Find Your Surface – How To Locate Your Tablet

Find your Surface tablet that's been lost or stolen

There’s no doubt that Surface devices are both light and portable. That’s part of what makes them such great computers for people on the go. Unfortunately, that portability also makes it easy for you to misplace your Surface or for someone else to snatch it while you’re not looking.

So, what can you do about it?

  • Be vigilant with your Surface. Don’t flash it in areas that could make you a target for theft and make sure you always put it back in the same spot when it’s not in use.
  • You can install some anti-theft tracking software onto your Surface. That way, hopefully, you can find it if it gets lost or stolen.

Find Your Surface: Anti-Theft Software Overview

Anti-theft tracking software is software that runs quietly in the background and send updates to a server regarding your Surface’s location. This allows you to log into the server and see where your Surface has last reported in. A lot of tracking software also give you additional options, such as locking the screen or deleting your files remotely.

Unfortunately, none of these programs are perfect and just because you have one installed, it’s not a guarantee you’ll be able to find your Surface in the event it gets lost or stolen. In addition, the software can only function when the device is turned on AND it has a network connection.

Finally, you should be aware that a clever or knowledgeable thief can probably disable the software, so the device can’t be tracked.

I can hear what’s going on in your head. You’re wondering “But if it’s not a guarantee, why should I bother”, right? The answer is simple: because it’s better than nothing.

You should treat it as a second chance at finding your lost or stolen Surface, nothing more. It’s not always going to work out for you but, it might get you out of a unhappy situation.

OK, now that you know about what anti-theft software is, I’m going to help you sort through the dozens of options by recommending three software for you to consider. The first (Prey) has a free version, so your “second chance” won’t cost you any money.

The second (LoJack) will cost you at least $39.95 USD a year but it’s a good and reputable program that’s been around since 2000.  In addition (if you’re in the US, Canada, or Australia) they will (partially) reimburse you if your Surface can’t be recovered – that’s a nice bonus.

While the first two options will work with Windows 8.1 (if you’ve been holding out on upgrading to Windows 10), the third option only works with Windows 10. It’s part of the Threshold 2 update Microsoft just released and brings the same “Find My Phone” functionality that Windows phones have enjoyed for some time.

OK, let’s get started…

Find Your Surface: Prey

The Prey Project (or just Prey) is an open-source and cross-platform solution that offers a free option. It has a lot of great features (some that you would only expect to find in pay-for software), such as the ability to lock the screen remotely.

Find your Surface - Prey

Click for a larger version…

Despite being a free product, it looks very attractive and is very easy to install and use. After creating an account and  installing the software on your Surface, all you have to do is visit their website from another computer to see where your device last checked in. In addition, you can also send your device a command to sound an audible alarm (it will automatically turn up the volume to max), send a text message that appears on screen, and lock the screen with a password to make it difficult to use.

I really like the alarm feature for 2 reasons:

  • If I misplaced my Surface around the house, with the alarm I can find it again. Essentially, it’s like having a friend call my phone, so I can locate it. Who hasn’t done that?
  • If it’s been stolen, you might draw attention to the thief and he/she may ditch your Surface out of fear that someone noticed them.

Here’s a list of the pros and cons for Prey:

Free Can be easily disabled by a knowledgeable thief
Easy to use Software won’t survive a device reset
See your Surface on a map The paid version is a bit expensive
Ability to send an audible alarm
Ability to send a text message to the screen
Ability to lock the computer with a special password

It’s a bit expensive but you can upgrade to a paid version (as little as $5 USD/Month) and gain the ability to remotely delete your files just in case you have something on your Surface you don’t want other people to see.


Find Your Surface: Absolute LoJack

Absolute Lojack doesn’t have a free version (though there is a free 30 day trial) but it’s generally the product IT folks think of when you mention tracking software. As said before, it will run you$39.95 USD/year but it offers a couple of unique features for the price.

For example, Lojack is difficult for a thief to remove because most newer Surface models (SP3, SP4, and Surface Books but NOT Surface 3’s) support what they call Persistence Technology. Basically, it installs a small program into the firmware which will automatically reinstall the Lojack software if someone resets or formats the device.

Find your Surface - Lojack

Click for larger version…

In addition, the company has a team of folks who, they claim, will work with law enforcement to help track down the device. These features make it more difficult for a thief to get away with stealing it.

Also, if they can’t locate your device within a set time (usually about 3 months) the company will reimburse you between $200 and $1000 depending on how old your Surface is. It’s not the same as a replacement and it’s not quick but it’s something.

Here’s a list of the pros and cons for Absolute Lojack:

Reasonably Inexpensive You have to pay extra for the Service Guarantee and it’s slow
Software will survive a device reset Only offers paid options
Easy to use No audible alarm for finding a misplaced Surface
See your Surface on a map Persistence feature doesn’t work with Surface 3 devices.
Ability to send a text message to the screen
Ability to lock the computer with a special password


Find Your Surface: Find My Device (Win 10)

Following the Threshold 2 update, assuming you’re running Windows 10, your Surface has a “Find My Device” option.

You can find it under Settings > Update & Security.

Find Your Surface- Find My Device

You can use this feature of Windows 10 track your Surface via GPS and location services, if you lose it. In addition, you can also tell Windows 10 to periodically send your Surface’s location to Microsoft. That will allow you to see its last known location.

You might be wondering why not just use this feature and not bother with the other options. Well the answer is quite simple. it does not offer the same features as the other options. So, no remote locking, wiping, or alarm. The only thing it can do is locate your device on a map.

On top of that, if a thief is knowledgeable, much like the Prey project option, he/she could wipe your device with a USB recovery drive (assuming Bitlocker is off) and simply rebuild your Surface then turn the option off under settings.

Here’s a list of pros and cons for the built-in Find My Device feature:

Free Requires Windows 10
Easy to setup Can be disabled with a device reset and some configuration changes
See your Surface on a map

So, if you’re worried about losing your Surface to theft or your’e simply tired of tearing up the house looking for it, you have a trio of options to consider.

None are a guarantee that you will be able to find a lost or stolen device but they might give you a chance.


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