Prey is a lightweight, open-source software that lets owners keep track of their phones and laptops. This app will also let you find your mobile devices if they ever get lost or stolen. Here’s a story, just this May, about a missing laptop and how the owner retrieved it by using Prey (and Twitter too).

Download Prey from the preyproject website and install it on your device. It’s cross-platform – supports Mac, Windows, and Linux. Install the software and create your Prey account. After the installation, visit your Prey account control panel by logging in to the website. Here’s my control panel:

Sample Device

Registered device

You’ll see that you’re machine is now being tracked. If you’re device is stolen or is missing, just log in to your control panel and click on your device name. From there, you can inform the Prey website that your device is missing, set the frequency of Prey reports to your email, get your device’s current location (geolocation), turn the webcam on, grab a screenshot, etc.

Prey Control Panel

Prey Control Panel

After saving the changes just wait for reports on your email which you may use to track down your device. If you have problems about the software, preypoject’s support page is a good place to look for solutions.


I tested Prey and set my registered device’s state to missing.

Missing Device

Device declared missing

After 10 minutes of waiting, I got an email from Prey about the missing laptop. I waited for its second report and here’s the screenshot (notice that I’m already using a Windows 7 machine while the subject device is a  MacBook Pro):

Prey report screenshot

Spongebob took my laptop!

There’s the webcam shot of the person who has the laptop, a screenshot of what he’s doing, details about the current IP address, logged user, and the machine’s uptime. Those would help tracking down the missing device.