All of the smartphones today come with one or another type of mobile trackers or anti-theft apps which are used to track a lost or stolen mobile device using various different techniques. There are also many security apps available for Android and iOS devices which have anti-theft components in them. But there is no such pre-installed tracking software if you buy a laptop or a desktop computer. If you want to protect your computer against the loss or theft of your PC, then you can use the free Prey anti-theft software for your computers. Prey is an open-source software that lets you keep track of your laptop, mobile phone and tablet that goes missing or is stolen.
You can get Prey anti-theft software from the Prey project website. It is available for Mac, Linux and Windows computers (also available as an app for mobile phones). The software requires you to have .NET 2.0 installed on your PC which you may have to install if you have Windows XP or Windows 8 PC (Windows Vista and 7 have it pre-installed). After the installation of Prey anti-theft, it asks you to create a new user account. If you already have a user account (created when using Prey on some other device), then you should use your pre-existing account.
During the account creation, you have to supply your name, email address, password, device name (automatically chosen) and the device type. The device type can be either portable type or desktop type. As you click on the Create button, your new account is created. You are sent a confirmation email message on your email address for verification.
After this, you do not have to do anything – that is, until your computer is lost or stolen. If your computer is lost or you become a victim of theft, then you can log on to your Prey Control Panel at http://control.preyproject.com/ using the same email address and password as you used to create the Prey account.
In the Prey Control Panel, you can see all your devices that you have setup Prey anti-theft on. For each device, you can set options to collect geo-location, network information, nearby Wi-Fi hotspots, session, collect screenshot of desktop, list of modified files, webcam capture etc. You can also choose to perform various actions like showing an alert on the stolen device, make a loud sound for 30 seconds to locate the lost device, lock the device etc.
Under normal situation when you have your computer with you, the status is set to OK. If your computer is lost or stolen, you have to set this status to Missing to make the Prey anti-theft software to start tracking your missing device. After the device is set to Missing, Prey starts collecting the data and generates the reports for you at pre-configured intervals (by default every 25 minutes). You can use these reports to locate your lost device yourself or consult an investigation agency to file a theft report.
Prey anti-theft software can track your missing computer using the IP address of the missing device and the nearby Wi-Fi hotspots. It runs silently in the background and keeps collecting screen captures and other data from your missing device for you. If your computer has a webcam connected, then you can even capture the pictures of the person (possibly the thief) using your stolen PC.
You can download Prey anti-theft software from http://preyproject.com/.