How to find or lock your lost or stolen devices with Windows 10

Windows 10 has a device locating feature that makes it easier to find your Windows 10 computers and devices when they get lost. It is called Find My Device and, when it is turned on, it allows Windows 10 to regularly check and store your location and then help you find your device if you lose it or if it gets stolen. Here's how to turn it on and how to use it to find your devices with Windows 10 when they get lost or stolen:

What you need before moving forward?

To be able to recover your lost or stolen Windows 10 devices, you need to enable the Find My Device feature when everything is well, and you are using them regularly. You cannot enable this feature remotely after you have lost your device. Just like in many other cases, it pays off to be proactive.

You also need to sign in to Windows 10 using a Microsoft account. When you cannot find your device, you can use your Microsoft account to try to locate it. Without a Microsoft account, there is no way to connect back to your device, no matter if it is a Surface Pro made by Microsoft or a laptop made by HP, Dell or some other manufacturer.

To get the location, Windows 10 uses any information it can derive from the device, including the GPS chip (if any), a mobile internet connection (if available), a wired or a WiFi network connection. For the last two options to work, the internet service provider has to allow the determination of an address based on the physical connection.

How to set Find My Device on tablets, laptops and hybrid devices with Windows 10

First, you need to open the Settings app in Windows 10 (Windows + I is the fastest keyboard shortcut). Then, click or tap Update & security.

Open Update & Security in Windows 10

On the left-side column, click or tap Find My Device. On the right, you find the settings related to this feature. By default, Find My Device should be set to Off.

Find my device is turned off in Windows 10

To enable this feature, click the Change button in the Find My Device section. Then, set the switch named "Save my device's location periodically" to On.

Turn on Find my device in Windows 10

Now you can close the Settings app and resume your normal computing activities. This feature is now activated on your Windows 10 device.

How to find your device

When you need to find your Windows 10 device, open a web browser on any computer and go to account.microsoft.com/devices. Sign in with the same Microsoft account that you are using on the PC or device that you want to find. You now see a list with all your devices that use the same Microsoft account. They can be Windows 10 PCs, Surface Pro devices, laptops, tablets with Windows 10, or Xbox One consoles. For each device, you see the name you set, the device name given by its manufacturer, the serial or the IMEI (for devices with cellular connection only), as well as the operating system that you are using. On the bottom side of each device, you see a link to "Show details." Click on this link for the device that you want to find.

For our example, we used a Surface Pro.

Open the details for a Surface Pro device on your Microsoft account

Click or tap the "Find my device" link for your PC or device with Windows 10.

Find my device for a Surface Pro with Windows 10

In a couple of seconds, the Find My Device feature displays the last known location of your device and a map to help you locate it better. You should also be told when it was last located in that place.

The last location and the map for Find my device

The device you selected receives a notification that an administrator tried to locate it.

Find my device notification

If locating your device does not work, it's probably turned off, it doesn't have an internet connection available, or it has been reset by the person who has it. If your Windows 10 device has been stolen and you cannot find it, you can try to use the Lock feature, so that at least it gets remotely locked, the next time it is turned on and connected to the internet.

How to remotely lock your Windows 10 PC or device

On the same screen that helps you locate your device with Windows 10, you have the option to lock it. To get there, follow the steps from the previous section: go to account.microsoft.com/devices, click or tap Show details for the device you want to lock, and then on "Find my device." On the screen where Microsoft displays the map that shows the location of your device, you have a Lock button. Click or tap that button to remotely lock your PC or device with Windows 10.

Lock your device with Windows 10

A pop-up appears with the description of the "Lock your device" process. Click or tap Next to continue.

Lock your device process description

Next, you can add in a message that is addressed to the person that has physical access to your Windows 10 PC or device. It can be a request to return your device or an explanation of why you are locking it. Type your message and press the Lock button when you are ready.

Create a lock screen message

Microsoft locks the device remotely, and it displays a confirmation

Confirmation of the remote lock

In parallel, it sends an email message to your Microsoft account that describes the lock request.

Your account shows that you requested to lock your device

The Windows 10 PC or device is locked remotely, and your message is displayed on the screen.

Windows 10 is locked remotely, with a message shown on the screen

Did you turn on Find my device in Windows 10?

Find My Device is a welcome feature especially for laptops and tablets with Windows 10. We believe that everyone should set it up for their laptops, ultrabooks, tablets, and 2-in-1 devices (this includes devices from HP, Dell, or Lenovo, and also Microsoft Surface). You never know when you need this feature turned on and, when you need it, it can be of help. Try it out on your Windows 10 devices and let us know how well it works.