There are numerous concerns here. You want to prevent crooks from stealing your laptop. But if it is stolen in spite of your protective measures, you might still want to protect your data–in the sense that you don’t want to misplace it or let the thieves gain access to your personal information. Most importantly, you want to boost the chances of getting it back.
Let’s begin with preventing the stealing in the first place:
When you are outside the house, keep the laptop in a casing that protects it physically but doesn’t look like a laptop casing. A backpack will do just fine. Keep it under your watchful eye or in physical contact at all times. Position it in your lap or between your legs while sitting and not using it.
When you’re at home, protect it with a lock and chain. Most laptops include a security slot for a specially-made lock, and those locks have a chain attached to them, which you can put around dining tables or other unmovable objects. Kensington and SecurityKit.com both offer a variety of chains and locks.
When you are staying at a hotel, take the laptop with you everywhere you go. Or, if there is a safe in your room, place it there. If neither one of the solutions work, ask the manager at the front desk to place it in the hotel’s safe. And if that is not an option, use the lock and chain.
Protecting Your Data
The most carefully-protected laptops may be stolen too, so you must guard your data. The majority of your files will be of no use to the criminals, but if there is something you don’t want them to get a hold of (bank statements, corporate secrets, letters of transit), encrypt it. See Avoid Windows Encryption for instructions on how to do this.
You may not want to provide criminals access to your records, but neither do you want to lose it. So maintain an up-to-date backup of your data–and a backup to your internal hard drive doesn’t make sense. If you backup to an external hard drive, keep it someplace other than your laptop case. In fact, when you are outside, leave the backup drive at home, and use a flash drive to carry copies of the files you’ll need on the outing.
You can also backup online with a service like Mozy. (at mozy.com)
If your laptop is stolen, there’s a pretty good chance that you’ll never see it again. But noting down your model and serial numbers (they’re probably on a plate or sticker on the bottom of the laptop) increases the odds that you will. Two programs, Absolute Software and Tometa Software offer software/service combinations that may raise the odds even more. These hidden programs installed on your machine will report the laptop’s physical location (or at least its IP address) when the Internet is accessed by the laptop. This information can assist you in tracking down your stolen PC easily.
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