Laptops are the glittering jewels of the computer world; so tiny yet so desirable – they are as candy to a child for even the most luddite of thieves. No matter how old, dodgy or knackered your laptop is, Burglar Bill finds it irresistible.

This technique can be used on any kind of PC that runs Windows; and can be adapted for Macs or Unix boxes. Obviously you have to take this countermeasure before your laptop is stolen!

1. Register for

DynDNS is a free service that allows you to assign a permanent domain name to a computer that has a frequently changing IP address. DynDNS can give you a domain name like at no cost.

2. Obtain and install a DynDNS client.

DirectUpdate for windows is a particularly good one, but use whichever one you like. This is a program that automatically updates your DynDNS settings as soon as it detects that your computer has connected to the Internet, or that its IP address has changed.

If you decide to use DirectUpdate, make sure that the system tray icon does not auto-load when you log-in, that would reveal its presence to a thief.

3. Install some remote control software.

Windows XP comes with a cut down version of Windows Terminal Server. You can enable it from the properties menu on “My Computer”, the problem with this system is that it will not let you spy on the user’s session, you should consider some additional software:

Commercial solutions such as pcAnywhere are good, but I would recommend VNC or Tight VNC above all. If you decide to run VNC and you have a NT / 2000 / XP laptop then ensure that you run it as a Service – that makes it substantially harder to disable.

4. Avoid having your laptop stolen.

Enough Said.

What to do if your laptop gets stolen:

Should your laptop actually be stolen, use a utility like websitepulse to detect when your stolen laptop becomes pingable; that means it’s been connected to the Internet.

Now use your remote control software to spy on the computer. Before you connect make sure you set your VNC client so that it is only observing, not controlling the stolen computer. You don’t want to give the game away.

A few minutes spend observing the user’s screen should provide some clues as to his or her identity. If they start using email, it can be a dead give-away!

Anyway, I sincerely hope that nobody steals your laptop – even with elaborate measures such as this, there is no guarantee that you will ever recover the machine – the best solution is to never have it stolen in the first place!