Track Stolen Hardware with Prey

February 15, 2011, By Christian Cawley

Theft of any kind isn’t particularly nice, and the loss of a computer or laptop can be particularly damaging. Despite the proliferation of online backup solutions and external disk drives we still tend to save our important data in one place – on our computers.

As such when a computer is stolen the data can be read and used by the thieves, who can then either choose to ignore what they have found or make use of it. It might be that you have no vital or commercially sensitive documents on your laptop – in which case the thief will attempt to find out as much about you as possible, with the likely outcome being that your identity will be stolen.

Neither outcome is particularly good, so it is interesting to find that there may be a solution to having your PC or laptop (or indeed mobile phone) stolen.

Prey is a free security tool that allows you to track your computer at all times, taking advantage of various connectivity options to “phone home” and allow you to determine where the device currently resides.

Let the hunter become the hunted!

Track stolen hardware with Prey

Download and Configure Prey

In order to take advantage of this great security option, visit preyproject.com and click Download now. Encouragingly, Prey is available for Windows, Mac OS X and Linux, and your browser will auto-detect the correct version for your computer.

Once downloaded, installation should be completed pretty quickly, allowing you to then configure the utility.

In the Prey Configurator window, you will need to begin by choosing Setup reporting method. This defines the way in which the utility will “phone home”. There are two choices here: Prey + Control Panel which allows monitoring via the web and Prey Standalone which requires activation and configuring of mail server settings. This second option is really for advanced users; for first use select Prey + Control Panel.

Click Next to proceed here and identify yourself as a New user or Existing user, then click Next again to either create an account or login. Once this has been done, your computer will be setup by Prey to be tracked, and you will be able to track your device via control.preyproject.com/devices.

Features of Prey

Using the control panel allows you to request reports about your device as well as add new ones; the free licence offers a maximum of 3 mobile devices and 10 reports per device, whereas the PRO upgrade offers unlimited devices and 100 reports for each of them. Payment plans range for $5 to $399 a month depending on the number of devices you’re planning to track.

By clicking the device you wish to track, a new page will open in the control panel – here you can set the item as Missing, before proceeding to request reports on its current whereabouts. Mobile phones will use GPS while a laptop or desktop computer will use WiFi triangulation.

One particularly useful option is available for laptops – Prey will take a snap of your thief using the display-mounted webcam! Other features are also available, including displaying a screenshot of the current activity on the device.

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