GPS-tracking devices for tracing stolen caravans have been available for some time, but did you know that you could do something similar for your laptop?

Prey Project is a service that installs a small, invisible program on your Mac or Windows laptop (it works on desktop computers, too) to secretly monitor its location.

If the laptop is then stolen and connected to the internet, the Prey Project web site can access the laptop to see what the thief has been up to, pinpoint its position using various location-tracing tools, send a message that pops up on-screen and even snap a photo using a built-in web cam.

Such a service hit the headlines recently after a MacBook laptop was stolen in the US. The owner had set up a service similar to Prey and was able to snap some photos of the person who had it and, via his email address, find out where he worked. The police then arrested the alleged thief and the laptop was returned to its rightful owner.

Prey is free to use on up to three computers and, once installed, can be forgotten about until you need to make use of it. The free service is rather limited in its ability to trace a lost laptop, but you can sign up to the paid service ($5/£3) at any time should the worst happen.

[tl:movies size=469×264]

[Prey Project]