Keeping Your Mac Secure: 4 Great Theft-Recovery Apps

Last summer, my MacBook was stolen. It had no protection, no password, no data encrypted, and the thief had access to all of my emails through I even found out that the thief, or the subsequent buyer of my beautiful Macbook, had been using my Instapaper account to bookmark his own webpages! (I have changed my password since).

After that horrible experience was over and I had my new Macbook, some of the first things that I did with it were increase its security, and look into theft-recovery apps.

Anti-theft apps, or theft-recovery apps, provide you with useful information, like location and IP address, once your computer gets lost or stolen. Some even give you access to your computer’s webcam, and a few take care of the whole recovery process of your Mac.

Keep on reading to see some of our favorite apps!



Hidden is one of the fancier options in the market. Once you buy your license, it gives you access to a webpage where you can track all the computers that you’ve registered; and if they are ever stolen, you have to tell their website about it.

The next time it’s online, Hidden will gather information about its location and it will even give you access to periodic updates from your iSight, as well as screenshots of what the thief has been doing.

Want to know what’s even better? The developer is giving away free licenses until January, 2011, as a Christmas promotion.

Price: $20 / Free until January, 2011.
Requires: OS X 10.5 or greater
Developer: Flipcode



Undercover is probably the most well known anti-theft app for Macs. It’s also the most expensive option, but it sure is worth its price.

Undercover is sort of a set-it-and-forget-it app. You buy a license, set the program up on your Mac and then forget it is there; that is, until your computer gets stolen. If it ever is stolen, you need to tell Undercover’s service, and once they start collecting information, they will even take care of giving it to the police, and working with them together to find your precious computer.

Apparently, they usually are successful at recovering stolen Macs, but if they don’t, Undercover will make your computer go into a “false failure” status where the screen will go blank, forcing the thief to take it to an Apple Store or similar, where they will be alerted that they are dealing with a stolen computer.

And if that fails, they will give you back the money you paid for the app. While it is expensive, Undercover makes it more likely that you will recover your Macbook effortlessly.

Price: $49
Requires: OS X 10.4 or greater
Developer: Orbicule


Prey is an open-source app that works across various platforms, and brings the same functionality to all of them: recover lost or stolen devices. It has all the features that Undercover and Hidden have: screenshots, snapshots, location tracking, and even a lock-down feature, so that the thief doesn’t get access to your important information.

Once your device gets stolen, you have to report it to the website so they can start collecting information. You can then check data through the site, or have it sent to your mail, depending what you chose during the installation.

Prey may not be made specifically for Mac, but it is a very solid, functional free alternative.

Price: Free
Requires: OS X 10.4 or greater
Developer: Fork


Gadgettrak Laptop

Gadgettrak Laptop works very much like any other anti-theft app. You set up the client, and if your computer gets stolen, you report it, they track it, and send you the information they gathered. However, for what it does its price is a bit high.

Compared to Hidden, it has the same features for almost double the price. And while Undercover is pricier than Gadgettrak Laptop, Undercover takes care of filing all the reports and working with the police to get your computer back.

According to their website, this app has received coverage on numerous media outlets like Wired and Engadget, and while it sure seems like it does its job well, it’s on the pricey side.

Price: $34.95 per year
Requires: OS X 10.5 or greater
Developer: Gadgettrak


Recovering your stolen laptop is bound to be hard, even with these sort of apps, but they sure make it easier for you to track down your thief. Their downside is that in order for them to work, the thief needs to connect your computer to a network, so that the app can detect that the computer has been stolen and that it should send info to their service.

If you need a password to access your computer and you want to use these apps, I’d recommend that you setup a guest account, to make it easier for the thief to access an internet connection. You should also setup a firmware password, so that it’s harder for the thief to reinstall the OS, wiping everything in your hard drive, including the theft-recovery app.

That being said, it’s definitely better to have one of these apps than not. You should definitely take five minutes out of your day to install a free alternative like Prey, but if you want to be more serious about it, I’d totally recommend you to go all the way with Undercover or Hidden, both great alternatives at different prices.

Undercover is pricier, but it makes the recovery of your laptop more likely; and while Hidden is cheaper, you will deal with reporting everything to the authorities yourself.

Whatever you choose, or if you have another alternative that you would like to share, we want to hear it in the comments!