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How to Find a Lost or Stolen Mac with the Find My Mac Feature

You likely care a great deal about your Mac. But like everyone else, you’re busy and distracted from time to time, and however unlikely, it’s possible that you’d leave a running Mac notebook in the back of a taxi. (C’mon, like you’re going to have a running desktop in a cab, much less leave it there.) Worse, your Mac can be stolen.

The Find My Mac feature (a variant of the similar Find My iPhone feature on Apple’s prized smartphone) increases the odds that you’ll get the lost machine back. Make sure that the feature is selected in iCloud Preferences.

Then, if your machine ever does go AWOL, just sign in to iCloud from any web browser or from the Find My iPhone app on an iPhone or iPad. Then click Find My iPhone. Yes, that’s what it is called, even though you’re on a search mission for your Mac.

In a web browser, you see a map after viewing a compass that lets you know the system is at work trying to locate your wayward machine. Each of the green droplets on the map indicates the location of one of your devices — at least, its location as close as Apple can pinpoint it.

Click the Devices button at the top center of the screen to see a list of all the devices that you’ve set up to work with Find My iPhone (or Mac and so on). With luck, the computer you’re looking for won’t be offline. If Find My iPhone finds your Mac, click the Mac in the list, which summons this window.

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Now what? How do you alert the Good Samaritan who has your machine that you want it back? Your first option is to sound an alarm on your missing Mac by clicking Play Sound. But this feature is only useful if the missing Mac is actually in your house. An alarm is useless if the person who hears it doesn’t know how to find you to return your phone.

Instead, click Lock in that window to lock the machine so that the person who has your Mac can’t look at any of your private or sensitive information. Using the keypad that appears, enter a six-digit passcode (one that you can easily remember) to unlock the computer if and when you do get it back. (You have to confirm the passcode by entering it a second time.)

After you do that, you’re given space to type an optional message that appears on the Mac’s lock screen — a message that you hope will persuade the person who has your computer to return it. Offering a reward isn’t out of the question (unless you’re dealing with a thief). Click the Lock button when you’re done typing the message. You receive a confirmation e-mail.

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If you come to the conclusion that the machine was indeed stolen or that the person who now has it has no intention of giving it back, click Erase Mac in Find My iPhone to wipe the contents and settings. Given that this step is pretty major, Apple requires you to enter your Apple ID before proceeding. Erasing the Mac can take up to a full day to complete.

You have several compelling reasons for hanging up in the cloud. The potential to retrieve a lost Mac is right up there with the best of them.

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