How-To Geek

Ask The Readers: How Do Recover Your Lost Tech Gear?

Whether you keep it handcuffed to your wrist to avoid losing it in the first place, etch your phone number on it, or load it with tracking software, we’re interested in hearing about how you ensure your lost gear finds its way back to you.

What tricks do you use to make sure your gear ends up back in your hands? Labels? Tracking tools? A text-to-ring app so you can find your phone in the couch cushions? Whatever tools you’re using to help ensure that your gear doesn’t get lost and ends up back in your hands if it does, we want to hear about them.

Sound off in the comments and check back in on Friday for the What You Said roundup.

Jason Fitzpatrick is a warranty-voiding DIYer who spends his days cracking opening cases and wrestling with code so you don't have to. If it can be modded, optimized, repurposed, or torn apart for fun he's interested (and probably already at the workbench taking it apart). You can follow him on if you'd like.

  • Published 05/16/12

Comments (23)

  1. infmom

    I signed up with a service called FoundIT! (not free, but not expensive–the free services seem to be dying off in droves) that provides a variety of stickers and tags. Fortunately, I have not had to put it to the test.
    The site has an annoying autoplay video, but the rest of it is great.

  2. Bryan

    PreyProject for my laptop. I haven’t tested if it works though.

    As for my flash drive, I usually give up hope and encrypt my files instead.

  3. TechGeek01

    I’ve got Lookout Mobile on my Kindle Fire (which is rooted and now an Android tablet) tied to my account, so it’s ready for the Lost Device feature.

    The rest of my devices? I just keep a good eye out and hope I don’t lose those.

  4. Anonymous

    +1 on Encryption – but with a nice long non-sense password. That way, anyone else will not be able to read it. Then if I loose my thumb drive it’s usually so cheap to just buy another one and replace the contents from a backup that I hardly miss a step. It’s still a bit of a pain but no real harm done should my thumb drive mysteriously walk off.

    I pretty much do the same thing with my cheap flip-phone cell phone too. Basically, my cell works just like a thumb drive so it too gets a nice long encryption password for anything sensitive. About the only thing more I do with my cell is put a “Reward If Found” message along with a call back number as it’s wallpaper and also paste it to the inside of the battery cover.

    Now, as far as laptops, tablets or anything else go, I just don’t carry them around that much. I don’t do Facebook, Twitter or any other social media since I see no reason to. (I hope I also don’t have to point out the dangers of open WiFi hot spots or the needless expense for additional data plans.) Social media may be fun but that’s why I have a phone! Anyone that interested in what I’m doing can call me or text me. I don’t need to post it while walking around like a zombie and oblivious to the world around me. I also figure that if I need to be “mobile” that sitting in front of a glowing screen is just not that beneficial to my (or anyone Else’s) safety too. Therefore, loosing those devices just isn’t an issue since I rarely use them outside of my home or work.

  5. Johann

    Best way is also the least geeky and therfore ignored by techies – stick a big label on the thing with some contact details.

    By all means encrypt etc but this isn’t making it easier to return, just securing your data, and these are two very different things.

    If someone who ‘finds’ your kit is the kind of guy to give it back then a label is the easiest way to give th einfo to them, forget about disk labels, autoruns etc. and just keep it simple.

  6. darkcast

    Normally I got to the closes crack dealer to check if they have brought my stuff

  7. Matthew

    The only thing I ever really loose is flash drives, so now I keep them on a lanyrd so they can’t fall out of my pocket or not be noticed left plugged in.

  8. Keith

    I can’t say what I do, but I can say what I *would* or *should* do. And that is to plunk one or more of my business cards in places that will hold them snugly enough. I have laptop bags with plenty of these places. Time to practice what gets preached.

  9. cdproject

    My USB drives are kept on my car keys. That way if I lose my car keys I have more important things to worry about than a cheap USB drive. Like others I also include a note on my iPad, phone and laptop with contact details. On cameras I take a picture of contact details and leave that on the memory card.

  10. Mr Blue

    I keep a text document on my flash drives with my contact details in the event an honest person finds it.

    As for my other tech like may others I use tracking software, but I also use the good old UV pen and etch my Name/Postcode into the device that way if someone finds it less appealing to keep with my name on it.

  11. Chris

    I like the sticker people don’t like them as much.

  12. Chris

    I think I loose flash drives all the time so now I carry around a full sized 3 inch SATA drive.

  13. cdproject

    Nail a thumb drive to your thumb, that way you’ll never lose it!

  14. xana452

    I just have a backup on my laptop of my Flash drive; that’s what I take everywhere. My laptop doesn’t usually leave home, and neither does my external hdd. So no backups are needed for that.

  15. obrickokc

    I use Prey for the laptop / androidlost for the phone, flash drives are encrypted, and of course everything has a back up just in case. Also you should always use very strong passwords – check how strong your password is here ( ).

  16. Jack in Tennessee

    I do regular backups of flash drives to hard drives, manually.
    Hard drives are part of regular backup cycle.

    We (wife & I) haven’t lost one ‘yet’, but we do
    misplace them from time to time. Normally they
    are found under something at a later time.

    For anything that I want secure, it is encrypted.
    I do have a README.TXT on the root of each
    drive with ownership information/reward notice.
    And use a paint pen to mark the outside of
    the drive.

    Most stuff doesn’t matter, as long as I have a backup.
    But lost pen drives are a nuisance.

  17. imdb

    When I format my thumb drives or smartcards, I name those items with my cell phone number. As soon as someone plugs in the lost item, they’ll see what it’s named, and can then call.

  18. Larrie

    I put my name and phone number on jump drives with a tape writer. For camera cards, SD, compact flash, memory stick, etc., I create a JPEG file with my name, address, phone number and “REWARD!”, I copy the file to the first folder of the card and then protect it with the camera’s file lock feature. If someone finds the card and puts it into their camera, the first image they see will be my id info and the reward offer. Thankfully, I’ve never lost a card, but should I and should the finder be honest or greedy of both, having the info and the reward offer on the card should help get it back.

  19. Ron

    – Keep USB on a long Lanyard

    – text file on drive named “Return Reward.pdf” – include contact info and promise of a reward greater than replacement price of the drive, because I value my data

    – give USB Drive a VOLUME NAME that is my phone number

  20. TheFu

    Step 1: Visit the local police station
    Step 2: File a report
    Step 3: Cry
    Step 4: Report the IMEI to the carrier and hope they kill the phone.

    Saw a unlocked smartphone stolen at a table inside a nice restaurant. That phone is gone.

  21. Ed

    Back before cell phones could be easily disabled, a friend lost her phone. She sent a text message to the phone asking that the finder please return it. She received a one-word answer: “No”. :-)

  22. GG

    Well, for my flash drive…I take the old fashioned tried and true…..Backups

    I wrote a small script that uses rdiff-backup and backups up the drive to two locations. Of course it still requires me to activate it.

    It also doesn’t prevent anyone from harvesting anything from the flashdrive – which in general doesn’t contain anything I would consider useful.

  23. Stephan

    I have Avast! Anti-theft on it, worked well, when my sister stole it.

    I have a Autorun.ini file that opens a file every time that has my phone number on it, a bit annoying but worth it, I already lost it 3 times this month.

    ps. Anyone know how to get soil out of it, my dog buried it. NOT FUNNY

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