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Computrace Lojack for Laptops

lojackWhen you hear the name Lojack, you immediately think of the car theft tracing service. Essentially, a small GPS tracking unit is placed in your car or motorcycle. When your vehicle is stolen, the police can activate the GPS and track down the theft.

Lojack purports to alleviate damage to your car because the police can find it fast.

Now, Computrace has come out with Lojack for Laptops. This software says that it tracks and recovers stolen laptops and desktops.

The silent, secure and invisible program contacts a monitoring center at Computrace whenever your machine is connected to the Internet to allow for tracking and recovery.

In theory, it sounds attractive as thousands of laptops are misplaced or stolen every day. In practice, it’s a little different as I found some holes in the protection and some puzzling attributes of the system as a whole.

Join me during the install and setup.

Right off the bat I noticed the “1 Year Subscription” sticker on the box. Did that mean that the software expires after a year? Essentially, yes.

Lojack for Laptops is a subscription service for tracking your laptop. You pay anywhere from $39.99 to $99.99 for the service depending on whether you want an electronic download, boxed version of the software, one year of coverage or three years of coverage.

I had the one-year boxed version which cost $49.99 and came in a software box with a CD inside. I guess I could have gone with the electronic version to save $10, but I like having manuals and software literature.

lojack (1)But wait. The box only had the CD, no manuals. All that was on the CD, so maybe a download would be the better route.

Reading the box, I was told more than 600,000 laptops are stolen every year. I was also told that Computrace works with more than 1000 law-enforcement agencies. I was feeling worried and safer at the same time. Then I read the Guarantee.

To quote…
“Our Money-Back Guarantee states that if your computer isn’t recovered within 30 days of it being reported stolen, we will refund your purchase of Computrace Lojack for Laptops.”

WHAT? What about the price of my laptop?

Maybe I was missing something. When I spoke with the representative for Computrace, she mentioned something about a remote data erase function.

If my valuable data and hardware couldn’t be recovered, I’d at least want the machine wiped clean. That’s a service only available at the premium level I was told.

So it breaks down like this…
Standard and Premium service offer theft recovery. If they fail to get your machine back, you get your $40 back.

Premium service offers a remote data delete function. That means if they can’t get your machine back, at least they might be able to remotely delete all of your personal and sensitive files from the hard drive.

And then there’s a $1000 service guarantee with the premium service. If Computrace is unable to recover your computer or delete the data, you could be eligible for a payment up to $1000.

There’s fine print involved in the $1000 payoff and I only have issue with one area. This is the one that says, “the post-theft contact from the Customer Computer to the Monitoring Center cannot have come from outside of the region or country in which you reside.”

Are you kidding me? I have to guarantee that my laptop, when stolen, calls in at least once before being moved beyond my ‘region or country.’

You know where most thefts of laptops occur? Right! The Airport. What makes you think that the burglar is going to sit down in the next terminal and fire up a game of online Tetris while making off with your laptop?

I shake my head. Further – and this isn’t a column about business practices, so take this as you will – premium service is only $20 more than standard. Why not just offer one product if the price points are so close?

Enough soapboxing, even though it might be warranted. Here’s my take…

lojack (2)Stuff I like…

The software is simple to install.

Calling home the first time was a breeze and I have no worries that Lojack for Laptops would continue to function in the same way over time.

Data wipe is pretty valuable, especially to organizations where you hear about sensitive data wandering off every other day.

The price is right. For $69 I can ensure – sort of – that my data will be wiped clean and/or my laptop will be recovered.

Stuff I don’t like…

Why the multiple price points if the premium offers well more than the additional $20?

What is with the insane terms of service? If I could dictate where and when my laptop was stolen, why would I need this service?

I’m not a big fan of the subscription model. Just let me pay $200 for a lifetime license and remove the geographical limitations. I am that attached to my Macbook that I’d pay it in an instant.

The verdict…
Lojack for Laptops is an interesting way to deliver some piece of mind to IT departments and organizations who want to protect their sensitive data.

The product works well if you can ensure that you won’t be getting your laptop stolen at the airport or that you’ll allow the machine to call in each and every time it’s connected to the Internet.

I worry that on some computers the processes of calling home might mung up the works, but c’est la vie.

Ultimately, if you have $60 sitting around you might be better off buying a backup drive or a cable lock for your laptop. Lojack for Laptops seems to me to be a waste of money, but I’m very careful about my electronics. If you’re less diligent, give it a shot.

For more info, check out Absolute.com.

About Jeff Cutler

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  • George E.

    I am a police officer who worked with Absolute Software on the recovery of a stolen computer that had LoJack for Laptops embedded in the firmware. I immediately installed it in my personal laptop after we recovered the stolen computer from a janitor who had taken it. LoJack's theft recovery people are good enough that I wouldn't worry about the guarantee, because if the computer is on the internet, LoJack will be calling. Our thief even wiped the OS and reinstalled it in hopes he would defeat LoJack (he had heard of it) but unfortunately for him, he didn't know that the LoJack software has a BIOS resident "self-healing" capability. LoJack sent us keystroke logs, screen grabs and IP information that helped us seal the deal on a conviction and get the machine back. I'm a big believer. Don't rely solely on it, but it should definitely be part of your security scheme if you have important data on your machine.