Don’t lose your shit when you lose your shit.

Ever had your laptop stolen? That would suck, wouldn’t it. It’s pretty inconvenient to be without your facebooks and your twoofters, sure, but what’s really inconvenient is all your information getting into the hands of some thieving bastard.

Sure, in most cases people who steal your laptop are going to just sell it to some pawn shoppe for crack or linden dollars. In lots of cases they’re just bozos and take it home and start using it themselves. The problem is that if you’re like most people, your personal info is still on that machine for them to access.

I’m not thinking of stupid stuff like those ‘pictures’ of you and that guy’s wife, or all your l33t torr3ntz of Master Chef. I’m talking about stuff like your banking passwords, your email passwords. Use Firefox/Chrome/Internet Asploder? Do you have it ‘save passwords’? You’re screwed. Have your email program remember your password? You’re screwed. Lose your laptop and in a short time, a determined thief can clean you out.

What about your iPhone? Your Android phone? Same thing. There’s the inconvenience of having your shit stolen (or just lost), but the terror knowing that all those camera phone pictures of you and that guy’s dog wife are loose and in the wild.

So take some steps to keep yourself from freaking out.

You have to do these steps before you lose your stuff. Don’t do it after because that would be stupid.


I’ve been harping with you miserable fucks for years now to make backups, and you still don’t. This will also have the side benefit of saving your ass if your hard drive dies or you just accidentally drop your laptop off a bridge.

You have no excuse. Backup and Restore is built into Windows 7 now, and those insufferable mac people have had this for a while as well. You don’t have to do anything, you just need to set that shit up. Set that shit up already.

Disk Encryption

Yes, encrypt your damned hard drive. If you’ve got a portable machine that people can walk off with, you want to do this.

Using Windows? Then use Truecrypt or Bitlocker and enable the “whole disk encryption”. Using a Mac? Turn on Filevault for fuck’s sake. The Filevault in OSX Lion will encrypt the entire drive, and Filevault in 10.6 and lower will encrypt your home directory and make it safe. These are Free.

Yes, you can even do disk encryption in Linux. Don’t worry, nobody wants to steal your linux laptop.

The nice thing about using disk encryption like this is that it takes almost no effort on your part, you spend a few minutes clicking the mouse (I know that’s hard for you), and it’s done. Then all you have to do is remember your damned password.


This one is kind of simple. If you have a computer, set it to require a password to log in. Sure, if you haven’t encrypted the disk it’s fairly trivial to bypass that, but look at who most thieves are: morons. They aren’t going to try to beat the password, they’ll just move on. It also keeps casual people from poking at your shit.

For your other passwords, use something like 1password, Lastpass, Keepass, or Supergenpass or even the built-in sync in Firefox and Chrome to manage your passwords. That way you have them synchronized off that laptop, and you can systematically go and change all your passwords – which you should do if your laptop gets stolen.

Scorched Earth

Here’s where you break out the heavy artillery. Remember you have to set these up before your shit gets stolen. If someone steals your iPhone/Android/Mac/PC, you want the ability to either

  • Get it back (unlikely)
  • Prevent them from using it

If you’ve encrypted the drive, don’t have an easily guessable password, and haven’t written it on a sticky note inside the case lid, that will probably do the job right there. The thieves’ only recourse will be to format the hard drive (destroying your data, keeping it out of their hands).

There are several solutions to tracking down your lost stuff, which is especially important for iPhones/Android phones, which can be pretty trivial to break into. For the iPhone it comes free with the phone: Find my iPhone is a service you had to pay for MobileMe to get, but is now free. Set this up right now. It lets you track the phone’s location (also good if you’ve just lost it behind the couch), put messages on the screen (“give me back my phone you knob”), or – most useful – wipe the phone from remote so nobody can get at the stuff on it. Then your phone just becomes another black market phone for drug dealers and terrorismists.

I don’t have an Android phone, but there are solutions for Android including Prey for Android. I’m sure you know a hundred better ones, and I don’t care.

For the laptop, there is the Prey Project, which is free for three machines – you can pay for more if you’re filthy rich and own so many computers. Prey will let you shut the machine down, get pictures from the webcam of the thief, location, etc. It’s free – so why the hell not? There are other solutions like Lojack, but I have no experience with them. I’m sure you’ve used a hundred better ones, and I don’t care.

Let’s face it: if you go to the cops with the exact location of the criminal, his picture in a mug shot, and him holding up a big sign saying “YO DAWG I STOLE THIS GUY’S LAPTOP”, that’s still not going to be enough to get cops to get off their donut-eating behinds to come out and do something about it. I have first-hand experience with this aspect of law enforcement. So the next best thing is going to be just being able to shut down and wipe the machine from remote to keep their grubby mitts out of your stuff.

The point is, setting up this stuff is easy, and is well worth it for the peace of mind you get when your shit gets ripped off.