Find My Mac allows you to find any Apple device that has gone missing, by simply logging into iCloud. It lets you locate a lost Mac from another device using the Find My iPhone web app on icloud.com or the Find My iPhone app on an iOS device. But you have to enable it first. We explain how to find a stolen Mac.
How to enable Find My Mac on your MacBook
First we'll tell you what to do before your MacBook is stolen (we're not saying it's going to be stolen, by the way, we have no inside knowledge). Every MacBook user should do this. Do it now.
You may have already enabled Find My Mac if you set up a free iCloud account to use with your Mac (if you are using iCloud it may even be enabled by deault). Here's how to check.
Head to System Preferences and open up the iCloud pane. If you are already logged in to iCloud, simply ensure you've selected the Find My Mac checkbox.
Alternatively from this screen you can now either log in to an existing iCloud account of create a new one and then log in. Either way it is free. Once you've turned on Find My Mac you're good to go. Now we'll show you what to do if your MacBook is stolen or missing presumed stolen. (See also: what to do if your Mac is stolen, and how to find it if it is.)
How to use Find My Mac to trace your MacBook
Okay. You feel sick to the pit of your stomach because you know, you just know, that your MacBook has been stolen. Take a deep breath. Here's what to do:
First up, call the police. They're the experts. They will work with you on this, and can advise you on how to use the powers given to you by Find My Mac. But they will dissuade you from going vigilante. And that is good advice.
But you can track your Mac via iCloud.com or using the Find My iPhone app on your iPad or iPhone. Despite the name Find My iPhone can be used to trace any Apple device that uses iCloud and has been set up as explained above.
You need to log in to Find My iPhone or iCloud, either by launching the app on iPhone or iPad, or by signing in to iCloud via the internet at iCloud.com. Either way, you can now click the Find My iPhone button.
You'll now see a list of all the findable iPhones, iPads and Macs associated with your account, hopefully including your missing MacBook. Just below each device will be the location it was last seen. If you see green dot next to a device name it means that Find My iPhone located it. A grey dot means your How to trace a stolen MacBook is offline or could not be found. Read next: Macbook 12in 2016 release date article.
If your MacBook has been found by Find My Mac you will be able to view it on the map, switching between Map, Satellite, and Hybrid views. Unlike an iPhone or iPad you can't see previous locations however - it's just a snapshot of where is your device right now. That's not ideal, but it's better than nothing. And if it is close by you may find that your friendly local plod is happy to take you around looking for it. (If it is in your front room, you may have just lost your MacBook down the back of the sofa. Awks.)
How to use Find My Mac to get your laptop back
Here's what you can do from the map view using the icons at the bottom of the page: you can remotely lock your MacBook ('Lost mode'), force your MacBook to play a sound or even erase its entire contents. The latter may be critical if your MacBook contains critical data. Every time you do one of these things you'll receive an email giving details.
If you opt to remotely lock your MacBook (or any of the other devices) it will shut down and set a four-digit passcode of your choosing. It won't then reboot without the correct passcode.
Playing a sound is useful if you have just lost your MacBook and want to locate a thief as he or she makes an exit, or even if you have lost it in the house somewhere. Choose this option and your MacBook will emit a loud high-pitched alert when next it connects to the web.
The final option is Erase Mac. This feature lets you securely erase all data and settings from your Mac. It also sets a four-digit passcode that lets you regain access to your Mac if you ever recover it. We should also mention that any actions you take will automaically send you an email (to your associated Apple ID email address) to inform you of what your Find My iPhone has taken. See also: How to use Find my iPhone in iOS 7.
What to do if Find My Mac can't see your laptop
All of the actions outlined above can still be undertaken even if Find My Mac can't access your laptop. They'll just happen when the MacBook is next online. If you wish only to receive an email notification when your Mac does come online again, select the 'Notify me when found checkbox'.
Good luck! Read next: MacBook 2016 Pro release date.