A couple of weeks ago, I saw an episode of Dateline NBC that covered iPod thefts and how they caught the thieves. It got me to wonder how I could protect my own iPod and computers. A little previous knowledge and Internet research reveled some great techniques. Unfortunately, nothing for the iPod except a way to register the serial number.
I'm sure there are similar techniques that can be used on Windows and Linux machines, but I don't own them. I welcome someone else to publish a similar Instructable for those machines.
I have no affiliations with any of the software mentioned herein, except that I'm a happy and paying customer.
Step 1: Lock It Down...
Use this feature if you don't go everywhere with your Mac. An intruder will likely give up quickly and take your TV instead.
Step 2: Back It Up!
There are various techniques and levels that you can back up.
The simplest, and in my opinion the most worthwhile is to get a Dot Mac account and use the Sync feature along with Apple's Backup Utility. Syncing with Dot Mac keeps a copy of all of your Bookmarks from Safari, Calanders from iCal, Contacts from Address Book, Keychains and Mail Account information on your iDisk. This can be kept in sinc with all of your Macs too! Backup will backup all of your Personal Settings to iDisk daily and follow a weekly regiment of backing up your other data to CD or DVD. iDisk was recently upgraded to 10GB of space. Well worth the $99US (as low as $70 on Amazon or eBay).
Another technique uses an external drive and Disk Utility. This makes an exact and bootable copy of your entire hard drive. Because it's an exact "Ghost" image, all of your Applications and their associated registration details are retained. To do this, locate the Disk Utility program in the Utilities folder of your Applications folder and run it. Select your main drive and then the Restore tab. Drag your main drive to the Source field and your Backup drive to the Destination field. If it's a really big backup drive, you can alternatively create a disk image the same size as your main drive and use it for the Destination. If you check Erase destination, the drive will have the same name and icon as your main drive as well. Not checking it will leave whatever is already on that drive intact.
There are alternative techniques as well. Some pricey and some free. They're all fine. Just be sure to use them!
Step 3: Protect Your Personal Information and Files
I like to pick a phrase and build an acronym out of it. For instance, one might choose "Four score and seven years ago," creating the acronym "4s&sYo.;" Don't use this one though... Don't use the most common password, "Catch22" either!
Now create a new "Guest" account without Administrative access and without a password. This removes the need for the thief to try too hard to get access to your other accounts. With this account, they have access to the Net as well as your games, which is likely what they'll go for initially.
Step 4: Now, Keep Them From Changing Things...
This can be overridden by an experienced Mac Tech or Power User, but most thieves aren't that smart. No. I won't tell you how to override it and I ask that you don't post that info either.
Insert your original Mac OS X Install CD. This can either be the disc that came with your Macintosh or a newer OS X Install disc.
Scroll down the CD's window and you'll find an Applications folder. Open this folder and then open the Utilities folder within it. Here, you'll find a utility called Open Firmware Password.
Do not copy this utility to your hard drive! It's important that it's only available from the CD. Go ahead and double-click the application to open it.
Use a unique password here and store it in a safe place. You'll need this password if you ever need to re-install or update OS X with a CD. You'll also need it if you use Boot Camp or need to install a Firmware update.
Note: While newer Macs that use Intel processors don't use Open Firmware, this feature is still present within the computers firmware.
Step 5: Use Your Mac's Remote and Motion Sensor!
This only protects your computer if you're within range to stop the theft before it gets started. The utility I'm using is called TheftSensor. With this utility, you can activate it by pressing the play button on your remote. Once activated, it sets off an alarm if the computer is moved or closed. See the video of it in action.
As joejoerowley pointed out; There is also the utility iAlertU by Slapping Turtle. This utility does the same thing as TheftSensor, but has the added features of a visible alarm and reaction to keypresses and power cord removal. See the attached video here:
Note: To prevent the use of another remote to disable this utility, pair your remote with your Mac by pressing and holding the Play/Pause and Menu buttons simultaneously for about 4 or 5 seconds.
Step 6: Now... to Get It Back!
When the thief connects to the Internet, your Mac immediately starts sending emails containing the thief's IP information, screen shots, and even photos of the thief if your Mac has a built-on iSight.
If the authorities are unsuccessful at capturing the thief, UnderCover will start simulating a hardware error by gradually dimming the screen until it's unreadable. This will hopefully force the thief into taking the computer to a repair facility or selling it. When the technician or recipient gets the computer and connects it to yet another network a message is displayed, explaining that this is a stolen computer and who to contact to return it.
All of this is done transparently in the background. The thief will never know (s)he's being monitored!
Step 7: Don't Advertise...
Using all of these techniques won't take away from the speed or your enjoyment of your computer, but will do a great deal for your peace of mind. If you've got any additional techniques or know of similar software, please post a comment! If you've got a Windows or Linux machine and know of similar techniques, post a sister Instructable to help those users.