A teacher from DeSoto High School in Texas, knowing she would be out of the classroom on school business for the day on Friday, April 17, hid her laptop in her desk drawer. When she returned to school later that afternoon, she went to retrieve the laptop—only to discover that it was missing. But thanks to a PC tracking program from Absolute Software of Vancouver Brtitish Columbia, school officials were able to recover the machine just 20 minutes after it was reported stolen.

As mobile computers become an increasingly standard part of K-12 instruction, schools are looking for ways to protect their technology investments. Absolute claims that its ComputracePlus program is the first software-and-service solution to enable the recovery of lost or stolen PCs almost instantly.

This was the first laptop to disappear since the DeSoto Independent School District, a southern Dallas County district that encompasses 20 square miles and serves 7,100 students, selected ComputracePlus a year and a half ago to safeguard approximately 1,000 laptops. Jim Cockrell, the district’s executive director of technology services, said the decision already is paying off.

“In the first two months of our laptop deployment program … we had about four or five machines go missing, and that was just unacceptable for us,” Cockrell said. “Our leadership team [agreed] that ComputracePlus was the most appropriate approach to protecting our laptops, so we got the funding and moved on it.”

After ComputracePlus is installed on a PC’s hard drive, the software-tracking agent silently calls into Absolute’s monitoring center in Vancouver on a scheduled basis each time a user logs onto the internet. If a Computrace-equipped PC is reported lost or stolen, its location can be traced, and Absolute works with law enforcement officials to recover the asset. The software reportedly survives efforts to delete it—even if the thief were to reformat the hard drive.

The physical location of a stolen PC is discovered using two important technologies: Automatic Number Identification (ANI), which allows the company to identify the phone number and corresponding street address of any call location in North America, even unlisted numbers and those equipped with Caller ID blocking; and Internet Protocol (IP) address, which is a unique fingerprint for every PC at the time of communication. When a stolen PC’s IP address is captured by the Absolute monitoring center, it is traced to the owner of that IP domain. The recovery officer then contacts the domain’s administrator to determine who is using the stolen computer.

To date, approximately 2,000 customers rely on ComputracePlus to track and locate lost or stolen PCs. Absolute says it has recovered 95 percent of the computers reported lost or stolen to its monitoring center.