How to find a stolen laptop is a question that we are often asked, so we have created this guide for you to help you get your lost or stolen laptop back. As a laptop user, you will rely on your machine, and it is likely to contain essential information that you need and use every day. Losing your laptop or having it stolen is a disaster.
The good news is that if you own a Windows 10 or Mac laptop, there are features in the two operating systems that can help you locate your machine. We cannot guarantee that these will work for you, of course, but it is better than saying goodbye to your laptop forever. Use the tips in this guide to find your lost or stolen laptop.
If you discover that your laptop is stolen, we recommend contacting the local police and telling them about it. It is not good to locate your laptop and then get involved in a confrontation with the thief.
You need to bear in mind that any location tracking feature you have on your laptop will give you an approximate location. It will not reveal the exact address that the police need to visit to recover your laptop.
1. Find your Stolen Laptop with Windows 10
There is a feature in Windows 10 called Find my device that Microsoft added back in 2015. This feature will help you to approximate where your laptop is. You need to turn the feature on before your laptop being stolen or lost. It is not enabled as a default feature.
To enable the find my device feature, you need to open the settings window. From there, select System and then click on About. Now you will need to scroll down until you find Windows specifications. You are checking here that your operating system build is either 1909 or 2004.
At this point, you need to go back to the main settings window and go to the Update and Security section. Locate Find my device and click on this. If the feature is turned off, you need to click the button called Change and turn it on. There will be a message saying, Save my device’s location periodically, which is what you want.
To track your laptop, you need to log in to the Microsoft website with your account details. You should see a list of your devices, so find your laptop and then click on Find my device. You will then be presented with a map showing the approximate location of your laptop.
Another great feature with Find my device is that you can lock your laptop remotely. Just click on the “lock” button to do this. You can hand this information over to the local police, which will help them to try and get your laptop back.
2. Finding your Stolen Mac Laptop
If you are the owner of a MacBook Pro, MacBook, or MacBook Air, then Apple have a similar feature to Find my device in Windows that they call Find my Mac. As with the Windows feature, you need to ensure that this is turned on before losing your laptop or having it stolen. You also have to register this service with Apple.
You need to open System Preferences, which you can access via the Apple logo. Once there, you need to click on the “iCloud pane” and if you are not currently logged in, you will need to do so. After logging in to iCloud, you can scroll down the page until you see the Find My Mac checkbox.
If the service is not switched on, you will need to check the box and then confirm that you want to turn the feature on. Just click on the blue Allow button when the confirmation message appears. As we said above, you need to contact your local police if you find that your laptop is stolen. This is no time for bravery.
Now you need to log in to the iCloud service on the web using a browser. It does not matter what type of device you use to do this. Look for the Find My Mac button and click on it. If you have more than one device registered, then you need to select your Mac laptop here. You will then see a map showing approximately where your Mac laptop is.
Just as in the Windows feature, you have a Lock option where you can effectively lock access to your Mac laptop. You choose a 4 digit code, and the thief will need to enter this code to access the system and files. There is also an Erase option which you can use to erase everything on your laptop.
3. Find your Stolen Laptop by tracking its IP address
If you did not enable Find my device with a Windows 10 laptop or Find my Mac with your Mac laptop, don’t give up hope. There are ways to track the IP address of your laptop if it is being used. As with the other features, you are not going to get an exact physical address from this. But it will give the police a good idea of where your laptop might be.
One of the best ways to track your laptop IP is through Gmail. Most people have a Gmail account these days and if you don’t have one right now, set one up today before your laptop is lost or stolen.
Use a web browser to login into your Gmail account. Once you are in, go to the bottom of the page, beneath the messages, and locate the Details option. It should be in the bottom right-hand corner. When you click on this button, a new tab will open, showing you all of the different devices that accessed your Gmail account in the last few days.
Once you identify the access that you believe is your stolen laptop, you need to select Show details and write down the IP address to give this to the police. If you have a Dropbox account, then you can use this in a similar way. In our opinion, it is more likely that a thief would be snooping around in your Gmail account.
You need to act Fast
As soon as you discover that your precious laptop is missing, you need to act quickly. Tell the local police right away and try to locate your machine using the Find my device or Find my Mac features. You do not want to waste time here, or the battery on your laptop could die, making it very difficult to detect the approximate location of your machine.
There are third-party products available that will help you to find your laptop if it goes missing. A lot of these will use a Wi-Fi lookup arrangement to determine the location of your laptop. When your laptop comes into contact with a Wi-Fi hotspot, the product or service will try to match this in their database. Now you know how to find a stolen laptop, please take every precaution to safeguard it. Make sure that you turn on find my device or find my Mac and sign up for a Gmail account if you do not currently have one.