A laptop is a useful and sometimes essential tool until it gets lost or stolen. Then it can turn into a whole list of problems. 

First of all, there is the money issue. Laptops are not cheap. And unlike other luxury items that don’t have to be replaced right away, most people can’t do without their computer. When you are on a business trip and you happen to lose your laptop, there is nothing really that you can do, other than buying a temporary one that will most likely be out of your pocket. Some people have really expensive laptops that are specially designed for gaming or they just have expensive hardware, for those people, improving the security measures should be very important if they don’t want to waste their money.  

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In addition to the cost of replacing your equipment, the information it stores may be many times more valuable. Hopefully, you have a recent backup in a safe place. But even if the backup is only 24-hours old, that’s 24-hours of emails, appointments, memos and personal data that you may never see again.  

More important than the effect of losing your data is the effect of someone else finding it. Your PC could contain important information about you and your family that could be used by identity thieves to hijack your credit. And if your computer is used for work, it may contain files and documents that could be very bad news in the wrong hands. You never want to get in a situation where you lose your business laptop, you will be the responsible person for all the information that goes out to the public or on the wrong hands. Even if you lose your personal laptop you are in a big trouble, especially if you have valuable information stored on the hard drive. One of the first things that thieves do is a search for this valuable information. 

Hopefully, you are doing what you can to prevent the theft or loss of your PC, but no one can prepare for all contingencies, and laptop theft might just happen to you. 

If you are a victim of laptop theft, what can you do?

First, a bit of preparation. 

Make sure that your PC is marked. Permanently markings can make it easier to identify the laptop if it is found, which will also make thieves think twice about stealing it in the first place. 

Keep your backups current. Regular backup schedules will help you recover from the loss of the data stored on your laptops hard drive. 

If it was stolen, call the police and file a report. Include the Make, Model and Serial number, as well as any markings you may have made on it.  

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If it contains job related or other confidential information, alert the appropriate people at once. They may have a recovery or response policy in place. 

Do not allow unsecured accounts on your laptop. All accounts must have a good password, or be eliminated. This includes the Guest account, which is frequently used by unauthorized users to gain access to computer. 

Data encryption is also important, especially if you have sensitive files. Encryption can be applied to a file, a directory, or even the entire hard disk. Without the key, the encrypted information is almost impossible to recover. This may not get your laptop back, but it will mean that the data you entrusted to its hard drive may not be compromised. 

Use tracking technology to help you and the authorities locate and identify the PC. 

There are two basic types of tracking systems; Hardware and Software. 

Hardware solutions use GPS technology to determine the location of the laptop. This is then transmitted on radio frequencies that can be tracked by police. This technology is used effectively to protect cars, trucks and other vehicles that are often stolen. 

While this method is proven and effective, it is also expensive, and the transmission has a limited range. Once the laptop gets of the area of coverage, it is ‘off the screen’. 

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A software solution has been introduced which can be a good, low cost alternative. A tracking program is installed on your laptop. This program will remain hidden in the background, undetectable except by sophisticated methods. Every time the laptop is connected to the Internet, either by Ethernet or Wi-Fi, it will send a message to a central monitoring service. This message will not show up on any email or IM logs or displays. 

The message will contain its geographic location, based on the IP address used when the laptop is connected to the internet. 

Once the laptop ‘reports in’, the monitoring center you can contact the appropriate authorities and expedite recovery. 

While it depends on the PC being connected to the net, it has the advantage of working anywhere in the world. 

Some products, such as LocateMyLaptop (LocateMyLaptop.com) offers additional features that will allow you to log onto your stolen laptop and destroy confidential information remotely before it can be used or misused. 

This is done with digital shredding and file space clean-up functions that are more effective than deleting the file. 

File deletes simply erase the index entry for your data file. The data itself is untouched and fully recoverable by anyone with a set of readily available set of recovery tools. 

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Even free space is not, in reality, empty space, but may contain the ghost data from long deleted files. Eliminating this phantom information is critical as well. With this service, you can set the system to trigger a full data shred the next time the laptop is connected to the internet. 

The LocateMyLaptop also offers you the option to maintain all your laptop ownership and warranty information (e.g. make, model, serial #, date of purchase, etc.) and records online where you can access it from any location. This includes a complete log of your laptops call-in attempts. It also offers theft report filing assistance. 

While prevention is the best solution, you should have a viable emergency plan in place, should your laptop be stolen. 

Your data will need to be protected and backed up to prevent loss and comprise. Your PC should be marked for easy identification, and, if possible, you should use some means to track and locate your laptop in case it is ever lost or stolen.