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Before you lose your Mac laptop Laptop Macs
This hint is something that may increase the chance of getting your MacBook back if you ever lose it or it is stolen.

You will need to install an open source application called Prey that runs in the background and uses zero memory until it is activated and is also not visible in the Activity Monitor.

Once you lose your laptop you will login to your account on the prey website and report the laptop as missing. Now, even though prey works without the user being logged in, you can get more information about the user if he is using the computer, such as websites visited.

Prey only works if the laptop is connected to the Internet, so if the thief has an encrypted connection, prey will not work until it finds an open WiFi hotspot. Your laptop probably has a password, so you will need to activate the Guest account and lure the thief into using the laptop.

To do so, leave a message on the login window saying something like this 'If you find this laptop please email xxxx@gmail.com, to do so type Guest in the username field to login, thank you!'

The thief will probably not email you, (although an honest finder may well do so), but you will get valuable information in the form of reports from prey when he starts surfing the web.

To add the message to your login window use the Terminal command:
sudo defaults write /Library/Preferences/com.apple.loginwindow LoginwindowText "TYPE YOUR MESSAGE HERE"
or to do this in the GUI you can download the utility OnyX. In OnyX click Parameters tab » Login tab and check the 'Show message in the login window' checkbox. Type your message in the text field and then click 'Apply.'

[crarko adds: My understanding is that Apple is working on a Mobile Me based Find My Mac function, that is similar to the current Find My iPhone.]
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Before you lose your Mac laptop
Authored by: diamondsw on Mar 08, '11 08:14:25AM

Good luck on this, but the first thing any thief is going to do is remove and wipe the hard drive. Third-party software is not going to get it back like this. Presumably a "Find my Mac" service would work, since by merely installing the Lion OS everything would be in place to send updates to Apple.



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Before you lose your Mac laptop
Authored by: bedouin on Mar 08, '11 09:21:39AM
Fortunately most thieves are not that good.

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Before you lose your Mac laptop
Authored by: lugal on Mar 08, '11 09:26:44AM

To keep a thief from easily wiping the hard drive, you should lock the computer's firmware. Once that's done, it would take a Mac-savvy thief to figure out how to boot it from an install disk--and even then it's unlikely that he would do so before it's been booted up at least once with the current OS.

Trying to get the police to act on the information, however, is another matter entirely.



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Before you lose your Mac laptop
Authored by: fferitt25 on Mar 12, '11 05:21:52PM

First off - technically if you have the Firmware locked - you won't be able to get past the Password in order to boot to a Disc.

Secondly - there are ways around the Firmware Password.



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Before you lose your Mac laptop
Authored by: lugal on Mar 14, '11 05:51:01AM

First off, if you know the password, you certainly can boot a firmware locked Mac from an install disk, bootable external drive, or NetBoot server. We do it all the time at the school where I work.

Secondly, yes, there are ways to bypass the firmware lock when you don't know the password. That's why I said a "Mac-savvy thief." Most thieves, however, won't realize that the firmware is locked until after they've booted the computer and the tracking software (Prey, Undercover, etc.) has had the chance to do its work.



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Before you lose your Mac laptop
Authored by: asmeurer on Mar 17, '11 09:20:41PM

I wouldn't assume that most laptop thiefs are smart enough to wipe the hard drive. Remember that most theft are crimes of opportunity. If some bozo sees your laptop lying around and decides to snatch it, he isn't necessarily going to be smart enough to wipe it before using it.



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Before you lose your Mac laptop
Authored by: deped on Mar 08, '11 11:50:27AM

Is anyone else troubled by the line 'Prey... is not visible in the Activity Monitor'?

As a genuine query, how can any Unix or OS X process not be visible to Activity Monitor.app or 'top' from Teminal.app?



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Before you lose your Mac laptop
Authored by: fbitterlich on Mar 11, '11 05:07:13AM

From the README file, it looks like it will add an entry to the root crontab to run a shell script every 20 minutes.

It will check for the existence of a (user-defined?) URL, and if that "does not exist" (according to the docs), "the PC has been stolen." I see a few pretty obvious problems with this technique.

Also the "Wifi autoconnect": "If enabled, Prey will attempt to hook onto to the nearest open WiFi hotspot when no Internet connection is found." Yowsa.

I guess I will wait until Apple comes up with a solution...



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Before you lose your Mac laptop
Authored by: CapeJim on Mar 08, '11 03:34:16PM

The website for Prey doesn't list any Mac products (a search of their knowledge base for "Mac OS X" or for Macintosh, turned up no results(!)), and when I clicked on the download button, Firefox tells me that the file is an exe file (I don't have Windows on my Mac, thanks)...??

Where are they hiding the Mac version?? The link you posted isn't it, apparently.



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Before you lose your Mac laptop
Authored by: DizzyPenguin on Mar 09, '11 08:08:21AM

I loaded up the link from the original hint and clicked the download button!
http://preyproject.com/releases/0.5.3/prey-0.5.3-mac.dmg

You can select whichever flavour you prefer:
http://preyproject.com/download

---
Manage your iTunes Album Artwork > http://dizzypenguin.com/automac-it/
Edited on Mar 09, '11 08:12:41AM by DizzyPenguin



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Before you lose your Mac laptop
Authored by: a_wylie on Mar 09, '11 08:24:35AM

Assuming you want the thief to start using your laptop so you can track him/her, why not have your laptop log in automatically to an ordinary user account created specially for the purpose? You could even have Safari or Firefox as a login item, just for that extra bit of help.

Ok, so you'd have to fast user switch every time you booted up but that's not much of a price to pay for the peace of mind of knowing if your laptop is stolen you've done your best to ensure the thief gives him/herself away.



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Is Prey safe....
Authored by: zoff on Mar 09, '11 10:17:39AM

Is Prey safe to use? Anyone have experience with it?



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Is Prey safe....
Authored by: asmeurer on Mar 17, '11 09:24:17PM

Well, the software is open source (https://github.com/tomas/prey), so there is pretty small chance that it is malignant.



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Before you lose your Mac laptop
Authored by: brazeagle on Mar 09, '11 07:34:52PM

I am almost loosing it back to windows,
My MAC POWER BOOK, 3GB RAM, 500GB HD INTEL BASED with Snow Leopard and WINDOWS XP installed.
Wonder if anyone experienced the following:
Both in WINDOWS or MAC:
All applications and browsers i.e. OFFICE, Firefox, Safari, etc and specially annoying when using WORD for Mac, it stops responding for about 8 seconds and the comes back up, this is for everything, even the mouse (usb transmiter - wireless) needs to or three clicks before it does anything.

Do I need to re-install all my O.S. again?

Thank you,
LCL



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[OT] Before you lose your Mac laptop
Authored by: fbitterlich on Mar 11, '11 04:55:46AM

It could be that you're triggering the Sudden Motion Sensor; this will disable any disk access for a short time when the MBP detects any shock or sudden movement.



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Before you lose your Mac laptop
Authored by: fferitt25 on Mar 12, '11 05:26:20PM

I do suppose in some instances there would be stupid thiefs that would snatch a laptop or whatever and simply go home and hook it up to the internet and start using it.

HOWEVER - being a techie w/ half a brain that I am - if I were to steal a laptop and claim it as my own. Before I connected it to the internet - I would do a complete system wipe (prob zero things out a couple of times) then a fresh install.

- even maybe swap out the drive for a differnt one altogether (if I had one sitting around)

Additionally force a change on the Mac Addresses of the primary hardware. People probably would probably forget to do this - but then again most laptop owners don't think to make note of their Mac Address info anyway.

Then remove visible SNs on the exterior.

Clean laptop aside from fingerprints - stickers - other identifying marks.



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