If you carry your laptop into public places, you'll want to safeguard both the laptop itself and its data. Protecting against laptop and data theft involves a little software, a little hardware, and a lot of common sense.
First, don't travel with your laptop unless it's absolutely necessary. Before schlepping your laptop off to the coffee shop, ask yourself, do you really need to take it with you? Or can you do whatever computing you need to do at home?
If you must travel with your laptop, never leave it unattended, even briefly. A skilled crook can make off with your laptop bag even when you're sitting next to it or have it on the floor between your legs, and you won't know what happened. When you have your laptop in its case out in public, don't let go of the strap at any time.
Pay particular attention at the following locations:
Anywhere on a college campus. Laptop thieves thrive on colleges.
Anywhere related to travel and tourism, including airports, bus and train terminals, car rental offices, and hotels.
Disguise your carrying case. Thieves know what a laptop case looks like. Instead, carry it in a piece of luggage, tote bag, rucksack, briefcase, or something else.
When you arrive at your destination, lock your laptop to a desk or table by using a computer locking cable.
Mark your belongings
Etch or permanently mark the outside of your laptop with your name and phone number.
Identify your carrying case with bright tape, colorful strings, or some other unusual decoration that will make it easy to identify your bag if it goes missing. You might also affix something colorful to your laptop itself.
Record your laptop's serial number, make, and model information and keep it in your wallet so if your computer is stolen, you'll have the information for the police report.
More preventative measures
Make sure you have copies of the license keys for all your software and store it somewhere that's not on the laptop. This will make it much easier to reinstall your software if you have to get a new laptop.
Buy an external hard drive and back up your information to it regularly. If you won't remember to do this, you can buy software that automatically copies your essential files to the external hard drive.
Use LoJack or some other tracking mechanism so you'll know where your laptop has gone if it is stolen. The LoJack software relays its location to the company every 15 minutes and can pass the information to the authorities in the event your laptop is ever stolen. The company claims it recovers 75% of laptops with their software installed.
Make sure critical files are encrypted. That way, if thieves make off with your stuff, they won't be able to read your files. Also, don't forget to password-protect your laptop. You can also buy software that automatically wipes your hard drive if your laptop is stolen.