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Musings on a Stolen Laptop

At the end of last week I had the severe misfortune of having my laptop stolen. For anyone who’s endured something like that, either a laptop, or a phone, you know what a jarring experience it can be. First you’re mad as hell, followed by waves of that “Oh shit” feeling while you go through everything that was on it trying to determine if you have backups. Fortunately for me, the laptop was only a few months old, and therefore there wasn’t that much new data on the laptop. I wound up losing some music I’d purchased since getting the computer, along with some source code and some of the music scores in Finale I’d been working on. Most of my data was still on the drive I was using to transfer data between computers.

I’ve since gotten another computer with the money from insurance, and I’m have or I’m currently in the process of setting up a few things so if such a thing happens again, I’m better prepared.  These are steps I’d recommend to anyone using a laptop that literally goes everywhere with them.

  1. Get and use a backup drive – I plan to pick up another terabyte or more portable drive to use with time machine.
  2. Use an online backup service – Carbonite costs $54 a year (with a 1 month free trial), it’s on my list of things to purchase very soon.
  3. Install Prey – I’ve already done this.  It’s a free service for personal use.  Once installed your computer will send out automated reports when you mark it as missing via their web control panel.
  4. Use cloud services – Fortunately, much of my code was backed up in SVN servers for code, and my email, both for work and personal runs on gmail.  Loss of my email archive would have been disastrous.

Most people fall into the trap of thinking that it won’t happen to them (not to be cliche).  In my case, despite all precautions the perp seemed to be someone who had a key to the room where the computer was sitting, so ultimately, it was out of my control, so it can certainly happen to anyone.