Your laptop computer is probably worth much more than the money paid for it – just think about all the personal folders and files stored on the hard disk and their value to you.

Even if you can afford to replace a lost or stolen laptop – or are able to make a claim on an insurance policy – the missing data could be priceless. Unless you have access to a recent backup, sensitive personal information or treasured digital photos could be gone forever. That’s why it’s always recommended to back everything up on cloud storage such as BT Cloud.

One solution is to install free tracking software that can later be used to locate a lost laptop. If you’re using Windows 10 you can use Microsoft’s existing Find My Device feature, which is explained here. For everyone else, we suggest installing Prey – follow the instructions below to see how it works.

Step 1: Getting started with your free tracking software

Track your laptop

To begin, head over to Prey’s website where you can download the software.

Click the GET PREY NOW button, then scroll down and select GET BASIC.

You’ll then need to create an account by providing some basic details.

 

Step 2: Downloading the tracking software

As soon as you’ve signed up, you’ll be taken to the main Prey panel.

If you’re already on the laptop you want to track, click on the DOWNLOAD PREY button.

Track your laptop

Select your operating system and the package will begin downloading.

Track your laptop

 

[Read more: 6 ways to improve your laptop’s battery life on Windows 10]

Step 3: Installing the tracking software

When the popup box appears, click Next >, followed by I Agree and Install.

Track your laptop

The installation should take a few minutes. Finally, you select Finish.

 

Step 4: Set up the tracking software

Select OK for the first box. Then ensure Existing user is selected before clicking Next >.

Track your PC

Now sign in using the email address and password you used to set up in Step 3.

 

[Read more: How to securely wipe your laptop or PC]

Step 5: Finding your laptop

From a different computer, log into the Prey website.

You should see your laptop listed. Click on it, and a map will appear with the approximate location of your machine.

Of course, it’ll have to be connected to the internet to be discoverable.

Along the right, you have a number of options: sound alarm, send message and lock device.

Sound alarm will help you try to find the device.

Click Send message and you can make any alert appear on your laptop’s screen.

Lock device will take over the screen of your laptop with a password which you can set.

 

Step 6: Reporting your laptop as missing

Track your laptop

If your laptop isn’t connected to the internet at the moment, there’s no need to wait around and check yourself.

Instead, click the SET DEVICE TO MISSING button. This enables Prey to scan for your laptop’s location every 10 or 20 minutes and send you a detailed report via email if it finds anything.

When you’re ready, click Yes, my device is missing, and wait for the report to come in.

Read more: Top tips for buying your first laptop