Do I need a laptop lock? How to protect your laptop in college

One of the unfortunate truths about college is that theft can still occur there. Your car can be broken into, and your bike can be stolen.

Easily one of the biggest targets for thieves is laptops. Think about it — you’re holding a one-thousand dollar piece of technology designed to be portable. For thieves, stealing a laptop isn’t too hard, and few people will even notice. During my freshman year, my friend’s car was broken into and his computer was stolen. One student even broke into an on-campus apartment to steal computers.

So how can you protect your valuable laptop from theft?

Laptop Locks

Probably the most common way of protecting your computer, laptop locks work by locking your laptop to something that will (hopefully) remain stationary. Typically, this is your desk. The lock hooks into a little nook in the side of your laptop, where you’ll need a combination to release this and to move your laptop. Targus makes good locks, though you may be able to find cheaper.

Obviously, laptop locks prevent theft of your laptop, but in order to do so, they prevent you from using your laptop with as much portability as you’d like, which is probably why you bought a laptop instead of a desktop. Anytime you want to take your laptop somewhere other than your desk, you’ll need to unlock it. Anytime you want to put it back, you’ll end up locking it. Laziness takes over fast, and it’s easy to forget to lock your computer.

Granted, locks are not foolproof. Someone could break the desk or cut the lock if they’re serious enough about it, but chances are they’ll be looking for an easier victim.

Do I need a laptop lock?

I bought a laptop lock and used it for the first few weeks until I realized my room was probably fairly safe from theft: our dorm was on the 2nd story, our door automatically locked when closed, and it was only open if either my roommate or I was there. I found the lock an inconvenience, and didn’t use it much.

However, if you live on the first floor, if your door doesn’t necessarily lock, or if you think you could accidentally leave it open, you should definitely buy a lock. There are always stories of stolen laptops, and you don’t want yours to be one of them. It’s better to be safe than sorry.

Just make sure you use the lock. If you’re not locking your laptop to your desk every time, then that lock isn’t protecting you from anything.

How else can I protect my laptop?

In addition to locks, there are other solid ways to help prevent theft, most of them common sense:

  • Don’t leave your laptop unattended. If you’re leaving temporarily, either lock your door, lock your laptop,  or bring your laptop with you (like at the library). Grabbing a laptop takes about twenty seconds, and your quick pee break will take more than enough time for someone to steal your computer.
  • Don’t keep your laptop visible in your car. Either bring it with you in your backpack or keep it in the trunk. People will break into cars just to steal computers.
  • Don’t set your laptop down even if it’s concealed. Many students drop off their backpacks at dining halls, but if your laptop’s in there, you should bring in your backpack or take your computer back to your room first. Leaving your laptop in your backpack unattended, even if it’s with others, is still a bad idea.
  • Always be aware of where it is. If it’s in your backpack, keep track of your backpack and occasionally check to see if it’s still there. Make sure it’s still on your desk.
  • If you do buy a lock, use a random number. Don’t use your room number, the last four numbers of your phone number, etc. Make it something random that people won’t guess just from knowing you a little bit.

How have you kept your laptop safe?