Laptop thefts are on the rise, and if you have one you need to protect yourself. The question is, how do you do it? In my mind, you need to make sure that if someone steals your laptop, you can find it wherever it is (and maybe get the bad guy to boot). Also, an alarm system would be handy so that if you leave your laptop on a table in a coffee shop so that you grab another grande skinny latte, it will alert others to a theft attempt.
Two free solutions that I recommend are iAlertU for Macintosh and Laptop Alarm for PC’s. Laptop Alarm sets off an alarm to alert you any time someone tries to log off, shut down, or disconnect your power supply or USB mouse without entering your password. iAlertU goes two better by using the Sudden Motion Sensors built into the MacBook and MacBook Pro to set off the alarm and snapping a picture of the thief and e-mailing it to you. Cool stuff.
But if you want better security than that, you’ll have to pay for it. The best thing on the street at the moment is Lojack For Laptops. Available for both Mac and PC, Lojack For Laptops is comprised of software that is installed on your computer which works behind the scenes to silently and securely contact their Monitoring Center. If the laptop is reported stolen, the software reports its location using any Internet connection. Then the software company contacts local law enforcement and works with them to recover the laptop. They promise that if they can’t recover your laptop, they will refund the purchase price of the software. It’s probably advisable to read their end user license agreement (warning, PDF link) to make sure you’re cool with that.
I personally use iAlertU myself on my MacBook Pro, but that isn’t the only thing I use. I also use a Kensington cable to secure my MacBook Pro to a solid object in a coffee shop or sometimes in my hotel room if I am traveling. Seeing as most notebook (Mac or PC) have built-in slots that accommodate these cables, it is a worthwhile investment. These cables come as key based locks or as combination based locks so you can find the solution that works best for you.
Regardless of which of these solutions that you choose, the only true method of theft prevention is never leaving your laptop alone. That’s a free method of security that’s guaranteed to work.
UPDATE: I’ve recently installed Undercover For Mac on my new MacBook Pro after my last one got taken in a break in. It will not only lead cops to the thieves who took it by phoning home and taking pictures, but it will also disable the Mac so that it forces the thieves to take it into a repair center where it (hopefully) will be returned. For $49 USD, it’s cheap insurance.