Affiliate Disclosure: By buying the products we recommend, you help keep the lights on at MakeUseOf. Read more.
Though you may be tempted to leave your laptop at home when you travel and make do with just your phone or tablet, sometimes you can’t get around it. When you have to bring your MacBook on a trip, use these tips to make it easier and more secure.
Why You Need Your Mac When You Travel
Your Mac is more than just a touchless iPad with a keyboard. While a tablet is great for quick usage, having a proper laptop is much better for tasks like blogging and photo editing. If you plan to cover your travels on your website, or might need to get some serious work done, you should have your MacBook.
Plus, if you only have access to a few power outlets, you can use your Mac as a power hub. Its USB ports will charge your iPhone, iPad, camera, and any other USB accessories you have. You can charge them all at once instead of having to cycle devices on the available outlets.
1. Enable “Find My Mac”
In the event that someone steals your Mac, or you lose it, you can use Find My Mac. This is a built-in feature of macOS to help retrieve your device.
It’s slightly less useful than its iOS equivalent, Find My iPhone. This is because it requires an active internet connection to communicate with iCloud and transmit its location. Nevertheless, if your Mac is stolen and someone tries to use it, Find My Mac can help you out.
To enable this feature, go to System Preferences > iCloud and log in with an Apple ID if you haven’t already. Here, make sure to select Find My Mac.
Should you find that your computer was stolen, go to iCloud.com and log in with your Apple ID. There you’ll be able to track its last location, make it emit a sound, lock it with a passcode, or even erase it remotely.
2. Create a Backup With Time Machine
It is wise to back up your Mac before you go on a trip. It’s even smarter to do it when you leave home, but right before you travel is good enough in a pinch.
Use Time Machine to back up your Mac quickly and easily to an external device. Time Machine is included as a built-in feature of macOS.
3. Require a Password to Log In
If you haven’t already, you should optimize your security settings in the event of theft.
First, make sure that your account has a password. If it doesn’t, you can set a password by going to System Preferences > Security & Privacy > General. Hit Change Password if it says your password has not been set.
Secondly, check Require password immediately after sleep or screen saver begins to make sure that the system requires your password as soon as the screen locks.
4. Set a Custom Lock Screen
Take your lock screen security one step further and set up a custom message. This will display in the event that anyone finds your computer and opens the lid. Again, in System Preferences > Security & Privacy > General, check Show a message when the screen is locked and type in your custom message.
5. Enable FileVault and Firmware Password
Take your data protection to the next level with FileVault and a firmware password.
FileVault encrypts your whole disk, making it unusable to anyone who tries to steal your data. To turn this feature on, go to System Preferences > Security & Privacy > FileVault and select Turn On FileVault.
Follow the setup instructions. Before you start the process, make sure you have time to leave your computer on for a few hours while it encrypts.
Having a firmware password prevents starting your Mac from any disk except your selected startup disk. This means that if someone stole your machine, they can’t use Recovery Mode or boot macOS from an external drive without the password. Turning this feature on is slightly more intensive than using FileVault.
First, boot your Mac into Recovery Mode. You can do this by restarting your computer and holding Cmd + R until you see the recovery window. Go to the Utilities menu bar, and choose Firmware Password Utility. Click Turn on Firmware Password, enter a password, and restart your machine.
It is vital that you do not forget this password. The only way to reset or recover it is by going to an Apple Store with proof of purchase, so a technician can reset it for you.
6. Stock Up on Essential Accessories
Make sure you have all the right accessories for where you want to go.
Get an Apple travel adapter set that works specifically with Apple chargers and performs internal power conversions, so you don’t have to worry about a foreign plug shorting out your Mac.
Purchase an SD card adapter to free up space on your camera and transfer your photos to your Mac for easy editing. MOKiN’s USB C adapter is a great choice for newer MacBooks.
Finally, you should invest in a hard case or sleeve to make sure your Mac is physically protected. Mosiso’s laptop case is a solid inexpensive option.
7. Put Your Mac in Airplane Mode
Don’t make your Mac work harder than it has to. When you’re in the air, or when there’s no Wi-Fi available, you can put your Mac in Airplane Mode so that it stops searching for networks and peripherals. Plus, this saves battery.
8. Stay Secure With a VPN
Keep all the virtual comforts of home while you’re on the go by using your Mac to tap into your VPN. You can use a service like ExpressVPN or CyberGhost to connect your Mac to servers in your home country. (Sign up using these links to get a special MakeUseOf discount!)
This will let you, for example, stream your favorite shows from Netflix or Hulu if they’re not available in the region you’re traveling to. Plus, VPNs have many other uses, such as keeping your browsing secure on public Wi-Fi networks.
More Ways to Travel Smoothly and Securely
Now you know how to keep your Mac secure while you travel, as well as how to make bringing it along a smoother experience.
If you need to get connected while on the go, remember that you can use your iPhone as a personal hotspot. This broadcasts your existing cellular data plan so your computer can join. Keep in mind that whether or not you can use this feature depends on your phone plan and how much data you have left.
For more tips, keep yourself and your identity safe by reviewing easy ways to protect your data while traveling.