TRAVEL TIP | For many business travellers, laptops – and increasingly, two-in-ones – make life on the road possible, but accidentally leaving them at airport security or in the lounge before a flight is an all too common occurrence.
What’s more, finding a device’s rightful owner is usually impossible unless that person remembers exactly where they left it and calls to check if it’s still there, but with a few small tweaks to your Windows installation, being reunited with your lost laptop can be easier than you think.
In short, you can add a custom message to your Windows login screen so that when somebody turns on your laptop to check if there’s a recognisable user name, they can also see your email address or phone number to get things moving.
Setting your custom Windows login message
There isn’t a simple, one-click way to achieve this – you’ll instead need to make minor changes to your computer’s Registry settings as we describe below.
The process is straightforward, provided you follow these instructions to the letter and aren’t tempted to change anything else.
Be warned: editing the Windows Registry is best done by advanced users, or with assistance from your employer’s IT department. Randomly experimenting with other settings has the potential to crash your laptop and render Windows inoperable, so follow these instructions exactly and close the Registry window as soon as you’re finished.
Begin by pressing Windows+R on the keyboard and enter regedit to open the special Registry Editor app. You’ll see this window:
Open the HKEY_LOCAL_MACHINE folder (third row from the top) by double clicking on it, and then look for and open the SOFTWARE folder inside HKEY_LOCAL_MACHINE.
Continue to drill down by opening the Microsoft folder, then Windows > CurrentVersion > Policies – and finally, single-click (not double-click) on the System folder.
If you’re in the right place, your screen should look like this:
Dart your eyes to the right, look for legalnoticetext and double-click it.
A text box will appear where you can enter your ‘lost laptop’ message, along the lines of: “If this laptop is found, please kindly call (your name) on (your phone number) or email (email address).”
(If you travel overseas, be sure to include Australia’s +61 country code before your phone number.)
Hit the OK button, then directly above legalnoticetext you'll spy legalnoticecaption in the list.
Double-click on this and enter anything you like as the heading – even something casual and friendly like Hello there – to create a greeting that will sit above your 'lost laptop' text.
Click OK again, close the Registry Editor and you're done.
When you next boot up Windows or log off, you'll see the message you've just created – and so will anybody who finds your laptop or tablet.
You can also follow the process above to later change your message.
To remove it entirely, do the same but delete your entries in the legalnoticetext and legalnoticecaption fields. When both of these are blank your message is no longer displayed.
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