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How to recover a lost phone, tablet, or laptop

Armando Rodriguez and Nick Mediati | Sept. 26, 2011
The bad news: At some point, your cell phone is likely to go missing. Whether it falls out of your pocket in a cab, or you leave it unattended in a public place for a few seconds only to have it swiped by someone with sticky fingers and low moral fiber, your phone is vulnerable. In fact, according to a report from security software company Symantec, 36 percent of U.S. consumers have had a cell phone disappear on them.

The bad news: At some point, your cell phone is likely to go missing. Whether it falls out of your pocket in a cab, or you leave it unattended in a public place for a few seconds only to have it swiped by someone with sticky fingers and low moral fiber, your phone is vulnerable. In fact, according to a report from security software company Symantec, 36 percent of U.S. consumers have had a cell phone disappear on them.

If that phone is a smartphone--or if the missing item is another valuable mobile device such as a laptop or a tablet--thieves will be even more motivated to do their dirty work. And misplacing your gear or having it stolen is more than just a hassle: Given the amount of information that people store on their devices, losing a gadget may very well mean not only losing your files, contacts, and photos, but also seeing your identity stolen.

What can you do? Start by following these simple steps before your favorite tech goodies go MIA. Although we can't guarantee that you'll get your missing phone, laptop, or tablet back, we can at least help you ensure that no unauthorized person starts peeking at your most personal details, and we can help you increase the odds that your gadget will return to you.

Preventive Protection

Use a password: The first step in securing your laptop, phone, or other mobile device is to put a password on it. Needing to enter a password whenever you use your phone may seem inconvenient, but you'll appreciate having taken the precaution should the device fall into the wrong hands.

On iOS, you can assign a four-digit PIN to keep your iPad or iPhone from being unlocked easily. If you own an Android phone, you can choose either a PIN or a pattern; with a pattern, you unlock your device by drawing a simple shape on the screen. For both Android and iOS, these security options reside under the 'Settings' menu. For most Android devices, the option to add a PIN or pattern appears under 'Location and Security'. On iOS you'll find the option to set a PIN under 'General', then 'Passcode Lock'.

Remember not to choose an excessively simple PIN like 0000 or 1234. You don't want to make it unduly easy for anyone other than yourself to access your assorted devices.

In addition, always lock your laptop's screen when you step away for any period of time, to keep prying eyes from peeping at your work. In Windows, hold down the Windows key and press the L key; that will take you to the login screen.

 

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