There are plenty of solutions for tracking down stolen laptops, but most of them require you to install a program before you lose it. Fortunately, there are a few programs and tools that you can use to try to track down your lost or stolen laptop even if you didn’t plan ahead.
The key is, finding the IP address that your laptop is using to connect to the Internet. This is essentially the address for your computer and law enforcement can use it to track your notebook back to a specific area. Programs like Prey and Lojack for Laptops can track down your laptop using the IP address and other information, showing you where it is on the map, and in the case of Lojack, even coordinating with the police on stolen laptops. Our solutions won’t show you where you notebook or laptop is on a map, but you should be able to share it with the police to aid in tracking down your notebook.
First off is the Dropbox File Syncing tool. This handy online storage and syncing tool has a spot in the settings which allows you to see where each computer last connected from. If you log into Dropbox from the web and upload a new file, the stolen laptop will download it and Dropbox will show you the IP address of the notebook.
To do this, you need to login to Dropbox.com, click on My Account and then on My Computers. On the My Computers page, hover over the ? icon and you will see the location of your stolen laptop.
In order for this to work, your computer will need to be connected to the internet and logged on, so it’s not a big help for users who have locked their computer with a password.
Another solution is to look in your Gmail settings, which is a place you should be going anyway to change your password. If you had Gmail open and logged in when your computer was stolen, it will likely try to grab your email as soon as the stolen notebook connects to the Internet. When this happens, Gmail records the IP address which you can share with the police. You can also use this same screen to log your account out remotely so that the thief doesn’t have access to your email and accounts.
To access the information, sign into Gmail and scroll to the bottom of the page. You’ll see a line that says, “Last account activity”, followed by a short amount of information. Click Details to open a new window which will tell you where Gmail was recently accessed from. This will provide you with the IP address and give you the ability to log Gmail out on other locations.
Keep in mind, these solutions aren’t designed to help you find a stolen notebook, but they may help. If you are reading this right now and you don’t have a lost laptop, we suggest you check out a solution like Prey, which is free, or a tool like Lojack for Laptops, which comes with support that will work directly with police if your notebook is stolen. You can setup these tools in a few minutes and save yourself loads of time and sanity if your notebook or laptop is stolen.
Dropbox tip Via Consumerist