Recently I splurged on a Samsung Series 9 Ultrabook, which I absolutely love. It's a svelte, speedy marvel of modern computing, and almost certainly my favorite laptop of all time.
Which is why I'm especially fearful of losing it. Laptop thieves are everywhere. If they're not breaking into your car or home, they're snatching and grabbing from offices, coffee shops, airport security lines, and so on.
Arguably the only thing worse than your laptop getting stolen is knowing there's no way to get it back. After all, it's not like it can "phone home" to report its location.
Actually, with the right software installed, it can. LoJack for Laptops, for example, can track a stolen system, but this enviable capability comes at a price: $40 per year for a Standard subscription or $60 for Premium.
Thankfully, there's a cheaper alternative: LockItTight, a laptop-recovery utility and service you can get for as little as zero dollars. It's a surprisingly capable solution, and although it won't actually deter a thief, it's one of those tools that's definitely worth having.
Allow me to pause here and note that this post was originally going to be about Prey, a similar service that's also free (with premium upgrade options). However, I couldn't get it working properly on my Samsung: reports never arrived, and the iOS companion app didn't show the laptop in its list of registered devices. (The latter is a known issue; apparently there's an updated app in the works.) Your mileage may vary, but I found the service very buggy and, ultimately, unusable.
Like other recovery tools, LockItTight runs a small background client that stays more or less dormant until activated remotely. In other words, if you sign into your account from another PC, you can see your lost or stolen laptop's location on a map. You can also capture a screenshot, Webcam photo (busted, thief!), keystroke log, browser history, and so on. You can even remotely retrieve and/or delete files.
Needless to say, all this is predicated on your laptop being connected to the Internet. If a thief merely fences the system without turning it on and hitting up a Wi-Fi hot spot, LockItTight won't do you a bit of good. But, as I said earlier, it's worth having because without it, your chances of recovery are much closer to zero.
LockItTight offers four different pricing plans. The free one limits you to one device and five saved reports, and won't hide its System Tray icon (something a tech-savvy thief might know to look for -- and then work accordingly to disable). It also lacks on-demand reports, instead forcing you to wait 120 minutes between them.
By stepping up to the Standard plan, which costs just $1.99 per month, you get unlimited devices, 50 saved reports, on-demand reporting, and a 30-minute interval. The service also offers Premium and Ultimate plans priced a few dollars higher.
LockItTight is available for Windows and Android, though keep in mind that you can't use the two simultaneously with a free account (which, again, limits you to one device).
I kind of wish LockItTight and other laptop-tracking services came with a little "protected by" sign or sticker like you get from a home alarm system. That might actually deter thieves. Even so, I rest a little easier knowing that my shiny new Ultrabook can now be tracked, and I feel extra happy not having to pay for the privilege.