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how to secure laptopThe FBI reports that 97% of stolen laptops are never recovered or returned to their owners. In this regard, MakeUseOf has published several articles about anti-theft tracking software, such as Adeona and Prey. But to deal with the likelihood you may never recover your stolen or lost laptop, you will want to have a plan to secure sensitive information on the laptop.

Taking a few steps to pass lock, encrypt, hide, and most importantly back up the most important content on your laptop only takes a few minutes, and it can save you the agony of having sensitive information fall into the wrong hands. While the tools below are geared towards Mac users, similar tools are available for other users as well.

So let’s take a look at some of the things you can do right now to make an insurance policy against laptop theft.

Password Lock Your Laptop

For Mac laptop users, Apple includes a secure way to access your computer’s content.

how to secure laptop

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Apple’s OS X security features can be found in System Preferences. The general password feature requires your account password in order for the computer to be used. You can set up this feature to automatically log out of your computer after a specified amount of time or after the screensaver or sleep begins before a password is required.

You will need to click the padlock icon at the bottom left in order to enable the settings and save them.

The FileVault feature encrypts all the information in your Home folder, and your login password is required in order to access your content.

how to secure mac laptop from theft

Inputting a password each time you want to access your computer may seem like a hassle, but if your laptop is constantly vulnerable to theft, then these built-in features can be one of the first steps to securing your information when your laptop is stolen.

Encrypt Folder/Files

For very sensitive data in your laptop, you should consider further encrypting important data. For PC users, read Jim’s article on How to Make Encrypted Folder Using Truecrypt 7 How To Make Encrypted Folders Others Can't View with Truecrypt 7 How To Make Encrypted Folders Others Can't View with Truecrypt 7 Read More .

For Mac users, you can create an encrypted disk image (DMG) (sort of like a folder) in which you can store sensitive data. Here’s how:

    • Launch Disk Utility (Applications folder > Utilities folder) on Mac.
    • Click on New > Blank Disk Image

how to secure laptop from theft

    • Enter the name for the disk image/folder in the Save As text field and save the DMG where you want.

how to secure laptop from theft

  • Select a size for the image file from the Volume Size pop-up menu. If you will be encrypting simple document files, you may only need 500 MB. If you’re going to be adding audio and video files, you may need 2-8 GB.
  • Choose a volume format if you don’t want to use the default Mac OS X Extended (Journaled)
  • Choose 128-bit AES (and/or 256-bit AES in Mac OS X 10.5 or later) from the Encryption pop-up menu to encrypt the image’s contents with a password. If you don’t choose an encryption, your new image won’t be encrypted.
  • Choose an image format. You can use “sparse disk image” for a disk image that only uses as much space as it needs, rather than a set amount of space. If you’re not sure, use the “read/write disk image” choice.
  • Click the Create button.
  • Enter and verify a good password in the dialog window that appears. This password will be saved in your keychain by default, or you can deselect “Remember password (add to keychain)” if you don’t want that. You can store the password in the keychain both for convenience and for reducing risk of password loss.
  • Click OK.

When the DMG is being created, you will be asked to enter a secure password. After doing so, do not check “Remember password in my keychain,” because your password will be automatically entered when the DMG is opened.

how to secure mac laptop data

Now to secure your files, open the DMG. It will appear in the side bar of a Finder window under Devices.

how to secure laptop

Drag into the DMG folder any files you want to secure and then eject the folder like you would any external hard drive.

To further secure your information in terms of files and folders, check out these how-to articles about hiding specified data How to Lock Or Hide A Folder, A File Or A Drive On The Computer How to Lock Or Hide A Folder, A File Or A Drive On The Computer Read More and folders How to Hide Folders Using 7 Free Apps How to Hide Folders Using 7 Free Apps Read More .

Let us know what other methods or free tools you have found useful for securing information on your laptop.

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  1. Accountants
    February 9, 2011 at 11:26 am

    We've just rolled this out across all of our accountants laptops after having one stolen last week - luckily it was password protected but you can't be too careful

  2. Bakari
    January 14, 2011 at 6:31 pm

    Mmm, I‘m not sure. Hopefully someone who has used the truecrypt can answer your question.

  3. Gibbernotas
    December 28, 2010 at 6:04 pm

    Is there any program that supports full hard disk encryption for Mac's?

    • Freakvent
      January 14, 2011 at 10:02 am

      doesn't truecrypt do this?

      • Bakari
        January 14, 2011 at 5:31 pm

        Mmm, I‘m not sure. Hopefully someone who has used the truecrypt can answer your question.

  4. Vivek Parmar
    December 23, 2010 at 4:00 pm

    windows are more prone as compared to linux and mac

  5. Hilywatson
    December 23, 2010 at 7:30 am

    Excellent post. Thanks for sharing it. Now I m free from this FEAR.

  6. Macfan95
    December 23, 2010 at 2:28 am

    Are you talking about a Mac or Windows computer?

    • Aibek
      December 24, 2010 at 12:44 pm

      Mac!

  7. acmz123
    December 23, 2010 at 2:34 am

    Very informative, but can you tell us how to speed a low computer? I'm using tuneup360 to clean my registry, it seems useful.