Use Dropbox to Track Down Your Lost or Stolen Computer

Published On April 30, 2013 | Electronics

Dropbox is a free cloud storage service that allows users to automatically sync files with multiple computers, mobile devices and tablets. With Dropbox, users can take their files anywhere. But what makes Dropbox even more attractive is its ability to locate lost or stolen computers. Forget C.S.I., Dropbox puts the power of detective work right in a user’s hands.

The Crime Scene

Imagine this possible scenario: You are out with friends at your favorite coffee shop. After spending an hour or two deeply engaged in conversation regarding important world events, it is time to leave. None of you realize that you have left behind your computer; and none of you notice the shady gentleman seated in the corner who snatches up your computer the minute your back is turned.

What to do? If you have Dropbox installed on your device, locating your computer is as simple as visiting the Dropbox website.

The Hunt is On

Once you have signed on to the Dropbox website, go to the top right corner and click on the down arrow next to your name. Select “Settings” and on the next screen, click on “Security.” This will take you to yet another screen where you will see a list of devices associated with your Dropbox account. Choose the one in question and hover over the small blue icon under “Most Recent Activity.” If the device is online, this will give you the IP address of its current location.

Now that you have the IP address, locating the device is as easy as entering that address into an IP address locater (use http://whatismyipaddress.com/ip-lookup or you can Google “IP address lookup”). Doing this will provide you with an approximate physical location of your device, namely the city and state, but it will also return longitude and latitude coordinates that will allow you to more accurately pinpoint the location of your device.

It’s not unlike the apps which allow users to track down a lost iPad or iPhone.

In a perfect world, you would not have your computer stolen. But we don’t live in a perfect world and there are many individuals who, when given the right opportunity, will not hesitate to deprive you of your possessions. With Dropbox, not only can you protect your files in the cloud, you can do the detective work the police are not likely to do for you.  Remember, though, it is probably best to have law enforcement handle the actual confrontation and return of your device.

— By Rich Seward

Rich Seward is an instructional designer and freelance writer living in the Denver, CO area with his wife, dog and two cats. An avid reader, his interests include technology, philosophy, mythology, history, and a range of other subjects. He holds a Master’s Degree in Library and Information Science with an emphasis in Archival Studies

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