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Keep your laptop secure on campus

Learn how to prevent your laptop from being a target for thieves, and what precautions to take to improve your odds of recovering it in case it gets stolen.

Sarah Tew/CNET

You may be confident in your academic abilities to make it through the next four years of school, but what about your laptop's ability? Given the varied distractions of campus life, laptops frequently go missing and are a favorite target of thieves. To help get your laptop through school with you, I offer the following tips to keep it safe and secure on campus.

Before we get to the heart of the matter, however, I must first start by imploring you to find a backup system and use it regularly. Get yourself an external hard drive of subscribe to an online backup service and back up your laptop's data on at least a weekly basis. This way, should your laptop get lost or stolen, you won't lose your study notes, term papers, photos, music, and the rest of your data along with it.

After pledging to back up your laptop, please continue to the following five tips.

1. Register your laptop with campus safety.

Most colleges and universities let you register your laptop. You will likely get a sticker to place on your laptop to act as a theft deterrent. And in the event of a theft and recovery, your registration information will help your school return your laptop to its rightful owner.

2. Insure your laptop.

You can purchase a separate renter's insurance policy for your laptop. Take a look at options such as College Student Insurance or NSSI, among others. Alternatively, you might look into adding a rider to your parents' home insurance policy.

3. Lock it when you're not near it.

Don't leave your laptop unattended in public places. If you are downing large amounts of caffeine at a campus coffee shop in order to finish a paper, you will likely need to make a few trips to the bathroom during the writing process. My advice is to take your laptop with you. Otherwise, use a Kensington lock or another cable lock to secure to a fixed object (that is, not your chair) before taking your leave. Same thing goes for the library, cafeteria, and other busy spots on campus.

And if you have a car at school, don't think a locked car is a secure spot to keep your laptop for any length of time, even if it is artfully hidden under a sweatshirt or gym bag. Keep it with you or locked in your room.

4. Always keep your dorm room or apartment locked.

When you get to school, talk to your roommates about room security measures. Keep your dorm room door locked when you and your roommates are all out. And if you have a roomie who is constantly losing his or her keys and leaves the door unlocked as a result, then get yourself a laptop safe.

5. Install tracking software.

LoJack isn't just for cars. Increase the odds of getting a stolen laptop back by installing tracking software. Check out LoJack for Laptops. For $30 a year, LoJack can help locate your laptop and lock your data from prying eyes while a recovery attempt is made. LoJack's software sits in your laptops's BIOS, so it will still work even if a thief installs a new OS or replaces your hard drive.