You may feel like you’re taking the best possible care of your laptop, but sometimes disasters happen. If you misplace your device, or worse, it gets stolen, it can feel like the end of the world.
Your laptop is probably second only to your phone in terms of the personal data you have stored on it. Read what to do if your phone suffers the same fate here.
While it is understandable that this will cause a lot of suffering, all may not be lost. Both Microsoft and Apple have implemented features in their operating systems, which means you can get your laptop back to use sooner than you might expect.
This is by no means a guarantee, but these tips at least give you a fighting chance.
What should I do if my laptop is stolen?
While some of the ideas below can help you find a missing device, we strongly recommend that you call the police instead of confronting the thief on your own.
The locations provided by tracking services will be approximate, so it’s hard to know exactly which door to bang on. Plus, there’s the fact that thieves have proven they don’t exactly follow the law, so you can’t be sure of what they’ll do if challenged.
How to Use Find My Device in Windows 10
Microsoft introduced Find my device feature back in 2015. As the name suggests, it’s a useful way to track the approximate location of your laptop.
This feature is disabled by default, but if you enabled it before your laptop disappeared then you should be able to take a few quick steps to assist in restoring it.
For those unfamiliar with the service, you can read our How to Enable Find My Device in Windows 10.
To track your laptop, go to Microsoft’s website and sign in with your account.
You’ll see a list of your devices, so find the device you’re tracking and click Find my device option under its name.
Microsoft will now search for the laptop and tell you roughly where it is, as long as it’s online. There is also the option to secure the remote machine by clicking the Lock button.
Use Find My Mac
If you use a MacBook, MacBook Air or MacBook Pro, there is a feature similar to Find my device quite cleverly called Find My Mac.
Again, it will need to be activated before the criminal action takes place, but if it is activated then you will be able to track it, lock it down or send messages to the bad guys.
For complete instructions on how to set up and use this feature, read our Guide to Finding Stolen Macs and Protecting Data from Thieves on our sister site Macworld.
Use Gmail or Dropbox to track its IP address
If you don’t enable any of the above, all is not lost. You can still track the device’s IP address if someone is using it. Again, this won’t give you an exact location, but you’ll get an idea of the town or maybe even the street where it can be found.
If you have a Gmail account then this is the best place to start. Sign in to the web version in your browser, then scroll to the bottom of the message until you find it Details in the lower right corner.
Click this and a new window will appear with all the devices that have accessed your Gmail account recently.
Click the Show details option below the one you suspect is your missing laptop, then write down the IP address so you can hand it over to the police.
You can also find the same information on the web version of Dropbox by clicking your account icon in the upper-right corner, then selecting Settings > Security.
Now, scroll down to the web browser section and hover your cursor over the info icon in Most Recent Activity column for the device in question.
If none of these paths have succeeded in reuniting you with your laptop then you have our deepest sympathies.
All we can do is give you a guide to the best laptops available, and recommend taking some of the measures above so you’re ready to use them next time.
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