How to track a laptop

Losing your laptop or being a victim of theft can have disastrous consequences. There are steps you can take to protect your laptop and prevent a security breach if you were to lose this device.

Besides protecting your device with a password, we recommend using one of the built-in tracking tools offered by Windows and Apple. Enabling these features is quick and easy, and they provide you with a reliable way of tracking a lost or stolen laptop.

Finding a Windows laptop

With Windows 10, Microsoft includes a Find My Device ability for devices using the operating system. Enable this feature to help track your laptop when it goes missing.

Step 1: Go to Update & Security in Settings

Head to your Start menu and type in Settings, then select the Settings option that appears. Once there, look for the section that says Update & Security, and select this.

Step 2: Click Find My Device

Windows Find My Device setting in Windows 10 screenshot
screenshot

Look to the sidebar menu and find the option that says Find My Device and select it. In the window that appears, look for the header that says Find My Device:  ___ and see if it says on or off. If it says off, then select the Change button below to turn it on.

Step 3: Sign with Microsoft account.

Microsoft Account Find my device screenshot
screenshot

Whenever you want to locate your laptop, head to the Microsoft account page and sign in with your account information. When you’re logged in to your Microsoft account, select the section labeled Devices. On the Devices page, select the device you want to locate. On your laptop’s page, select Find my device.  You’ll then be taken to a page in which Microsoft will give you a map location for your device of where it was last detected, and when it was last detected. On the left side of the screen, if you click on the name of your device, a menu will pop up that may show more information about the laptop’s last known location as well as two options you can select: Find and Lock. Find will let you search for your laptop’s current location, not simply its last known location.

Finding a Mac laptop

On Macs, the tracking feature is called Find My Mac, and it enables you to pinpoint the location of your laptop on a map for retrieval or reporting. Here’s how to get started.

Step 1: Go to iCloud settings

Find My Mac Settings

On your Mac, head to your menu and select System Preferences. Here, go to the iCloud icon: This may require you to log in with your Apple account information if you haven’t already done so.

Step 2: Click on Find My Mac

Locating MacBook

Review your iCloud features and look for the option to Find My Mac. Make sure the checkbox is selected to enable this feature. If not, check it, and then select Allow when iCloud asks you if you are sure.

Step 3: Go to iCloud.com

Now that the feature is turned on, you can locate your laptop by logging into iCloud.com with your Apple account. Once logged in (you may have to verify that you trust the device you are working on), select Find my iPhone to get started.

Step 4: Find it on the map

You should now be able to find a menu of all the devices associated with your account. Select your MacBook from this list, and iCloud will bring up a map showing you where it is. You can choose to have your Mac play a sound if you want to find it, or display a custom message on the screen, or you can even remotely lock your Mac with a password to prevent access.

Extra tracking and protection apps

Prey Tracker

The native functions for both Windows and MacOS are fine if you want a quick way to track your laptop, but don’t offer a lot of extra security options. If you want more protection, you’ll need to download additional software and set up a more complete tracking program. This is particularly helpful in case of theft. We can recommend a couple of options you can get started with.

PreyProject’s Prey: Prey is an excellent download that allows you to sign up multiple devices for tracking. When you mark a device as missing, Prey can track it for you and help you remotely lock your device, retrieve data from it, ring an alarm to find it, or wipe data from it completely to protect your privacy. The app can also create evidence reports with information on the device’s location and images taken from a device’s camera that the police can use to help recover your belongings. There are several different tiers of service, but the basic package is free and tracks up to three devices.

Hidden: Hidden is another top tier tracking app that’s specifically designed for MacOS and iOS devices, so if you have a MacBook you may want to look into this app as well. It can track location, take images, log keystrokes, record spoken messages, enable remote access and more. In addition to controlling your device from afar, you can also wipe data if necessary. The Personal package for Hidden costs $2.99 per month to use and covers three Apple devices. The Basic package costs $1.67 per month and covers one Apple device.

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