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Hey, Students: How to Protect Your Laptop from Theft

How to protect your laptop in school

If you’re like most students, your laptop is one of the most important possessions. It’s what you use to do all of your work on and almost every assignment is on there, so if you lose it, you’re in a difficult situation. Laptops are expensive too and when you’re on a student budget, you probably don’t have the money lying around to buy a new one so you’ve got to look after it. So, how to protect your precious laptop from theft on or off campus?

The Harsh Reality of Laptop Theft

Opportunist thieves will snatch your laptop if they get the chance, and they won’t be bothered whether all of your work is on there or not. Then you’ll end up having to buy a new laptop and finish all of those assignments again before the deadline – not to mention the big expense, on top of everything else you’re juggling just to survive the college years.

Obviously, that’s a situation you want to avoid. Thus, it’s important to take the following steps for how to protect your laptop from theft.

How to Protect Your Laptop from Theft: Personalize It

If your laptop looks the same as it did when it came out of the box new, then it’s far more likely to get stolen than a personalized one, for a few different reasons. Firstly, it’s a lot harder for somebody to sell a laptop with distinctive markings on it. Moreover, if somebody is buying a stolen computer on the cheap, they don’t want to get caught so they’re not going to want to purchase something that is obviously not theirs.

So, any kind of customization is going to put off potential thieves. They’ll also be put off because it makes it a lot easier for the police to catch them and return the portable computer to you.

That’s in comparison to just a generic laptop that looks like the millions of other ones out there, which would be easy for them to get away with having in their possession. If it has distinctive markings that you can describe to the police, then the police will know immediately that it’s yours and can return it to you.

Ways to Personalize It

There are a couple of simple ways to personalize a laptop, making it unique to you. Getting a few laptop stickers is a simple way to make the machine unique and it makes it a lot more interesting too. While people could still take the stickers off if they steal the machine, it may be difficult to do without leaving marks on the finish and they’ll probably just look for an easier target instead.

For a more permanent solution, use an engravement service, as long as the laptop has a metal case. There are plenty of custom engraving companies that will do it for a reasonable price and you can have whatever you like put on there. My iPad is engraved with my name, for example.

If you really want to guarantee that your laptop won’t get stolen, just get your name and phone number engraved on it. This solution is very handy if you lose it as well because it’s easy to return to you.

How to protect your laptop
A backpack is a discreet way to carry your laptop around campus.

Use a Nondescript Carrying Case

Also, if you carry your laptop around in a big case that makes it obvious that you have an expensive computer, you’re making yourself an obvious target. Although it’s important that you have a case to protect the machine, you should also try to go for something nondescript, if possible.

A sleek carry case that doesn’t display the make or model of the laptop is a great choice, for example. Try to find something that looks like a normal bag too, rather than a case specifically designed for this type of computer. There are some great rucksacks available that have a laptop pouch in the back, so you don’t need to advertise the fact that you’re carrying it around with you.

Register the Laptop and the Software

When you first get the laptop, take the time to register it. And don’t neglect to also register any software that you put on it. Then, if the laptop is stolen and somebody tries to repair it or to upgrade any software in the future, the manufacturers will receive a notification. At that point, they might help you find the stolen laptop.

Even if you don’t manage to get it back, you’ll still be able to stop whoever stole it from using it. At least that counts for something.

Password Protect the Laptop

Again, this suggestion might not necessarily stop the laptop from being stolen. But if somebody sees that the laptop has strong password protection, it could put them off of taking it.

Sure, they still might be able to get around the password somehow if they’re seasoned tech thieves, but it’s extra work so it likely does deter them, at least a little bit. Also, the password protect measure prevents the opportunist from immediately selling your hardware since it’s still password protected. That delay gives the police some time to try to recover it before it gets sold.

How to Protect Your Laptop from Theft? Use Device Locator

Most modern operating systems will have a device locator function on them. As the feature’s already in place, make use of it; set it up as soon as you get the new laptop.

Then use the device locator to track the machine if it’s turned on and lock it remotely so a thief can’t do anything with it. If you get in touch with the police and show them, they might be able to track it down and return it for you. No guarantees, of course, but at least it’s a lead.

USB for file backup
A USB or another type of external hard drive is a great way to make sure you protect your files.

Back Up Properly

Even if you follow all of these tips, there is always the chance that your laptop will be stolen and you won’t be able to recover it. It’s not the end of the world if you can use library computers to work on until you can afford a new one, but it’s inconvenient, especially if you live far off-campus.

It’s also frustration that you won’t have access to any of your work and must start some assignments over from scratch. That’s why you always need to back up your work properly on an external hard drive that you keep separate from the machine. Alternatively, store your drafts in the cloud with strong password protection so you can’t lose it.

If you follow these steps for how to protect your laptop from theft, you might stop an opportunist from making you their mark. And you’ll help ensure you don’t lose your valuable information.

Do you use any of these suggestions with your tech devices? Are there other strategies to help safeguard against a thief?

20 thoughts on “Hey, Students: How to Protect Your Laptop from Theft”

  1. I found the biggest reason laptops are stolen is just simply leaving it while going to the bathroom or buying coffee or chasing a book. I’ve notice people walk away from their laptops all of the time. I sit in book stores occasionally when I get cabin fever and browse through a few books. For me, I don’t care if it means losing my seat in the bookstore, but I take mine everywhere with me. …Including the bathroom . Nice write up!

    1. It’s like at the grocery store when purses are left unattended in carts! It only takes a minute for someone to swipe it… Great point about the bathroom being a potential area for thieves to linger too. Thanks Daralynn!

  2. petespringerauthor

    All great ideas, Christy. Having been in the airport in the last week, I’m amazed at the people who charge their phones or laptops unattended. They have a lot more trust than I do.

  3. Good tips there for the student. When I used to own a laptop, I liked the idea of using a rucksack to carry it in, just so I wasn’t feeling like I was advertising a laptop. It protects your laptop just the same.
    I never thought about stickers and making it more personal for me, so something to think j about, should I own a laptop again.

    1. Hope you are doing well, Liz. It’s funny isn’t it that the special cases for laptops only make it more prominent what’s in them, which isn’t security conscious!

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