Laptop stolen: What I should have done

Acer 5735, 3GB RAM, 320GB storage, 2GHZ intel duo core.

When it comes to laptops, there are many incidents that can occur ranging from coffee being spilled, laptop being stolen, laptop falling onto the ground and breaking or worse, laptop falling into a pool.

Initially, I didn’t want to include non-positive events in my blog but facts are facts. My laptop got stolen from my home and I lost all the data that was on it. The article below will provide information on how to prepare for incidents that result in the loss of your laptop and more importantly, the loss of data.

First things first

Write down the serial code that is located at the bottom of the laptop. This is good to have for insurance and customer support. It is also good to write down all the specifications of your laptop including the model number and technical characteristics. While easy to obtain, it helps to know how much your computer costs so that these details can be given to the police or insurance company.

Take Precaution

Laptops are valueable items for thieves. They are easy to transport, to conceal and to sell. Whether you are leaving your laptop at home all day or taking it with you on your daily journeys, it is important to minimise the risk of getting it stolen.

Home all day
At home it is important to block any visibility to the laptop from outside the building. Closing curtains and locking doors where valuables are stolen might actually prevent the actual theft. Another small step you could take is to detach your battery when laptop is plugged in at home. This also helps battery life last that little bit longer. While this doesn’t prevent laptop theft, it does create some difficulty for the foe who stole your laptop as buyers may not be interested, the thief needing to fork out money on a battery to sell the machine or the thief getting a much lower value for this act. If you wanna turn lemons into lemonade, at least you could sell the battery to someone who needs a spare in the future. I’ve still got my adapter, perhaps if I buy the same version of my stolen laptop again I could use two plug in points.

Out and about
It used to be obvious when someone was carrying a laptop. You would walk around with a rectangle shaped messenger back and the weight would cause some people to lean more to one side. These days there are many trendy bags you can use to disguise the fact that you are carrying a laptop. The best kind in my opinion are sporty looking backpacks. With size and weight of laptops decreasing in the past five years, it is a lot easier to carry a laptop around without others noticing.

Password Protection

This step could save you from losing all your online profiles. By having a password to log into the operating system, you could lengthen the time it takes for vandals to enter your system and cause mayhem. One mistake I made was to have all my online profiles with automatic log-in through saved passwords. The first thing you want to do when you have lost your laptop is to log into all your email accounts and more importantly business related online accounts and change the passwords. While it is lengthy and annoying to enter complicated passwords every day, it does offer more protection. Another option is to have password wallet/management software where you can store all your passwords and use one master password to open this wallet with every computer session. Of course, continue to use hard-to-guess passwords and change them every few months. DO NOT EVER SAVE BANK ACCOUNT PASSWORDS…EVER! (not even I did that)

BACKUPS – save your data!

I left the most important point till last. While I did mention earlier that I lost all my data, this is not entirely true. I had done an entire backup weeks prior to this event. Tell me you haven’t heard of this happening: someone backs up an entire disk and days or weeks later, the original disk gets damaged. I still wonder whether if we are unconsciously attracting these events those of us in the data backup sphere. Being a disaster recovery enthusiast, I am pleased that I wasn’t caught out on not backing up.

I recommend doing a full backup once every three months or once your computer data has changed or increased substantially. Between these long and tiring backup sessions, you should be copying your important folders onto an external hard drive. I will run by an example scenario.

January – you get a new computer, not much valuable stuff on it so no need for backups yet. You might have files and data from previous computers that you might want to transfer over.

February – By now you have created new material. While you may not feel the need to backup just yet, at least keep all the newly created data on two drives, one on your computer and another on a flash drive.

March – Now you do the big backup. If you are a Windows user you might want to try their lengthy 3-hour backup service. My laptop came with backup software installed. However you do it, just make an entire backup of your whole system. Save it onto an external hard drive and store it. That’s right, don’t use that  same hard drive as a usb drive and take it to Johnny’s house every weekend to to share music and comics.

April – When your documents folder has changed, copy the folder over to the external hard drive and date the folder.

May – Save a second folder onto your external hard drive. At this stage you might have at least two or three versions of the same folder (with different dates)

June – Do an entire backup again. If this is using up to much space on your external hard drive then delete the first one. If not, it is advisable to keep at least two entire backups on the one disk.

July – Copy your folder again this time you can delete the first one. Now you have a backup pattern of entire and incremental data.

Your personal backup system could definitely be more precise and complete. What I have done here is introduce a basic process for home users who are considering backups for the first time.


  1. The external hard drive that you are using for data recovery etc, should be put aside and not used for other things.
  2. Having data on your current computer and an external hard drive might not be enough. If you have a second computer at home, it might be good to copy some of the data on there too from time to time.
  3. A flash drive can also be a good option to keep all the recently created data on. If you lose all your data in the month of May, you could restore all the stuff from March and your flash drive would contain all the recent stuff you did that month.
  4. Beware that all personal and secretive content on your computer will be compromised once you lose it. Be careful with what content you want to keep on your laptop.
  5. Instead of going out and spending money on an external hard drive, consider uploading all your data onto an online storage service. I know amazon and MSN offer such services for account holders.

You might not be theft safe, but the most valuable item – personal data – can be restored without too much fuss and your incident recovery transition is now faster.

Keep in mind that you don’t need to have your computer stolen for a data related incident to affect you. After three years of usage you can expect the hard drive on your computer to fail. Making a habit of backing up and being proactive about data security will minimise the damage you incur should the worst happen.

Helpful Links

There is more you can do to improve your security situation. The following links provide advanced solutions.