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Tech Q&A: Find Your Computer If Lost or Stolen

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By Steve Alexander

stolen_laptop(MCT)—Question: I would like to find some “find me if lost” software for my laptop PC. I hope to find a program I would install on my laptop and activate from another computer or a smartphone if the laptop is stolen. Where can I find such software? —Cathy Gunderson, Minneapolis

Answer: Tracking software for laptops can, within limits, tell you where a stolen laptop is when it’s connected to the Internet. The tracking software reports the Internet protocol, or IP, address a stolen PC is using, and also might report details of any Wi-Fi hot spot to which the PC is connected. Some tracking software allows you to send signals to the missing laptop that will enable you to copy important files from it and perhaps even take control of the laptop and wipe out its data.

Obviously, tracking software isn’t a perfect way to recover a stolen PC. You’ll need law-enforcement help to find out who was using that IP address at the time, and where that person lives. For a review of several types of laptop-tracking software, click here.

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