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Tools for Recovering a Lost Laptop

A friend of mine had his laptop stolen the other night and called to ask advice. Instead of leaving it in my email sent folder, I figured it’d be best to toss it in a public place in case I needed it again.

Use FileVault

The first thing you should really, really make sure you do is upgrade to Lion or later and turn on FileVault in System Preferences > Security. It’s drive-level encryption, which means none of your data can be accessed without your password, even if they plug your drive into another machine. There’s a performance hit so negligible I’ve not noticed it since I started using it last year.

Running Commands Remotely

The more proactive steps you can take assume you have some way of running commands on the system even after it’s been taken. He does, but you might not. I don’t have any particular recommendations on setting such a system up, other than that you need to make sure it lets you connect interactively, or that it can pull down new instructions as needed. I don’t actually have such a system set up right now, but when I do so I’ll post on this blog.


I compiled clicl from this gist.

It works great, but the first time you run it, it pops up a dialog asking permission to access your location, which means you will probably want to read the next paragraph and do that instead, as it’s much less intrusive. You can still download it for curiosity’s sake, if you like.

Much less of a hassle is to depend on their geoIP:

curl > whereami.html

Or, run remotely:

ssh user@machine curl > whereami.html

iSight Camera

ImageSnap is a little tool I found on Sourceforge.

Just download it, plop it somewhere, and run it; it’ll output a snapshot.jpg in the current directory.

Or you can run it on a remote system and plop the file locally:

ssh user@machine /tmp/clicl/imagesnap - > snapshot.jpg


There’s also a $49 tool that bundles these kind of things together. No idea if you need to set it up first, but I’ve heard good things about it.