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I'm planning on getting a desktop replacement laptop (17.3" screen) to use at my computer contract jobs, since often times these places have crap equipment for contractors. Since it's a large laptop, I'd rather leave at work, so I'm looking for ideas on theft prevention. I never work anywhere shady, so I don't expect theft attempts, but I think some minimal security would be good.

I know that typical keyed Kensington locks (the round/barrel style) can be opened with a rolled up piece of cardboard or I could go with a combo lock

What makes a laptop physical lock good? What will help prevent someone from stealing it effectively?

But I'm open to ideas. If there is some other product that anyone has used that's really above and beyond, let me know. Of course I plan on installing Prey for a little post-theft recovery. :) But I'm exploring preventative options first and foremost.

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closed as not constructive by Breakthrough, Ƭᴇcʜιᴇ007, studiohack Aug 17 '11 at 5:29

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That Kensington lock you linked to is the flat key version. Reasonably well made and secure, though clearly not secure from a nice sharp bolt cutter. –  Daniel R Hicks Aug 15 '11 at 17:23

3 Answers 3

up vote 6 down vote accepted

Physical locks are a deterrent and are not a fail-safe method to prevent theft. A determined thief will always find a way to bypass physical security. Many locking mechanisms can be bypassed with a shim. There are methods of identifying the combinations for combo locks.

I dont believe a particular style of lock is necessarily better than another, it is more based on the quality of manufacturing. Did they use bump proof key locks? Are the tolerances between the bolt and the body of the lock small enough to prevent a shim from being entered by a shim? Etc.

Your best bet is adding layers of security. Software theft recovery, a security cable lock, keeping it in a safe, in a locked room away from sight, etc.

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+1 for deterrent. –  Xavierjazz Aug 15 '11 at 16:23

Not directly an answer to your question, but rather than lock my laptop to my desk I remove it from the dock, then lock it in one of my file drawers/cabinets. A typical cube has four to six locking compartments, and if you vary which one you use a thief would have quite a bit of work checking them all, plus with the computer out of sight they don't even know if you left it at work. Of course cubicle neighbors wouldn't have this problem but I still consider it a good alternative to a lock-and-cable setup.

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Yeah, unfortunately I'm in an "agile development" area that's open, and we're at tables. Contractors are not always given the luxury of desks. :) –  CaptSaltyJack Aug 16 '11 at 1:10

Combo locks are easily defeated by anyone with the patience to sit there for five minutes (or less), spinning through the combinations. And, as noted, the round-key locks have a history of being insecure. I have a Kensington flat key lock that is probably the best single-piece cable lock you're going to find for under $100 or so. No great shakes, though.

There are also (or at least, used to be) lock setups that consist of a couple of metal plates that fit into the T slot, then you lock them together (and to a cable) with a padlock.

But any cable lock can be defeated by someone with a bolt cutter, or, if the thief is so inclined, by simply breaking the laptop case or the lock T. Probably someone (I don't know who) makes a locking "dock" that the laptop slips into, making it a bit more secure.

(What I wish someone would make is a cheap anchor plate that could be bonded (with self-activating adhesive) to the bottom of a piece of furniture, then abandoned on leaving. Would be the ticket in hotel rooms.)

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