Alongside the long list of security features, such as built-in antivirus, anti-ransomware, and firewall, Windows 10 also includes "Find my device," which is a feature that allows you to locate and lock your computer in case it's lost or stolen.
If your desktop, laptop, or tablet is lost or stolen from your house, work, or a public place, even if "Find my device" isn't enabled, you can use your Microsoft account online to quickly log out any active users remotely with the ability to change the password and track down its physical location.
In this Windows 10 guide, we'll walk you through the steps to lock and track down your computer remotely using your Microsoft account to prevent prying eyes from accessing your data.
How to lock a Windows 10 device remotely
If lost, stolen, or you think your device has been compromised, you can use the following steps to lock your computer remotely:
Note: Although it may be obvious, remember that for this feature to work, the device must be connected to the internet using a Microsoft account.
- Open your Microsoft account online (opens in new tab).
- Click on Devices.
- In the "Overview" tab, click the Show details (or Manage) button for the device you want to lock.
- Click the Find my device tab.
- Click the Lock button on the top-right side.
- Click the Next button.
- Create a short message with return instructions that will appear in the Lock screen. For example, Please do the right thing. If found call this number 555-123-4567.
- Click the Lock button.
- Click the Reset password (recommended) button to change your current password if you think the account has been compromised, or click the OK button.
Once you've completed the steps, if the attempt to reach your device remotely is successful, Windows 10 will sign out any active users, disable the local users, and show your message in the Lock screen. However, administrator accounts will remain active, but any unauthorized access will be blocked.
After you recover your device, nothing will be different. You can sign in to your account with your original or with the new password that you created during the lock process.
Enabling location tracking after the device is locked
The ability to lock your device remotely is part of the "Find my device" feature on Windows 10, and if it wasn't already enabled, after the device is logged out, your Microsoft account will also give you an Enable location option to turn on the feature remotely to track down your computer.
If you're reading this guide before the unexpected happen, it's best to enable the Find my device feature on your computer when you still have access using these steps:
- Open Settings.
- Click on Update & Security.
- Click on Find my device.
- Click the Change button.
- Turn on the Save my device's location periodically toggle switch.
After completing the steps, your device will record its current location several times a day in your Microsoft account, which you can then use to determine its last known location in case it goes offline and you can no longer track its current location.
More Windows 10 resources
For more helpful articles, coverage, and answers to common questions about Windows 10, visit the following resources:
- Windows 10 on Windows Central – All you need to know
- Windows 10 help, tips, and tricks
- Windows 10 forums on Windows Central
Mauro Huculak is technical writer for WindowsCentral.com. His primary focus is to write comprehensive how-tos to help users get the most out of Windows 10 and its many related technologies. He has an IT background with professional certifications from Microsoft, Cisco, and CompTIA, and he's a recognized member of the Microsoft MVP community.
Laptops don't come with GPS
How will my laptop know its location?
It can approximate location based on known wifi locations. Open a maps app or web site on your computer and if you have enabled location services the app/site will pretty accurately place you in the correct place.
If you have WWAN, you probably will. My Panasonic has 2 GPS devices - a SiRF active GPS and the GPS from the Sierra Wireless EM7565. My Lenovos all have LTE, so they all have GPS via the EM7455 modems.
Great article. I wish W10 allowed lock screen messages natively in any context, though.
Great reminder article Thanks Mauro!
Great article. I wish W10 allowed lock screen messages <a href="http://howtosetup.us/"><b>office.com/setup</a></b>
More effective on Surface devices, but less likely to help on a laptop. Anyone stealing a Windows laptop will quickly remove the battery, then proceed to remove and format the drive. Once that's done, it's simply a case of reinstalling a clean copy of Windows and your home free. What I'm curious about though is if Microsoft registers the Windows Key as stolen so It can't be reused. Or if you can track a device by the key (if you've reported it stolen obviously). It would be pretty useful to get the hardware back if someone was silly enough to use the key.
"Device must be connected to the internet using a Microsoft Account". i.e. Your Microsoft Account. Just make sure you use a password of "password1" or other easily guessable password so the thief will log in using your account. I'd assume they booted to a USB extracted data or whole image and wiped it in the first hour unless you're fortunate enough to have your device stolen by a dummy who logs in with your unsecured account and plays an online game with it for hours.
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