A Complete Guide to Protect MAC & Avoid Data Loss.

Last Updated: March 11, 2017

Sometimes bad things may happen. Be cautious and make sure you took necessary steps to retrieve your MAC if you lose it. There are two things you are going to lose if somebody stole your MAC. First, you’re wasting your MAC that may cost you more than 1000 bucks including the hardware and the apps.

The second thing is data lost. Your data have always been precious to you and you can’t buy those with money. This data may have your private information, bank details, credit card information, passwords, etc.

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The entire loss may be catastrophic that may take months to recover back. The situation may get worse if these things guide to any identity theft.

The best solution, be always prepared for the worst. There are a few workarounds that you can apply on your MAC to protect your Data and may help to retrieve back your MAC.

Set Custom Lock Message on MAC

A custom Lock Screen Message may be the saint when you lost your MAC. You can provide a return address or a call back number on the lock screen that may help the good Samaritan to return your lost MAC. Just in case if somebody has stolen your MAC, they can’t replace this custom message if you already protected your MAC with a firmware password.mac Lock Screen Message

To add custom lock screen message, go to System Preferences > Security & Privacy > General > Click Pad Lock to Disable > Check Show a message when the screen is locked. You will get a pop-up window where you can add your custom lock screen message; more details can be found on Apple KB article.

Turn On Find my Mac

Make sure you turned on Find My Mac on your MAC computer. Find My Mac will help you to track your device if you lost it. Also, please make sure you used the right iCloud account for Find My Mac feature and you have access to that iCloud account. You have to log in some other device using this cloud account to track your MAC. Please refer detailed guide  How to turn on Find my MAC.

Install A MAC Theft Protection App

There are more Mac tracking apps those are powerful with nice features just in you lost your MAC. These tracking apps are just an additional layer of tracking power for your lost MAC. Most of these apps like hidenapp (paid version) and prey (open source) can track your device, send screen shots and selfies of the intruder to you. If you own Android phone, please see Android Apps to Take Intruder Snap and Send by Email

Add A Firmware Password for MAC

When you setup your MAC, there is a password to unlock your MAC to open your user account. Firmware password is different from this that protect your entire MAC operating system. Once you set this firmware password, nobody will be able to boot your MAC without entering this password.

This is very critical when you lost your MAC. The thief needs the firmware password to get into recovery mode and install a fresh copy of MAC OS. Typically, nobody can alter your MAC OS, Find My MAC Setting or even the custom lock message without knowing this firmware password. This capability extends the possibility to retrieve your MAC with Find my MAC or other Theft Protection Apps. Please refer more details for Use a firmware password on your MAC.

Rule of thumb: make sure you are using a different Firmware password from login password. Always note down and keep this password, it is tough to retrieve your MAC once you lost this firmware password.

Use FireVault to Encrypt MAC Disk:

This is to protect your MAC local disk data. FireVault encrypts your entire drive, so nobody can retrieve the data from your disk without knowing firmware password.

mac-osx-filevaultApple’s FileVault full-disk encryption (FileVault 2) uses XTS-AES-128 encryption with a 256-bit key helping prevent unauthorized access to the information on your startup disk. Please turn on FireVault from System Preferences > Security & Privacy > FireVault tab > Turn on FireVault. Please refer the documentation from Apple to use FireVault encryption on your MAC.

Keep a Separate Admin & User Password

Your Admin password has a lot of power. Do not set the same password for the user password that you use to login into your MAC account. MAC will authorize anybody with the Admin password to change the user password, reveal the passwords that saved in the Safari Keychain. If somebody has your MAC in their possession and guesses your Admin password, they can see all of your online account passwords that you saved in Safari Keychain. Here is the guide from Apple to Change or reset the password of a MAC OS user account.

Use Time Machine Backup

Get an external Hard Disk and back up your Mac using time machine at least once in a week. Always keep this external disk as encrypted (and in a secured place. You can retrieve your entire data and apps to a new MAC using this time machine backup file.

mac-time-machineTime Machine is an extra security measure to recover your data if something happens to your MAC hard disk. You can refer here more about using Time Machine to back up or restore your Mac.

Use Cloud Backup for Extra Backup

Nowadays, cloud storage is very cheap. You can get 100GB cloud storage for less than two bucks. It is a good practice to store a copy of all your important documents, photos and video files in the cloud.

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You can depend on iCloud, Dropbox or Google Drive to save your data online for a very low price. This document from Apple shows you how to Add your Desktop and Document files to iCloud Drive.

These steps are essential to protect your local data that already have on your MAC. If you don’t protect data on your MAC hard disk, you may end up in a potential loss of both your MAC and tons of private information that you save on the drive. The workaround explained above will help to secure your local data from the hands of thief even your MAC got stolen.

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