Last week, I wrote about the importance of backups in preventing data disasters but that’s only one of the things I worry about. Even if you can recover your data from a recent backup, a few questions remain: Who has your data, what can you do about it, and can you get your computer back?

A few weeks ago, at GTEC, I met up with Stephen Midgley, Senior Director of Marketing for Absolute Software, a successful Vancouver-based company that specializes in laptop recovery and asset control.

Absolute Software’s consumer product, Computrace LoJack, installs on your notebook. About once a day, when connected to the Internet, it transmits a message to Absolute Software. If your computer is stolen, you contact the police, get a report number, and then call Absolute Software. They flag the notebook as stolen in their system. Next time it checks in, they not only know the IP address of the notebook at the time of the check-in, but they also send it an instruction that will cause it to begin reporting in every 15 minutes. Absolute Software then works with the police to help recover your notebook.

I had certainly heard about the product but I must admit that, before meeting Stephen, I didn’t understand why people would buy it. I figured that the thief would simply format the hard drive or install a fresh operating system and that would be the end of it. However, I was wrong: Absolute Software has worked with a number of leading notebook vendors, including IBM, DELL, HP, Toshiba and Acer, to embed an agent right into the BIOS. Assuming your notebook is supported, once you install the software, it activates the agent in the BIOS and even formatting your hard drive will not stop the notebook from reporting in the next time it is connected to the Internet.

Computrace LoJack has some other interesting capabilities. For example, if you have sensitive information on your laptop (which really should be encrypted, but that’s another article), Absolute Software can initiate remote deletion of the information once the stolen notebook connects to the Internet and checks in. The company also has a suite of offerings for corporate use that, in addition to the consumer features, helps companies keep track of their notebook fleet. Since many larger companies lease their laptops, knowing where they are at the end of a lease can save them a lot of money.

According to Midgley, 70 per cent of laptops are stolen by insiders, and across the industry approximately 3 per cent of stolen laptops are recovered. In sharp contrast, with tracking software and the BIOS agent, Absolute software’s recovery rate is around 75 per cent. He also shared some great stories about how police have executed a search warrant to recover a stolen laptop and ended up finding a lot more.

Computrace LoJack is available online for just under $40/year, and that will be an issue for some users. However, when my laptop was stolen the insurance deductable was $500, and it’s hard to put a price on the opportunity to remotely delete sensitive data, recover the notebook, and hopefully put the thief in jail.

Next Monday, I’ll conclude this three-part series with how to protect your data from thieves, overzealous governments and other prying eyes.

2 Responses to Get your stolen computer back


  1. LoJack for Laptops revisted | The TECHLife Post
  2. LoJack for Laptops revisted | Eric Jacksch

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