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How to Protect Your Laptop from Thieves While Traveling

By SammyK on Sun, Mar 1st 09 at 10:43PM | Permalink | Comments (16)

If you're one of the brave ones that is considering bringing your laptop with you while you're traveling, you're no doubt concerned about it getting thieved.

I'm right there with yea. I'm traveling with an expensive MacBook Pro. She's a beaut. And I'm super-anal about who can touch her.

I'm asked all the time from people at hostels if they can use may computer. I have absolutely no problems saying, "No."

Here's a few tips to keep your laptop safe:

  • Keep the laptop on you at all times. If you can't because you're trekking or something, keep it in a locker in a hidden area. Pay more to get more security if you have to.
  • Don't flash it around the wrong areas or at the wrong times. Most people that have been mugged were mugged because they advertised that they were loaded.
  • When walking publicly with your laptop, act like you own the place. If you're wandering around in aimless circles, looking at street signs and maps, you've got a big sign on your head that says, "Rob me!" Even if you're lost, walk briskly like you've got somewhere to go. Jump into a store and ask the guy behind the counter how to get where you're going.
  • Don't leave the laptop alone on the table while you go take a pee. It won't be there when you get back.
  • While sleeping in hostels, slide it under your bed and put your other stuff in front of it.

Ok, so you've followed all the rules, and your laptop still got jacked. No worries, as long as you did a little pre-theiving planning, you can fight back.

  • Install anti-theft software like Undercover (for Mac) and LoJack (for PC). Once activated, Undercover will take a picture of whoever is using your computer every six minutes and send it to you. It also takes a screenshot of the desktop and sends that as well. The people at Undercover also work with the local police where it was stolen and you usually get your computer back.
  • Log out! Most computers stay logged in once you shut the lid. So that means, if the computer gets jacked, the thief has accesses to all your stuff. If you log out and password protect your user account, the thief can't see your stuff.
  • Create a gust user. Guest users have limited abilities on the computer and don't need a password to log in. Once a thief jacks your computer, he will only be able to access the gust account - not your stuff.
  • Make Ctl+Alt+Del blow up the computer (Mac only). Most thieves are PC users, so they'll no doubt take your mac and try to "break in" with the crazy key combo. Boy will they be in for a surprise!

If you take simple precautions with your computer and do a little pre-theiving preparations, your mind will be more at ease as you travel with your precious baby.


Shawn wrote on March 2nd 09 at 01:50AM
Hey, great software, I just installed it. I don't like to stay at hostels without a locker, then I am forced to carry my MacBook everywhere.

In hotels I will lock it up with a laptop lock and hide it, although I have never had a problem with any hotel.

I never leave my computer sitting anywhere and I don't let people use it.
Daniel wrote on March 2nd 09 at 05:29AM
Blow up the computer?! Please explain how this works!
Ryan wrote on March 2nd 09 at 07:54AM
Yes, short of sticking some C4 into a tiny crevice of your MacBook Pro in case it were to get jacked, how does one blow up your computer? Again, assuming one doesn't have access to explosive devices that are made by people called Q?
Benny Lewis wrote on March 2nd 09 at 09:16AM
Excellent tips!! Also good to know the blow-up thing on a mac - I would definitely be among those who would frustratingly try a Crtl+Al+Del :-P

I have been in some crazy places with my extremely large and obvious laptop around the world, and luckily nothing has happened (yet). Your tips are what I've been naturally following. I also have a guest account or completely different browser installed specifically if I feel like sharing my comp with people (not in public, usually for Couchsurfers).
Great post!! You're certainly expanding your blog :)
Corey wrote on March 2nd 09 at 05:06PM
Excellent tips. I've been known to sleep with my laptop & case between me and the wall when I've had the top bunk in a hostel.

Aside from those who rely on their computer for work...or video blogging and such... those on the fence should seriously consider leaving the laptop at home. In most places Internet Cafes are pretty easy to access.
Anil wrote on March 3rd 09 at 10:53AM
I'd also recommend using TrueCrypt to encrypt the entire hard drive or for Macs, using the build it encryption function.

Losing the hardware is one thing, but the data is far more valuable.
Ann Frith wrote on March 4th 09 at 02:16PM
This reminds me of stories I have heard about my grandmother traveling back in the late 1930's. The motels were not like what we have today so she slept with her purse at her feet. No one could steal it without her waking!
Aunt Susan, Lana & John of Seattle wrote on March 7th 09 at 08:46AM
Hi Sam - It is William's 27th birthday today - March 7. Since you guys are apart, thought you might not know. Loved your dancing video - you are very smooth - channeling Fred Astair? The current video is lots of fun, too! Thank you for all the entertainment! Susan, Lana & John
Jamie P (the sister in law ;) wrote on March 8th 09 at 05:42PM
Happy (late) birthday! Thinking about you.

Hilarious post btw!!! You crack me up!

I love you, Sam! I miss you.
Aunt Susan of Seattle wrote on March 10th 09 at 09:13AM
Hi Sam,
Is the video contest over? I hope you guys won! If it is, could you put the photo link back in that corner? I just looked at the photos and they are amazing. I was way behind in viewing the recent ones. Thank you Sam!
Ellen Potter wrote on March 10th 09 at 03:04PM
Hey Buddy!! Keeping you and William in my prayers. David finally convinced me to get a Mac for my 56th bday!! Yahoo! Now I need to learn how to use it-thanks for your advise as we travel a lot and I have it w/me now. Goin to see David next in San Jose. Gotta catch up on your fabulous website capors. We love you Sam. Ellen n Mike Potter
Ben J wrote on March 10th 09 at 10:01PM
Thanks for the advice!
Greeting Card Printing wrote on April 30th 09 at 05:08PM
These are wonderful tips on protecting your laptop when traveling. Also, there are hotels that have safes for your valuables, that would probably be the safest place to keep your laptop in.
Azra wrote on May 4th 09 at 06:41PM
Hey, this is a great tip for those of our customers who travel with their laptops - Azra (Global Gossip)
Fun Lilliy wrote on May 14th 09 at 11:20PM
Great tips thats always been one of my concerns when I am traveling is what will I do if the hotel doesn't have safes big enough to keep the labtop.. I didn't know about the software for protection..
Hostelio wrote on October 12th 09 at 07:02AM
The first time I ever stayed at a hostel I did not bring a lock with me since I had no idea what to expect. I ended up having to search for a store nearby that sold decent ones. I have since learned my lesson and permanently keep a Master Lock attached to my backpack.
The incredible story of how two recent college grads are traveling around the world on an impossible budget.
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