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Having gone through the unnerving experience of having my laptop stolen a few months ago, I know how devastating it can be. My whole life for the past few years virtually disappeared in one moment of carelessness.

So, when I came across the following free service, I jumped at the opportunity to try it out and now, I want to share it with all of you!

It’s called LaptopLock and essentially, what it does is, as soon as you notify them that your laptop has been stolen, they can delete all the important files you had on your computer or they can encrypt them to be unreadable. LaptopLock will also take note of where the user is connecting to the Internet from (their ISP number) so that you can then notify the police. And even more, it acts as a deterrent, which is probably its biggest service to you.

Alright, let’s take a look at LaptopLock and how to set it up, which is very straight forward. Here we go!

LaptopLock’s Web site can be found here. When you get there, you’ll see something like this:

The first step to obtaining LaptopLock’s security is to sign up for the service with an e-mail address and a password of your choice. (Note: Some of the information has been blocked out in the image below for confidentiality’s sake).

Immediately, you are ready to get going!

First, go back to the LaptopLock Web site, give your computer a meaningful name and then click on the Add Computer button.

If all goes well, you should get this message:

Next, you need to download the LaptopLock software to your computer.

To do so, just click on the file and install it.

If all has gone as planned, you should see this final screen. Next, make sure you click the Launch the LaptopLock button to start the setup process.

First of all, you will need to enter some information.

The Account E-mail is the one you entered at the very beginning, but what is the Computer ID? Well, if you go back to the Web page (make sure you’re on the Control Panel page), you should see that you have been given a unique ID number (you might have to refresh your page if you can’t see it). It will look like this:

Next (back to the Options box), click on Check Status. You should then see this rather enigmatic message:

If you don’t, you’ve probably entered some information incorrectly, so just go back and try it again.

Finally, on this page, you need to set a password for accessing the software (preferably a different one than what you used when you signed up for the service).

You will need that password in the future to get in contact with LaptopLock.

You should now have access to the main “splash” opening screen (if not, find the shortcut to LaptopLock on your desktop and start the program).

Select Security/Manage Security Plan:

Now, you can begin protecting your computer!

This screen will greet you first:

From here, you can decide if you want certain files or folders to be deleted from your computer as soon as you notify LaptopLock that it has been stolen.

Select the File Security tab and make your selections, as described below.

Add Folder – If you want to protect a folder or various folders on your hard drive, click on this and make your selections from the Explorer-type window:

This will be added to the pane shown here, like this:

Add File – If you want specific files to be protected, click on this option.

Remove – To remove a previously selected file or folder, click this button.

Now, note the box below.

You can use the secure data wiping method, which means that when the file is deleted, it is also totally erased from your hard drive. It can’t do any harm to choose this option.

However, instead of deleting an them, you may prefer to encrypt it (which mainly means to transform it into what looks like “gobbledygook” to someone who doesn’t have the right key). That way, if you do get your laptop back, you can use the decryption function to put your data back into clear characters again.

If you choose the second option, you can use the panel below the one described above to add the files or folders you want to be included. You may also choose (wisely, in my opinion) to have the original data erased at the same time. Just checkmark the little box to opt for that.

Now, select the next tab of Notification Options to reach this screen:

First, you can elect to have a message pop up on your monitor as soon as the person using your computer turns it on. You can make up something rather scary that may frighten them into returning it to you and if you feel like you should do that, you can also put a contact telephone number or e-mail address where you may be reached (or of the local police station if they are involved!)

You may also choose to have a sound (already on the computer) play when they first boot up. Again, go for something dramatic so that they know you are serious!

Unless you have any special programs you want to run at the same time, you can leave the next tab alone. Just save all your settings and you will then be protected!

What happens is that every time you turn on the computer and connect to the Internet, LaptopLock “calls home” to see if your computer has been notified as stolen. If it hasn’t, it does nothing. On the other hand, if it finds that you have advised them that it’s missing, it will immediately execute the commands you told it to do. So, it could pop up the scary message and either delete and/or encrypt your sensitive files. Cool, huh?!

So, what do you have to do to notify LaptopLock that your computer is missing?

Just go to their Web site of www.laptoplock.com, log in and then go to the Control Panel. Once there, click on the Report Computer Missing button and you will get a confirmation screen, like this:

Note: Do not experiment with the OK button, unless the computer is truly missing. Otherwise, all the nasty things you planned will happen to you and you may lose some important data.

Also, what should you do if you are fortunate enough to get your laptop back?

Just load up LaptopLock, go to Recovery Options and ask the program to decrypt the files you have chosen to be encrypted. (I’m sorry, but it can’t bring back the files you wanted to be deleted and wiped out. That’s just asking too much!)

Finally, in case you are worried about security of your personal information and what the program may be sending back to LaptopLock’s Web site, you should read through the Home page and the FAQ page where the owners give their assurances.

So, as you can see, LaptopLock is a rather neat service (and don’t forget, it’s free), which should give you a lot more peace of mind when it comes to your laptop. Give it a try today!

~ David Woodford