How To Track A Stolen Laptop With Serial Number – Works in 2024

How To Track A Stolen Laptop With Serial Number

The laptop, a compact yet powerful device that holds much of our digital lives – from personal photos to sensitive work documents – unfortunately becomes an easy target for theft due to its portable nature. The loss of a laptop can lead to a myriad of problems, ranging from financial loss to potential identity theft. But when faced with such a predicament, do not lose hope. Various tools and techniques, including the use of the laptop’s serial number, can assist in the recovery of your stolen device. This guide explains the steps and precautions you can take to increase the chances of tracking and recovering your stolen laptop.

What Is A Serial Number?

A serial number is a unique identifier assigned by the manufacturer to each device they produce. It distinguishes one unit of a product from another and is typically used for inventory management and after-sales service. In the context of a stolen laptop, a serial number becomes an essential piece of information that could potentially lead you to your missing device.

How To Find The Serial Number

Typically, the serial number can be found on the packaging or at the bottom of the laptop. However, suppose your laptop is already stolen, and you didn’t note down the serial number. In that case, it’s advisable to keep a record of it separately or store it digitally for unfortunate instances like these.

If you haven’t noted it down, you might still be able to find it. If you registered your laptop with the manufacturer or purchased it online, the seller or manufacturer’s website might still have a record of it. Additionally, you can find it on the receipt or invoice of the purchase.

Let’s Track The Stolen Laptop

Tracking A Stolen Laptop

I hope you have followed the steps discussed above and acquired the serial number. Now, we can proceed to the next steps. Several approaches can be utilized to track your stolen laptop.

Contacting Law Enforcement

The first step to take when your laptop is stolen is to report the theft to your local law enforcement agency. Provide them with as much detail as possible, including the laptop’s serial number, make, model, and any distinguishing features. Law enforcement agencies maintain databases that track stolen items, and including your laptop’s serial number increases the likelihood of its recovery if it is seized by authorities.

However, law enforcement agencies may have limited resources to dedicate to laptop recovery. Stolen laptops are often only recovered in cases where they are found during investigations of larger criminal activities. While reporting the theft is a critical initial step, relying solely on law enforcement for recovery is not guaranteed to succeed.

Utilizing Tracking Software

In recent years, various software solutions have emerged that claim to assist in tracking and recovering stolen laptops. These applications, often referred to as “anti-theft” or “tracking” software, utilize a combination of location services, internet connectivity, and remote access capabilities to assist in laptop recovery. Some popular examples include LoJack for Laptops, Prey, and Find My Device (for Windows and macOS devices).

The process typically involves installing the software on your laptop before it is stolen. Once the laptop goes missing, you can log into your account on the software provider’s website and track the device’s location, lock it remotely, or even wipe its data to prevent unauthorized access. Some software solutions also provide features such as taking photos using the laptop’s webcam or sending alerts when the laptop is powered on and connected to the internet.

The success relies on the laptop being connected to the internet. If the thief promptly disables the laptop’s connectivity or wipes the device, these solutions might be rendered ineffective. Moreover, determined thieves may discover ways to disable or circumvent the tracking software, further limiting its overall effectiveness.

Online Platforms And Marketplaces

The digital landscape has given rise to online platforms and marketplaces that facilitate the buying and selling of goods, including electronics. These platforms, such as eBay, Craigslist, and specialized forums, can inadvertently become avenues for selling stolen laptops. As a potential victim, you can actively monitor these platforms using your laptop’s serial number as a search parameter. If you spot your stolen laptop being listed for sale, you can report the listing to the platform and provide the relevant law enforcement agency with the information.

While this method has led to successful laptop recoveries in some cases, it comes with its own set of challenges. Thieves may use fake accounts, provide false information, or swiftly remove listings once they realize they are being monitored. Additionally, confronting a thief or attempting to recover the laptop in person can be dangerous and is strongly discouraged. Law enforcement should always be involved in such situations.

Publicizing The Theft

Social media and online communities can be powerful tools for spreading information rapidly. If your laptop is stolen, creating posts on your social media accounts with details about the theft, including the laptop’s serial number and a brief description, can increase the chances of someone recognizing the laptop or spotting it in their vicinity. Friends and followers may share your posts, potentially reaching a broader audience and increasing the likelihood of recovery.

However, this method also comes with potential downsides. Sharing too much personal information publicly can have privacy implications. Moreover, while well-intentioned individuals may share your posts, there’s no guarantee that the right person will see them or that the laptop will be successfully tracked.

Registering With Manufacturer Databases

Some laptop manufacturers offer registration services that allow you to associate your laptop’s serial number with your personal information. In the event of theft, this information can be useful for law enforcement and others who come across the laptop. Manufacturers may also maintain databases of stolen laptops, which can aid in recovery efforts.

While registering your laptop is a prudent step, its effectiveness is limited to situations where the laptop is found by individuals or organizations that check these databases. Additionally, this method does not provide real-time tracking capabilities like some other solutions.

Limitations And Caveats

While these methods can be helpful, they are not guaranteed to work in all circumstances. Thieves may attempt to alter or remove the laptop’s serial number, making it harder to trace. Additionally, not all law enforcement agencies have the resources to follow up on every stolen laptop case.

Preventing Future Thefts

While we’ve discussed how to track a stolen laptop using the serial number, it’s important to remember that prevention is better than cure.

  1. Back up Data: Regularly back up your data to an external hard drive or a cloud service. This ensures that even if your laptop is stolen, you don’t lose your precious data.
  2. Install Tracking Software: As mentioned, tracking software can greatly increase the chances of recovery. It’s a proactive step to install such software.
  3. Secure your Laptop: Physically securing your laptop when it’s unattended can deter thieves. Use a laptop lock when in public places, and never leave your laptop in an unattended car or out in the open.
  4. Record Important Information: Note down the make, model, and serial number of your laptop. Take photos of your laptop that could help in identification.

Frequently Asked Questions & Answers

Is the serial number the same as a MAC address or an IP address?

No, the serial number is different. The MAC address is specific to the laptop’s network interface, while an IP address can change based on its connection. The serial number remains constant and is unique to the device.

Where can I find the serial number if I didn’t note it down before my laptop got stolen?

Often, the serial number is printed on the purchase receipt or the box that the laptop came in. If you registered your laptop with the manufacturer, they might have a record of the serial number as well.

Can tracking software help in conjunction with the serial number?

Yes, if you had tracking software installed on the laptop before it was stolen, it could provide real-time location data. The serial number can then further verify the identity of the laptop.

What should I do if I locate the laptop using tracking software?

Do not attempt to recover it yourself. Inform the local law enforcement immediately and provide them with all the relevant details, including the serial number.

What if the thief wipes the laptop clean? Can I still use the serial number to track it?

While wiping the laptop removes all data and potentially any tracking software, the physical serial number remains the same. If the laptop is recovered or resold, this serial number can help in its identification.

Can thieves alter or change the laptop’s serial number?

The physical sticker or engraving can be tampered with, but changing the embedded serial number within the laptop’s firmware or BIOS is much more challenging. Always cross-reference with purchase or warranty details to verify authenticity.


While a serial number provides a ray of hope in the gloomy situation of a stolen laptop, it’s essential to understand that tracking is never a sure thing. Being proactive in safeguarding your device, backing up your data, and understanding the avenues available for tracking can help mitigate the impact of theft.

Lastly, always prioritize personal safety over a device. Engage law enforcement professionals and avoid direct confrontations. With diligence, awareness, and a bit of luck, you may just get your device back.

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