Gadgets are stolen all the time, but you’re less likely to be on guard as you sink into a sunbed or become immersed in a bestseller. Even with modern smartphones, which have GPS and location tracking built in, the chances of tracking down and getting back your lost tech are slim. Nevertheless, hardware-tracing services can improve your odds. We’ve previously looked at paid-for tracking services such as LoJack and Ztrace, which use your laptop’s Bios to connect to the web and report its location. Locate My Laptop ( is an alternative free option, but we particularly like the open-source Prey Project. Here, we show you how to use it.

Step 1. Install Prey Project
Head to on your laptop or smartphone and install the software. A small app will then let you send a signal from your device online or by SMS. It can gather information on its hardware, location and network status, and fully lock down the stolen kit to protect your data. If your device is a smartphone and currently offline, Prey Project will attempt to establish a connection via a nearby Wi-Fi hotspot.

Prey 1

Step 2. Specify Prey Project’s reporting method
You first need to configure the software’s reporting methods. Double-click the Prey icon on your desktop to launch the Control Panel. Select ‘Set up reporting’, then click Next. You can choose advanced options, but this requires you to generate URLs in your mail server. We’ll stick to the recommended settings instead. Choose ‘New user’, input your details and Prey will send you a link via email.

Prey 2

Security Advisor

Laptop Advisor

Step 3. Add more devices
Log into the web-based control panel to monitor the device you’re tracking. The software will track it on a regular basis, so you can ensure that it is where it’s supposed to be. If the device goes missing, you’ll be notified. You can add up to three devices to your account for free; to add still more gadgets you’ll need the Pro version. To add a gadget, choose a device name, then select the device type and operating system it runs.

Prey 3

Step 4. Prey Project settings
The Settings menu lets you manage your account and specify what types of notifications are forwarded to your email inbox. Some features are accessible only in the Pro version, such as setting up an email reminder if your device hasn’t been checked in a while. However, the free version is able to send notifications if your device goes missing or any hardware changes are detected.

Prey 4