If disaster strikes and your precious laptop disappears in the arms of a pitiless scumbag, you don’t have to give up all hope of finding it once more. Admittedly, the odds are against you, but with the tips below you might just have a chance to right this egregious wrong.
Microsoft and Apple have both added features to their operating systems which make this possible, but if you didn’t set them up before the theft occurred we can show you how to track a laptop even after it’s been stolen.
What should I do if my laptop is stolen?
While some of the ideas below could help you find a missing device, we’d strongly recommend that you involve the police rather than heading off to confront the thief yourself.
Locations provided by tracking services will be approximate, so you’re unlikely to know which exact door to pound upon. Plus, there’s the fact that the thieves have already proven they’re not exactly adherents to the law, so you can’t be sure of what they’ll do if challenged.
How to use Find My Device in Windows 10
With the Windows 10 Creators Update back in November 2015, Microsoft introduced the Find My Device feature. As the name suggests, it’s a helpful way to track down the approximate location of your laptop.
It’s turned off by default, but if you enabled the feature before your laptop absconded then you’ll be able to take a quick couple of steps to aid in its recovery.
For those unfamiliar with the service you can read our How to turn on Windows 10’s Find My Device feature guide.
To track your laptop go to account.microsoft.com/devices and log in with your Microsoft account.
You’ll be presented with a list of your devices, so locate the one you’re after and click on the Find my device option under its name.
Now Microsoft will search for the laptop and let you know, roughly, where it is, so long as it’s online. There’s also the option to secure the machine remotely by clicking the Lock button.
Using Find my Mac
If you use a MacBook, MacBook Air, or MacBook Pro, then there’s a similar feature to Find My Device which is rather cleverly called Find My Mac.
Again, it will need to have been enabled before the criminal act took place, but if it was then you’ll be able to track it down, lock it up tight, or send a message to the miscreant.
For full instructions on setting up and using the feature read our How to find a stolen Mac and protect data from thieves guide.
Using Gmail or Dropbox to track its IP address
If you didn’t have any of the above features enabled then all is not lost. You can still track the IP address of your device if someone is using it. Again, this won’t give you a precise location, but you’ll have an idea of which town or maybe even road where it might be found.
If you have a Gmail account then this is the best place to start. Log into the web version in your browser, then scroll down to the bottom of the messages until you find the Details option in the lower right corner.
Click this and a new window will appear with all of the devices that have accessed your Gmail account recently.
Click the Show Details option under the one that you suspect to be your missing laptop, then make a note of the IP address so you can hand it on to the police.
You can also find similar information on the web version of DropBox by clicking on your account icon in the upper right corner, then selecting Settings>Security.
Now scroll down to the web browsers section and hover the cursor over the information icon in the Most recent activity column for the device in question.
If none of these routes are successful in reuniting you with your laptop then you have our deepest sympathies.
All we can do is provide you with a guide to the best laptops currently available and recommend that you implement some of the measures above so that you’ll be ready for them should there be a next time.