5 security apps that can help with the recovery of a stolen laptop

Laptops are, of course, a tempting target for thieves – they’re small and worth a lot of money in many cases. Should your notebook end up being stolen, however, if you’ve taken steps to prepare for the eventuality, there may be a possibility of recovering the machine.

LoJack and Prey are two security tools that you might have heard of, both of which are designed to help recover stolen computers. Indeed, there are a number of such apps, some of which are free (like the excellent Prey), and others which you have to pay for.

And that’s exactly what we’re looking at here – five options to help you have a chance of recovering your precious laptop (and perhaps more importantly, your precious data on that notebook).

This provides a wealth of information for lost or stolen Macs and iPhones or iPads. Hidden gives the user location data to within a few metres of the laptop, and it can snap photos of the unauthorised user. Screenshots of computer usage are also acquired so that the user can see what the laptop is being used for. Hidden can track any stolen Mac or iOS gadget across the globe. It costs $15 (£9) for the basic plan, although there’s a free 10-day trial so you can give it a whirl.

Prey is a beefier tracking program in that it offers a wealth of controls, and it’s available across a wide variety of platforms. The free version provides the user with location data, screen shots, and webcam photos. For a mobile device, the user sends a password from another phone to his or her mobile device which will, in turn, activate Prey and send data to the phone that sent the password. The free plan has a capacity of ten data reports for the covered device. The tiered Pro subscription plans give you 100 data reports, and allow you to cover more devices, along with other benefits

GadgetTrak (Mac, Windows, iOS, Android, BlackBerry)

A cross-platform tracking app, this provides information tailored to specific groups of devices. On laptops, GadgetTrak provides Wi-Fi positioning and webcam support. GadgetTrak also gives users the ability to file police reports. On iOS devices, it provides camera support, location reports, hybrid (GPS, Wi-Fi, and cell tower) positioning, and push notifications that entice the thief to initiate a tracking report. On Android and BlackBerry devices, it provides hybrid positioning, remote data wipe, Sim change detection, and a piercing alarm that can be remotely enabled. GadgetTrak offers a 30-day free trial, and the laptop version is priced at $20 (£12).

This security app works closely with law enforcement to recover a stolen laptop. LoJack for Laptops has been available for Mac OS X and Windows as far back as 2000. The Computrace Agent, part of the LoJack software, works in the background and resists detection. LoJack for Laptops even survives wiped hard drives. Upon reporting a stolen laptop, the Absolute Theft Recovery Team does all of the work to recover the device. LoJack costs £40 for a year’s subscription. Also note there is an Android version, but it only works with certain Samsung Galaxy devices (the Tab 3 10.1, Note 3, S4 and S4 Active).

LockItTight provides location tracking, screenshots, webcam support, key logging, file tracking, and remote file retrieval and deletion among other goodies. There’s a free plan, and paid subscriptions from $2 (£1.20) to $10 (£6) per month which offer extras such as report encryption, reports on demand, and extra capacity for remote file retrieval.