Can a Stolen Laptop Be Tracked?

There are several ways to track down a stolen laptop, including using its serial number, locating the IP address, or monitoring its location with internal software.

I am an extremely knowledgeable computer user who has had to protect and track several laptops throughout my life. That experience is what gave me the ability to pen the sections laid out in this guide.

The following article goes over what steps you need to take when your laptop gets stolen, as well as what to do to get it back.

Key Takeaways

  • The easiest way to track down a stolen laptop is to use find my device software that’s already on your machine.
  • IP address, serial number, and Google Drive are all methods you can use to track a missing or stolen device.
  • If your laptop gets stolen, it’s important to change your passwords, lock your computer, and log out of your accounts as soon as you can.

Tracking with Find Your Device

Having your laptop stolen is one of the most inconvenient and intrusive things that can happen in today’s world. Most people have their entire lives on the devices. As such, when one gets stolen, it’s important to get it back right away.

The first and most effective method to finding a stolen laptop is the find my device feature installed on all Windows 10 products. As the name suggests, it’s a simple program that gives the user the ability to hunt for their lost computer.

While the feature is turned off by default, it’s simple to enable and will do a lot of work down the line. Once you turn it on, next go to Microsoft’s website and log in with your account. That will give you a list of devices. Click the one you want.

Once that’s done, Microsoft will search for the device and give you a rough estimate of where it is (as long as it’s online). You can also secure the machine remotely by using the lock feature.

If you’re a Mac user rather than a Windows one, you have a similar option in Find My Mac. As with the Windows one, once it’s enabled you can figure out where your machine is, and can lock it down if you so wish.

Google, Dropbox, and Serial Numbers

Besides the basics, there are few other effective methods that you can use to track down a stolen laptop. Another great choice is to use Gmail or Dropbox to track its IP address. This is a useful method for those who don’t have find my device enabled on their machine.

Though this won’t give you an exact location, you will likely know the town, or possibly even the street, that your laptop is being used in. All you have to do is login to your Gmail account, scroll down to the bottom of the page and click “details” in the lower right corner.

That will give you the ability to see all the devices that recently accessed your Gmail account. Click “show details” under your missing laptop and note the IP address so you can give it to the local authorities. 

You can do that in Dropbox too by selecting settings, going to security, and then selecting “most recent activity.” Both methods will help you get a better idea of where to start your search. 

If Google and Dropbox fall short, you can also track a laptop via its serial number. To do that, locate the number by opening command prompt and typing “wmic bios get serialnumber” if you have a PC, or clicking the Apple logo and “about this Mac” on an Apple device.

Once that’s done, you can call your laptop’s manufacturer, tell them your laptop was stolen, and give them the number. They will then be able to give you a broad location of where it might be. Just know that your laptop needs to be registered to make this process happen.

What to Do When Your Laptop Gets Stolen

Having your laptop stolen is a scary process, and one that requires immediate action. Once you put in the necessary steps towards tracking it, there are a few other important things you should do.

First, change all of your passwords and enable 2-step authentication. Both of those will better protect your data and put down a strong roadblock against anyone trying to access or use your personal information.

Clearing autofill from your browser is important too. Though convenient on a daily basis, that process can be disastrous in the wrong hands. If you’re a Chrome user, all you have to do is go to menu, settings, auto-fill, and then turn it off. The same works in Safari.

It’s important to log out of your accounts and, as covered above, deauthorize your laptop. Most people have tons of accounts with many different sites. It’s easy to forget one or two, which can lead to big problems if someone else has your device. 

Be careful and go over every site you use on a regular or semi-regular basis. Don’t forget social media accounts either.


This section goes into detail on some of the most popular questions surrounding stolen laptops.

What Can Someone Do With a Stolen Laptop?

Anytime someone gets ahold of a laptop, and all of the information on it, they have access to personal accounts, as well as both business and private data. However, they typically need to be able to navigate past passwords to see such information.

Can a Laptop Be Tracked When Location is Turned Off?

If a laptop hasn’t been opened or is brand new, no. However, used laptops have a few backup plans that can be utilized even if location isn’t on. That includes aspects like GPS or special third-party tracking software.

What is the Recovery Rate of Stolen Laptops?

Unfortunately, most laptops that get stolen are never found. The recovery rate is right around three percent, which is why extra security and tracking measures are so important.

Final Words

Laptops are incredibly personal devices, and getting one stolen can be very concerning. Luckily, there are many ways to track them down. As long as you know your security measures and act fast, you’ll have a shot at figuring out where your computer goes.

Have you ever had your laptop stolen? Did you get it back, and if so, how? Let us know in the comments below!

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