How-To Geek

What You Said: How You Recover Your Lost Tech Gear


Earlier this week we asked you to share your favorite tricks for keeping your gear from getting lost and getting it back should it go missing. Now we’re back to share some great reader tips.

Johann opts for the most straight forward method:

Best way is also the least geeky and therefore 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 the info to them, forget about disk labels, autoruns etc. and just keep it simple.

There’s much to be said for this. If someone finds something and they’re inclined to return it, a straight forward label is certainly easier for them than say, plugging the device in and seeing that the disk label is your phone number.

Mr Blue loads his contact details on the device:

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.

We can’t tell you the number of portable drives we’ve been able to return to their owners over the years because lots of people have their resumes and other identifying documents they’ve taken to a print shop or the like on the drives.

Other readers use tracking software for big ticket items, like 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.

While we label flash drives so honest people can return them if we misplace them, encrypting and assuming the worst is definitely a good practice.

For more tips and tricks, hit up the original comment thread.

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 05/18/12

Comments (3)

  1. Matthew

    When I find flash drives around my school, I look at any office documents and look at the author tag. Then I can return it.

  2. Rob

    I started formatting my jump drives and putting my name and number in the label so as soon as it is plugged it, my name and number appears.

    That is good, but I generally lose them in my room or car rather then leave them somewhere. More commonly I break them before I loose them.

  3. Slomem

    For my 3 laptops I use “Lojack” just like the device used on cars. It is software based. However, when you phone the theft line they will activate their theft detection software. When the device hits the internet its signal is detected and their theft recovery team along with local police go into action. According to their website and customer feeedback their recovery rate is somewhere in the upper 80 to lower 90 percent range. Also for $10 more you can purchase $1000.00 worth of insurance in the event they cannot recover your device. Their web site is For my Kindle I use “Locate my Kinde
    and it does almost the same thing Also in the event the laptop is reformatted no worry. The software is embeded in the bios.

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