Symantec's solution comes with a free eight-day demo. In practice, the other solutions all work similarly (Ed.: I've used Absolute Software's, and it is indeed very much like what's illustrated here).
First things first. You have to sign up for Norton's Anti-Theft service. This easily integrated with my existing account, which I admittedly had forgotten about. After signing up, you download the Norton Anti-Theft package and install the software. Then, you see the following confirmation message:
From your Anti-Theft account page, you can see the laptop's current location on a map.
As an aside, the device that shows up in Milpitas, California is actually located down the freeway in Mountain View, California, about four city blocks from Symantec's global headquarters. The desktop we're testing doesn't have a GPS receiver or cellular card in it, so the service is likely tracing our machine to a broadband service provider's facility.
With the system protected, and assuming you lose it (or just want to test the service's functionality), you can log in to your Norton account and lock the device remotely.
At this point, you get to create a lock code and type in a personal message, if you want. The default notification assumes your machine is in the hands of a do-gooder; it requests that they turn the machine into police. You can also customize the message a bit, depending on your humor or angst.
You can then use the same map view to track your machine. In the example below, it shows up as Missing and Online.
Within about 45 seconds, my "lost" machine (which I was logged into), suddenly logged out of Windows and displayed the following message:
I verified that this worked locally, and by checking through Windows 7's remote desktop functionality. The lock screen conveys the default message you specified, plus a space to enter a PIN created on the website. Fortunately, I remembered the PIN and removed the Symantec lock myself.
The high-point of Anti-Theft is its ability to lock down potentially vulnerable assets using a Web-based service. Consequently, it's an effective deterrent for any would-be criminal who knows what Anti-Theft does. Hopefully, he or she will move on to the next unprotected notebook without the security feature. Of course, the same smart crook might also know that staying off a network prevents the Anti-Theft service from reaching it. In that case, you're able to set up a trigger whereby the passage of time without a check-in automatically locks the machine.
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