How-To OS X

Track down a lost or stolen Mac, using Find my Mac

Find My Mac is the one feature that Mac owners hope they’ll need to use, as it’s designed to help you track down a lost or stolen Mac by displaying its current GPS coordinates on a map.

Find My Mac isn’t a new feature, but it’s one that’s often overlooked, as most Mac users don’t like to dwell on the thought of their computer being stolen. Even if your Mac is insured and you’re confident that you’ll be reimbursed the cost of the actual machine, the thought of a stranger rifling through your files, folders and browsing history is a worrying one!

If you’re going to stand the best possible chance of recovering a lost or stolen Mac, then you’ll need to enable Find My Mac before your computer goes missing.

In this article, I’m going to make sure you’re prepared for the worst case scenario, by showing you how to activate Find My Mac, and then how to use it to view your Mac’s exact GPS coordinates.

Setup Find My Mac

To activate Find My Mac:

  • Select the ‘Apple’ icon from your Mac’s toolbar.
  • Select ‘System preferences > iCloud.’
  • If prompted, enter your Apple ID. If you don’t have an Apple ID, then you can create one for free.
  • Select the ‘Find My Mac’ checkbox.

If ‘Find My Mac’ is greyed out and marked with a ‘Location services is off’ label, then this means your Mac doesn’t have permission to access your location. To enable location services:

  • Find the ‘Details….’ button, which should be displayed alongside the ‘Find My Mac’ checkbox. Give this button a click.
  • In the subsequent window, click the ‘Open Security & Privacy…’ button, which launches the ‘Security & Privacy’ menu.
  • Make sure ‘Location services’ is selected in the left-hand menu, then select the ‘Privacy’ tab.
  • Select the ‘Enable location services’ checkbox, then close this window.
  • Navigate back to ‘System preferences > iCloud.’ You should now be able to select the ‘Find My Mac’ checkbox.

Track Your Mac

Hopefully, once you’ve enabled Find My Mac you’ll have no reason to think about it ever again. However, if your Mac does go missing, then you can use Find My Mac to see exactly where your Mac is – with one limitation. Find My Mac can only communicate with a Mac that’s switched on and connected to the Internet. If your Mac is currently unreachable, then instead of your Mac’s location, Find My Mac will display a ‘Notify me when found’ checkbox. Select this checkbox, and Find My Mac will notify you when it does locate your Mac, which will typically be the next time your Mac connects to the Internet.

Assuming that your Mac is currently switched on and connected to the World Wide Web, you can check its current whereabouts via iCloud:

  • Open a web browser on any Internet-connected device.
  • Head over to and log into your iCloud account, by entering your Apple ID and password.
  • Select ‘Find iPhone.’
  • Open the ‘Devices’ dropdown, and select your missing Mac.
  • After a few moments, your Mac should appear on the map.

In addition to revealing your Mac’s whereabouts, the Find My Mac page contains a few additional options:

  • Play sound. Maybe you’re a bit of a messy person, or perhaps your housemate thinks that hiding your Mac is a hilarious prank, but if Find My Mac reveals that your missing laptop is actually within earshot, then you can use this feature to play a sound through your Mac’s speakers.
  • Lock. Find My Mac can help keep your information and files safe from prying eyes, by locking your Mac remotely. If you select this feature, then you’ll also have the option to display a message on the lockscreen, for example you might display your contact details so that anyone who finds your Mac has a way of getting in touch with you. If your Mac has been stolen, then displaying a lockscreen message that makes it clear that this is stolen property can prevent the thief from being able to sell your Mac.
  • Erase Mac. If it seems unlikely that you’re ever going to see your Mac again, or if your Mac contains particularly sensitive information, then you may want to play it safe and remotely wipe your Mac. If you select ‘Erase Mac,’ then you’ll need to enter your Apple ID and password, and create a passcode that you can use to unlock your Mac, if you do manage to recover it.

My Mac is missing and I didn’t enable Find My Mac!

If you’ve arrived at this article because you’re searching for advice on how to recover a Mac that doesn’t have Find My Mac enabled, then the bad news is that there’s no way to enable this feature remotely. However, you can perform some damage limitation:

  • Change your Apple ID password. Make sure that whoever has possession of your Mac doesn’t also have access to your various Apple accounts and services, such as iTunes, Messages, and iCloud, by changing your Apple ID password. To change your password, sign into your Apple ID account, click the ‘Change password…’ link and follow the onscreen instructions.
  • …and then change every other password. Most of us have multiple passwords saved on our Macs, so if there’s a chance that your laptop has fallen into someone else’s hands, then you should change every single password that’s stored on your Mac. This includes social media sites such as Facebook and Twitter, streaming websites like Netflix, and any websites that have access to your credit or debit card information, such as Amazon, eBay and PayPal.

Selling your Mac?

If you’ve decided to sell your Mac or pass it onto a friend or family member, then ideally you should wipe your Mac and restore its factory settings.

If you aren’t wiping your Mac, then at the very least you should remove it from your Find My Mac list:

  • Select the ‘Apple’ logo from the toolbar.
  • Navigate to ‘System Preferences > iCloud.’
  • Deselect the ‘Find My Mac’ checkbox.

Before you go

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About the author


I've been a passionate evangelist for Apple and the Macintosh throughout my working life, my first love was a Quadra 605 working with a small creative agency in the south of Norfolk UK in the mid 1990's, I later progressed to other roles in other Macintosh dominated industries, first as a Senior graphic designer at a small printing company and then a production manager at Guardian Media Group. As the publishing and printing sector wained I moved into Internet Marketing and in 2006 co-founded which grew to become one the top 200 visited sites in the US (according to Quantcast), at its peak receiving over 15 million visits per month. For the last ten years I have worked as an Affiliate and Consultant to many different business and start ups, my key skill set being online marketing, on page monetisation, landing page optimisation and traffic generation, if you would like to hire me or discuss your current project please reach out to me here.

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