How To: Five Ways To Safeguard Your Mac

by Tanner Godarzi May 25, 2007

Using Password Tips More Effectively
When an account is created with a password, you’ll be prompted for a question to help you remember your password should you forget it. Now, no doubt if your Mac is stolen or lost someone will attempt to log in, that is if all your accounts are password protected. After a few failed attempts the password hint box will pop up. On my iBook I have it set up to display “If this iBook is lost or stolen please contact me at XXX-XXX-XXXX or via email, .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address).” Of course you can fill in the X’s with your number and email, but this is something that should be put on all password protected accounts due to the fact that whoever found or stole it may not get past the login prompt if you have a strong password.

Set A Firmware Password
Just as you can set a password on any account you can also set a Firmware password. Essentially what a Firmware password does is lock down your computer from those who would use it for malicious purposes. This lock prevents users from booting via an Optical Disc, NetBoot Server, Target Disc Mode, Verbose Mode, Single-user mode, and resetting your Mac’s PRAM if they do not have your Firmware Password. However this lock is vulnerable on several occasions, such as being booted in OS 9 if a user can get into your Mac. Shortcomings aside it would be incredibly useful to set up a Firmware password. Instructions are available via Apple’s Website.

Invite Them In
Chances are that the person who has your lost or stolen Mac never intended to steal anything from you. It could’ve been sold to someone who didn’t know it was stolen or they could’ve just picked it up at a mall or your work. Nonetheless, it’s useful to provide a protocol from the machine for them to reach you and get in contact so your Mac can go back where it belongs, at home. You can first set up a new user account (non-admin of course, unless you’re giving away your Mac) by venturing into System Preferences and then going into the Accounts Pane. You’ll want to name the account Guest User or something along those lines and use the first tip as well. In your new account settings you’ll want to enable Simple Finder with only a select amount of Applications like Address Book with your card in it, Mail setup with an email account that you have access to, and iChat with an AOL account that you also have access to. You can also just use Some Limits but this takes more time configuring.

Monitor And Track
So you’ve got someone in your Mac snooping around but don’t know who they are. If you’ve got a Mac with an iSight camera then you’re in luck. You can do what this fellow did and set up your Mac to take snapshots of them and upload it to Flickr. Not only can you use this to post “Wanted” posters but it could also be used to monitor who uses your Mac. In addition to this, an application worth installing would be Undercover. This app is basically Lojack for your Mac.

Physical Protection
Any methods detailed here are meant to deter and possibly retrieve your Mac from the wrong hands. However there is only so much software can do to stop a robber from taking your Mac and browsing its contents. This is where the need for Hardware protection comes in and fortunately it couldn’t be easier to do this. If you’re on the go a lot and just want to anchor down your Mac I would recommend purchasing Kensington’s MicroSaver, which can be used with any Mac. If you look around your machine you’ll notice a pill-shaped hole, this is where the lock goes and it can be used with many Macs.


  • WOW! Thanks for these tips!

    I knew about some of them but your post really goaded me into implementing them right now. Thank you! smile

    Cool 'n' Casual had this to say on May 26, 2007 Posts: 8
  • @Cool ‘n’ Casual, you’re welcome and thanks for liking the post. When I got an iBook recently and started really taking it everywhere I knew something would happen to it whether it be stolen or lost
    so I wanted to protect it as much as possible and in such an event I might get it back or not get it back but our personal data would be secure.

    Tanner Godarzi had this to say on May 26, 2007 Posts: 70
  • Is it possible to set a firmware password on Intel Macs?

    On that support article on Apple’s website they mention that “Intel-based Macintosh computers do not use Open Firmware. Thesesteps do not apply to Intel-based machines.”
    So, basically, there is no way for me to prevent someone from changing my administrator password or even format the hard disk if they have an OS X installation disc. :(

    Cool 'n' Casual had this to say on May 27, 2007 Posts: 8
  • @Cool ‘n’ Casual, it is possible to set an Open Firmware password on Intel Macs but you can troubleshoot an Open Firmware related problem the same way you would a PowerPC based Mac. PowerPC based Macs use Open Firmware and Intel based Macs use the Extensible Firmware Interface (think of this as the next generation of BIOS, this is why you couldn’t just load up Windows on Intel Macs when they first came out, BIOS and EFI are similar but very different)

    Tanner Godarzi had this to say on May 27, 2007 Posts: 70
  • Apple doesn’t address how to troubleshoot an Intel Mac with a Firmware Password. I know you can deactivate it using the utility, but what if, for some reason, you can’t get OS X to load fully? How would you troubleshoot it then?

    They give instructions for how to do it on PPC Macs, but not Intel.

    8bitrevolution had this to say on Aug 16, 2007 Posts: 1
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