Use Prey & Never Lose Your Laptop Or Phone Again [Cross-Platform]

Joel Lee 26-04-2013

lost laptop softwareHere’s the thing about mobile and portable devices: since they aren’t tethered to anything, it’s almost too easy to lose them or, worse, have them stolen from right under your nose. I mean, if you really think about it, all somebody needs to do is run past you and grab your phone while you’re using it and they have a good chance of getting away with it.


About a year ago I wrote a review for Bitdefender Anti-Theft Keep Your Mobile Devices Safe and Sound With Bitdefender Anti-Theft [Giveaway] How many times have you lost a mobile device and wished you had a way to locate it? Maybe you carry around sensitive data, photos, or videos on your phone. What would happen if your... Read More , a program designed to keep your devices safe and sound by offering you a method of tracking them in case they ever got lost or stolen, but it costs money and uses a subscription-based model. Thanks to a suggestion by one of the readers, I’ve discovered a free and cross-platform alternative called Prey.

With Prey, you’ll never have to worry about absentmindedness or theft ever again, at least when it comes to your mobile devices A Brief History Of Mobile Phones Mobile phones have changed the way we live our lives and to many, the prospect of a world without voice calling, text messaging and mobile Internet access is an unsettling one. As we all know,... Read More . Keep reading to find out why this program is so useful.

Prey is great for three main reasons – it’s easy to set up, it’s easy to use, and you won’t ever have to pay a cent to use it. There’s no trial period or crippled feature set here – the free version is enough to keep your devices adequately protected. Of course, there’s a premium version but its features are mostly for power users and those who want convenience. We’ll talk more about that later.

The installer for Prey is about as easy as they come. I had it up and running on my Windows box in less than a minute and it was ready to go on my Android phone just as quickly. I don’t have any other devices to test it on, but I can only assume that those alternatives are just as simple and fast.

lost laptop software


In order to use Prey, you’ll need to create a free account on their website. Why, you ask? Because the individual installations on each device (PC, Mac, Android, etc.) only provide the capabilities for tracking those particular devices. The actual control panel, or dashboard, is entirely web-based for your convenience. In other words, no matter which device you lose, you’ll always be able to track them down as long as you have Internet access.

The dashboard itself is rather simple yet elegant. It lists all of the devices that are hooked up to your account and have Prey-tracking enabled. The listed information is just enough to give you an informative overview without being overly cluttered or convoluted. If you want more details, you can click on each device’s name.

Prey is available on the following platforms: Windows, Mac, Linux, iOS, and Android. For the desktop OSes, all you need to do is download the installer files (or packages) from the website and run them like any other installer. For the mobile apps, you can find them in the Apple Store or Google Play.

lost laptop finder


Let’s get down to the nitty-gritty of what exactly Prey can do. The screenshot above shows you the Prey profile for my Windows desktop computer. Fat chance that someone will manage to steal my home computer, right? But let’s imagine for a moment that this is a laptop installation (which is far more practical example).

Prey allows each device to be set as either OK or Missing. When it’s OK, the device will assume everything is all right and won’t send much data back and forth. However, when you set it to Missing, that’s when all the magic happens.

When a device is set to Missing, it will begin sending Reports to the central Prey servers. How often does the device send a report? You can set it in the dashboard. You can also set the activation and deactivation phrases. If you have Prey set up on a phone, send these phrases by SMS to your device in order to wake up or shut down Prey.

lost laptop finder


Each Prey report can contain as much or as little data as you choose and these options can be toggled in the dashboard.

For example –

  • Geo will include geological data based on GPS in the report.
  • Network will include information such as the device’s current IP address and nearby WiFi networks.
  • Webcam will attempt to take a picture from the phone’s camera 6 Quick Fixes To Common Cell Phone Camera Problems Read More . If you have Prey installed on a laptop, you can also choose to include Session data (e.g., a screenshot to show what the thief is doing with the computer).

Prey can also perform a few actions on the lost/stolen device –

  • Alarm blasts a sound for 30-seconds to help you locate it.
  • Alert will notify the thief that you are tracking the device.
  • Lock the device with a password to prevent usage.
  • Secure deletes sensitive data on the device so no one can ever access it.

Free accounts are limited to 3 total devices and 10 stored reports. Prey offers a number of paid subscription plans that unlock a host of premium features depending on the plan – add more devices, increase the amount of stored reports, and unlock On-Demand Mode which lets you request reports and perform actions whenever you want.


All in all, I’m impressed by the power and flexibility offered by Prey even in its free version. If you’ve been looking for a security tracker for your lost devices but couldn’t afford to shell out money for a Bitdefender Anti-Theft subscription, then I highly recommend that you give Prey a try. As far as I know, it’s the best free alternative out there.

Then again, if Prey does too much and you want a simpler device-only app, you could check out these Android 6 Best Apps to Use When You've Lost Your Android Phone It's amazing how even the most organised individuals can occasionally find themselves up that notorious creek without a paddle. Plan B is the application to install when your phone is already missing. However, if you're... Read More or iPhone 3 More Ways To Track Your iPhone & Other iOS Devices Having just received notification of my 4G iPad shipping, I decided to look into some better ways of tracking my mobile devices. Right now, I'm a steadfast user of Find My iPhone - both my... Read More apps.

Let us know if you have had a positive or negative experience with Prey.

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  1. alikhan2100
    June 5, 2013 at 11:15 am

    Installing as i write, thanks for informing us :)

  2. Nicolas
    May 6, 2013 at 1:58 pm

    My phone was stolen once and I had one of these software installed (Where's my Droid). I tried to communicate with it and it never worked. I then realized how easy it is to stole a phone it even with this kind of soft installed.

    1 - Shut down the phone by holding the power button long enough.
    2 - Remove the sim card
    3 - Power on the phone by holding the volume-up button to see boot options.
    4 - reset the phone to factory setting.

    I swear I have never stolen a phone but I am sure that is how they do it. Will Prey resist to this method?

  3. Lisa Santika Onggrid
    April 29, 2013 at 11:47 pm

    I was tempted to try turning on 'device stolen' just to see how well it performs. Can we delete stored reports?

    • Joel Lee
      May 1, 2013 at 1:15 am

      I don't remember off the top of my head but I believe you can!

  4. Jim
    April 27, 2013 at 10:50 pm

    Question: suppose the one who steals your laptop is someone familiar with bitdefender and find my iPhone etc. , isn't it logical to assume that the first thing he will do is to format your laptop/restore to factory settings the phone? I mean, these counter theft solutions are useful if and only if the theft is a tech dummy....

    • Lisa Santika Onggrid
      April 29, 2013 at 11:53 pm

      Well, it's still better than having no protection, I think. Common thieves would go directly to pawn shop.

      • Joel Lee
        May 1, 2013 at 1:14 am

        Agreed. Preventative/protective programs are just another defensive layer, but anyone with enough know-how can strips away defenses regardless of what they are. It's better to have Prey than not have it at all, though!

  5. mieszko200
    April 27, 2013 at 10:19 pm

    Great idea! Thanks!

  6. macwitty
    April 27, 2013 at 2:39 pm

    Can we get this for keys, children and partner also? ;)
    Great service, thanks!

    • Joel Lee
      May 1, 2013 at 1:13 am

      Haha. The same for keys would be awesome! Maybe socks, too. :P

  7. M. Emily Wells-Suznavick
    April 27, 2013 at 1:15 pm

    Thank you loaded it on my phone and laptop

  8. Scott M
    April 27, 2013 at 12:31 pm

    Why did it take so long for someone to produce so very useful.This is perfect.I am astounded by some of the crap programs and apps that are produced daily and an idea such as this is so long in coming.This is going on a few devices immediately and I will be passing it along to many friends and colleagues.Thanks.

  9. Humpster Sameasabove
    April 27, 2013 at 7:08 am

    this is a must have,always wondering when I leave will my laptop still be there? now I don't have to hide it when I leave home anymore.

    • Lisa Santika Onggrid
      April 29, 2013 at 11:49 pm

      Keep hiding it. This is not foolproof, and it's better if your device is never stolen at all. Using Prey doesn't mean you can bypass every countermeasure.

      • Joel Lee
        May 1, 2013 at 1:12 am

        Good advice, Lisa. I agree with it 100%. :)

  10. Victor Hurtado
    April 27, 2013 at 5:43 am

    I just installed this application. Great one, Thank you :-)

    • Nicodemus mutual Muthini
      March 18, 2019 at 11:46 am

      I an installing it for purposes of the security of my phone

  11. Jill Jacoby
    April 27, 2013 at 4:52 am

    This is great, thanks for sharing!