Low Tech Laptop Recovery

By on March 1, 2004

Having purchased a laptop last year, I’ve stumbled across a few services that will help you recover your prized possession should it fall prey to thieves. They all use a ‘phone home’ approach to recovering your laptop. When the thief connects his new laptop to the internet it will contact a server and the legal work to track down the thief based upon an IP address begins.

After having his laptop stolen from his home, Scott Steffens came up with a less costly alternative.

If I had set my browser to automatically load my homepage with a secret code, say, http://contactsheet.org/?k38sj2, every time it started up, I could trace my way back to the thief�s physical location. I could wait until that code appeared in my site�s logs, trace their IP address and get a subpoena for their ISP to provide the name and address of the user connecting via that IP address at that particular time. The computer would, in effect, send a beacon back to its owner after being stolen.

All you need is access to the logs of a server you administer and you’re all set. Another good option suggested in a comment would be a start up script that would run in the background and make the same type of http call without the thief firing up the browser.

Via Kottke.



  1. There was a story sometime ago (I think we covered it) about a guy who did this with an iMac. It was his sister’s or something, and she had some software loaded for remote help. When the thief fired it up, the machine pinged the brother’s computer…or something.

    Does anyone remember this story or where we can ifind it?

  2. Check this one out here – orbo.com, apparently you can encrypt/decrypt, delete, and retrieve files among other things!

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