helps you protect your laptop from thieves by securing your data. But remember, you need to enable the feature before your device gets stolen for it to work. So be preemptive, and activate features provided by manufacturers like “Find My Device” by Windows or “Find My Mac” by Apple.

Report to Authorities and Lock Info ASAP

If your laptop does get stolen, report it to the local police ASAP. It would help if you had all the information ready to make it easier for the authorities to process the case. These include the make, model, and your laptop’s serial number.

With the necessary data, the police should be able to file a complete report as soon as you call them. The authorities will register your stolen laptop’s serial number on the FBI’s NCIC. With this, locating the lost device should be more accessible.

But if it’s too late, you can make your laptop worthless to the thief by locking it up. Some manufacturers have provided remote features that let users “lock” their laptops in case of theft or other accidents. With this, the thug may give up on your device and leave it somewhere you can access it!

Aside from that, if your laptop is still active or turned on, police often request you not to cancel the service ASAP. After all, it can help with the authorities investigation. But if they haven’t gotten a lead in at least three days, restrict all access to the laptop remotely.

Frequently Asked Questions

Q: Is tracking down a stolen or missing laptop possible after it got a factory reset?

A: Once a laptop undergoes a factory set, it’s impossible to track it. And they can easily do this via the brand’s factory restoration process.

Q: What do thieves often do with the laptops they stole?

A: Most thieves sell the stolen laptops to the highest bidders ASAP. After all, once they get their hands on the precious device, they’d want to get rid of it ASAP. Each thief has connections, but some may be bold enough to sell the stolen laptops out on the street.

Q: Do laptops have built-in location (GPS) tracking?

A: Laptops don’t often come with built-in location tracking or GPS capabilities. Moreover, many can’t communicate with wireless cell towers, making them trickier to track. Instead, you can use Wi-Fi positioning or your laptop’s IP address to find it.

Q: What are the chances of recovering stolen or lost laptops?

A: Based on the FBI’s research, of the 2 million laptops stolen every year, only 2% get recovered. That means only 40,000 thieves get caught out of the millions each year! So, you can see why it’s necessary to report a missing or stolen laptop to your local authorities ASAP.

Q: How to track a stolen laptop with IP address?

A: Certain programs like Advatrack or Adeona can locate stolen laptops using their IP address. So, once the thief goes online with your device, use these apps to track it down.

Final Words

Can stolen laptops be tracked?. From using tracking software to exploring offline methods — finding them is possible. But remember, these techniques are by no means a guarantee. Instead, they give you a fighting chance to get back what’s yours.