Editor's Blog: What Susie Learned From Having Her MacBook Pro Stolen

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Editor's Blog: What Susie Learned From Having Her MacBook Pro Stolen


To the person who smashed the rear passenger-side window of my faithful Impreza, Joey JoJo Junior Subaru, and grabbed my backpack from the backseat: You suck. Yeah, you got my 15-inch MacBook Pro, which I hadn't yet named but only because it was too new, not because my affections for it were any less than for my dear Joey JoJo. You got the headphones I'm reviewing for our May issue. You got the rest of the random detritus floating around inside a worn-out pack I've been carrying nearly every day for years. (Enjoy the sunscreen, ponytail holders, and Planters Heat Peanuts!) But you'll never claim my unbreakable spirit.


To the rest of you law-abiding citizens reading this right now: Heed the following lessons, and when These Things Happen to you, it won't wreck your day, either.


1. Get insurance. I have comprehensive on the car, as well as renter's insurance for the apartment. So this will be fully covered. In fact, since I chose "full replacement value" (as opposed to "actual cash value," click the link above for more) on the renter's policy, I shouldn't be out any cash besides the deductible. Don't have renter's? GET IT. Today. It's extremely affordable. Yes, your landlord has his own insurance on the building, but that policy only covers the actual building, not your stuff. And your car insurance may not cover personal items stolen from the car—mine doesn't. If I didn't have renter's, I'd be high and dry, with no option for replacing my MacBook Pro except to suck it up and pay for a new one. Twenty-five hundred bones (or clams, or whatever you call them) can buy a lot of burritos. You can never have too many burritos, or too much insurance. Trust me.


2. File away receipts and photos of your valuables. This seems like common sense, but you'd be surprised. If you paid enough for something that you could see yourself filing an insurance claim if it was ever cruelly taken from you, save the receipt. Take a picture. If you live in an area where you're more concerned about natural disasters (floods, earthquakes, etc.), you might want to keep copies of all of this in two places. But in any case, being organized will speed up the reimbursement process later, and help you get the full amount you're entitled to for your stuff. I've got the original receipt for the MacBook Pro in front of me right now, serial number and all. Which bring us to...


3. Write down the serial numbers! Yep, it's helpfully stored in Mac OS X's System Profiler. Doesn't help much when the computer is stolen, does it? If you have the serial number when you file the police report, the officers can notify local pawn shops and there's a chance (a slim one, but still) that your stuff can be recovered.


4. Don't tempt fate in the first place. When I came into the office this morning and shared the news with my coworkers, of course they were highly sympathetic and kind. BUT they couldn't help pointing out (bless them) that had I taken more care, the incident might not have happened in the first place. True, it does no good to sit here and "what if" all day. But honestly? I know better than to leave a backpack sitting in the back seat of my car, even if it was only parked on the street for an hour, in the daylight no less. Be smart. Take an extra second to consider your surroundings and don't dismiss rational fears as "I'm just being paranoid."


5. Back it up. Computers can always be replaced. The data they contain? Not so much. Unless you back up, of course. Most of the stuff on my hard drive had been backed up to my iDisk automatically, so I only lost about a day's worth of work. (And if you knew how little work I actually do in a day—HA HA, JUST KIDDING, LESLIE!) Could you survive a complete loss of everything on your hard drive? Back that puppy up!


6. Keep it in perspective. The first time I had a laptop stolen, when my college apartment was robbed, I was borderline devastated. I felt violated, angry, terrified, a virtual rainbow of crappy emotions. After the insurance wound up getting me a better laptop anyway, I felt dumb for getting so worked up. (Who gets that attached to an entry-level Compaq Presario anyhow?! That thing was a hunk of JUNK!) Yeah, it's a hassle to have to file an insurance claim, wait for a settlement, replace the computer, blah blah blah. But no one was hurt. The car wasn't stolen. The stereo was untouched, as was the iPod attached to it by a cable but mostly hidden from view, tucked under the driver's seat. It could have been worse. And while we Mac-lovin' types can get pretty attached to our gorgeous machines, in the end, it's still just a machine. Plus, what well-insured, well-backed-up, well-organized Mac user wouldn't relish the chance to upgrade to the newest and fastest version of his Mac Of Choice? Maybe it's better that I didn't name the laptop after all. So long, buddy, and thanks for all the clicks.


I'll keep you posted on how long it takes for me to get a new 'puter. Meanwhile, if you're in the Lower Haight and someone offers to sell you a MacBook Pro out of the back of his van or something, kick him in the jewels for your old pal Susie.




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This article could not have come at a better time. I just ordered a new 17" MBP a few days ago. This article has great advice!



This reminds me of a story about how many laptops are stolen from airports and other public places. People ether set their laptop down and the thief makes off with it. Or people run their laptop thru baggage and someone takes their luggage with laptop inside. Anyway it seems thieves are everywhere. I tried to sell a laptop on ebay a few years ago and the transaction seemed above board. Then after the buyer had the laptop and I had my money in my PayPal account. The buyer cancelled the transaction through his credit card linked to PayPal. Even though I had a UPS signature it was not specific signature of buyer. So PayPal would not insure it, I had no laptop and no money. Needless to say, I require a specific signature now on every transaction. It's too bad that people just can't make a honest living and buy something outright. No they have to assume you can afford to buy another one so that they can hock it for drugs or something.
I like these programs that allow you to disable the laptop from a internet connection if it's stolen. I just wish you could send a personal message to the thief before you do.



I can totally sympathize. I feel like my MacBook Pro has been stolen by Apple for 2 weeks now... at least it is backed up, but I sent it in for repairs and it is on hold for a part. I'm going nuts without it. I can only imagine the headaches/heartbreak/etc of being without when you couldn't plan for it.



Isn't it possible to track a laptop's MAC address??? There must be some way of tracing it...



I had my Power Mac G5 stolen out of my house about a month ago. The G5 and an external hard drive were the only things taken. I had a good amount of work backed up on the external hard drive in case the G5 died (yeah right). I didn't ever consider the thing being stolen. The thing that makes no sense is that they didn't take anything else. I mean I am thankful that they didn't take anything else, but there was a $2,000.00 video camera sitting right next to the computer and it was left untouched. It actually still bugs me that it was taken. I've already filed my claim with my insurance and they have been awesome in their response, it's just up to me to purchase my new Mac Pro, I'm actually hesitating just a bit to see what new announcements come about. I don't like that I had my kids pictures on the computer and a bunch of creative work that I had done for myself and for others. My computer was very personal to me and since I used it for so many things, it kind of feels as though people are still going through my stuff.



That's the best name for a car I have ever heard. "Joey JoJo Junior Subaru." I would like to hear Sarah Vowel say it!



you left a backpack AND a cable running out of your stereo to an ipod in plain view near HAIGHT!!!????!!!

not to be mean, but i couldve seen that one coming. hope you learned.



I agree in recommending LoJack - unless you don't want your stolen Mac to communicate directly to the Police department's tracking hardware... In that respect, LoJack is a bit too 'Big Brother' for me... And the Police are pretty busy anyway...

Undercover (by Orbicule) does pretty much the same thing as LoJack; EXCEPT the recovery info is being sent from your stolen Mac to Orbicule; A privately-held company.

The genius of these apps are in the capability to use the built-in iSight to take pics of the thief and transmit them - How satisfying to have surveillance evidence so the bastard can hopefully spend at least ONE night in jail.

The third is the Kensington cable-lock device with renewable 1 yr insurance/warranty (about $65 for the lock and first yr.) Just cable-lock your Mac and you're covered wherever you are - yes, in your car, at Starbucks, home, work, etc. If your Mac gets stolen, you must file a Police Report for the incident and Kensington will disburse $1500 to you.



Lojack for laptops software doesn't communicate directly to any police force. The software notifies the LoJack call center of the computer's location the next time the computer connects to the internet after you have reported the theft to LoJack. The center then contacts the local police who can get a search warrant based on the information provided. Nothing Big Brother about it. Catches bad guys or people who've purchased stolen property. A number of laptop manufacturers now build this product directly onto the bios so it cannot be disabled even if hard drive is replaced. Who wants to watch a bad guy through the iSight camera?



LoJack for Laptops also works on desktops in case you're worried about your iMac walking off. On the basis of locating stolen computer, local police can get search warrant.



Check out Undercover at http://www.orbicule.com/ - uses the built-in isight to show you who is using you stolen laptop.

Computrace laptop lojack also works.



one more thing.....add a product called "lojack for laptops" I believe its a software and a subscription service.Sold at your local Apple store and other fine establishments. The software hides on your hard drive and when it is stolen you report it to the lojack call center. When the laptop connects to the internet it secretly says "hi, here I am, I'm at this address" to the call centre. The call center contacts the local police and.....faster than you can say donuts and coffee the police are knocking at the door of your kidnapped laptop. I haven't read any reviews on this product - might be a worthwhile and timely review.



Hi Susie.
I'm a new subscriber to ML but I could't understand better.
I had my ibook stolen at my house last summer (along with my flat panel tv, my new canon scanner and all my cds. . .) but I tried to keep things in perspective. Maybe I'm more rational than my wife, but it did'nt hurt me that much afer a few hours of reflexion and a reinforced the doorjamb. My data was backed secure in my basement Mac (good old beige G3) that the burglars left in place, probably out of sheer laziness, the thing is so huge! But, as a reader replied, my system was password protected so that probably gave some hard time to the bad guys, especially when you know that a glistening white ibook would have looked strangely suspicious and out of place among the drab crowd of PCs in most of the pawn shops, at least in Québec!
So: after all, I got a brand new Macbook that is still password protected and stored away in a drawer when I'm out.




Whilst I empathise with your loss, I wish you luck in your insurance claim. My insurance policy specifically excludes claims if you leave your possessions on view in the back of a car.

Makes sense really.




I saw a piece of software in an Apple store called "Laptop Lojack"


Is this worth the $50 a year investment?? I guess if your baby is taken it absolutely is.

sorry for your loss



I also live in a bad neighborhood apartment, and I'm always afraid of comin home and finding my stuff gone. I didn't realize Renter's insurance was that easy to get! Going to look into it next week. Thanks, and sorry for the losses! :D



I think im going to request some rental insurence and get my laptop stolen!
Its time for a new one!



IF you have your MAC OFF with boot password required or sleeping with wake only on password and IF you have the Tiger 10.4 File Vault ON your data may be safe. Not nice to have all your history, records, bank accounts, tax returns, and documents which are in the computer easily read by the thief. If you you let your browser store passwords (Firefox!) and someone gets your computer, they get it all . . .



I recently had both my Macbook and iBook stolen when someone broke into my apartment. Luckily, I also have renters insurance (full replacement value) and had an external hard drive with all my stuff backed up on it. You're exactly right about being angry at first, but I already replaced the Macbook with a new Core 2 Duo Macbook and will probably replace the iBook with an iMac. Glad everything worked out for you.

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