How to track a lost or stolen PC, notebook, tablet or smartphone

How to track a lost or stolen PC, notebook, tablet or smartphone

Summary: Losing a device—especially one that contains sensitive personal or business information—can be the source of endless headaches. Here's an open-source anti-theft tracker that can help protect your data and get your hardware back.


Time to tackle a question from the old e-mailbag:

I believe that prevention is better than cure, so I'd like to put in place a mechanism that would help me in the event that my notebook -- Windows -- is lost or stolen. Can you suggest anything that won't break the bank?

Yes I can, and the pricing starts at a very reasonable $0.

Introducing Prey, an open source, cross-platform anti-theft tracker that lets you keep track of all your devices easily in one place. Whatever your device, chances are Prey has you covered as there are installers available for Windows, Mac, Linux, Ubuntu, Android, and iOS.

Prey is easy to use. First off, you download and install the right version for your hardware. Then, after you've created an account and got it set up the way you want, you can forget about it until the day that your device is lost or stolen.

As soon as you discover that your hardware has been lost or stolen, you can activate prey by logging into your account and select the device 'missing-in-action'. Then, Prey's servers send a signal to the device -- either over the Web or with a text message -- that kicks Prey into action, gathering information such as location, hardware details and network status information. You can also capture screen shots, take pictures with the forward-facing camera, and even lock the system down to prevent further intrusion.

Prey offers a free, unlimited, 3-device account for anyone wanting to give the software a try. There are also premium account options that increase the device limit and add features such as automated deployment and full SSL encryption of all gathered data.

Prevention is—by far—better than cure, as the reader puts it. Putting a mechanism in place for recovering your lost or stolen hardware before the worst happens gives you a fighting chance of being able to find your hardware, or at worst, keep your data away from prying eyes.

Image source: Prey.

Topics: Hardware, Android, Tablets, Software, Smartphones, iPad, iPhone, iOS, Apple, PCs

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  • no responses? i feel sad for AKH

    No negative Microsoft spin? No responses. No clicks.... awwwwwwww
    Master Wayne
    • Don't

      We should be encouraging AKH to write more articles like this.

      Thanks AKH. Please, more articles like this.
  • How to track a lost or stolen

    I will research Prey a little more.
    I think it was mentioned here once before.

  • Yes

    I have been using Prey since I discovered it a couple of years ago. I have it on my desktop, laptop and phone. It just quietly sits there, automatically updating itself from time to time but never annoying me with anything annoying or intrusive. Fortunately I have yet to have to make use of Prey so I can't speak to it's effectiveness in that situation but I have never heard anything negative about Prey from people who have had devices lost or stolen. It works as advertised, so I hear.
  • not found in the iPad apps

  • If they're dumb enough to leave it turned on.

    If they're dumb enough to leave it turned on.

    It may work if it falls in the hands of a good Samaritan or left alone. But if it's really stolen, I'm willing to bet it's already turned off.

    And I should note that iOS devices already have a similar service installed by default.
  • If you have a Windows 8, a Surface RT and/or Windows Phone

    The Find My Phone service is available for Windows Phone to allow you to find, ring, lock or erase your device. The free Locate My Tablet app from the Windows Store will upload your tablet location to the same service, so if you lose either, you can find them at

    I'm not really worried about my desktop, but I installed the same app on my desktop and my PC showed up in the list at the same location.

    The app will need to run in the background so it can update your location every hour or so, but it's a small price to pay.

    the best application for Android and PCs is LockItTight. It is more reliable very easy to use and have distinctive features comparing to prey project.
  • true picture

    i have spent many years in IT industry I understand many factors of applications how ever spending on this application is totally a waste. if you want better features and reliable product which also provide you after sales services. which actually respond to your queries I strongly suggest LockItTight which is the best in its kind.
    • one more thing

      "Less intrusive" I must add because I dont want any application or software to bother me all the time.
      • Agreed

        I totally agree with you......
  • yes

    Micro Keylogger is an invisible keylogger for Windows computer. Running secretly in the background, it keeps record of keystrokes typed, passwords entered, websites history and so on. With Micro Keylogger, you will know everything that is happening to the computer.