Thanks to modern slim and portable laptops, we can take our computers with us anywhere we want to go. It only takes a second to close the lid and throw it in a bag, making our digital lifestyle more convenient than it ever has before.
Unfortunately, this comes with a trade-off. If your laptop allows you to grab and go with a moment’s notice, this means that a thief can do the same. Whether you’re trying to set up a laptop for public use or keeping your own tech secured in the workplace, a laptop locking cable is a quick and easy way to protect your investment.
How do they work? Almost every laptop since the mid-1990s includes a popular “Kensington Lock”. This is a small, rectangular slot that is reinforced with metal. By attaching a specially designed lock, you’re able to anchor the laptop to something secure. There are a number of different styles and brands of laptop locking cables available. Today, we’ll be taking a look at the three best models on the market. We’ll help you understand the differences between them, and pick the one that’s right for you.
Kensington Combination Ultra Cable Lock
Since Kensington invented the format, you can be sure that they know how to use it. Kensington locks are the most popular, and in some areas the best. Laptop locks that you can buy. This Ultra cable lock is a step above their standard model.
Ease of Use
The Kensington Combination Ultra Cable Lock has a loop on one end, and a lock on the other. To get it up and running, all you have to do us pull the cable around some sturdy object such as a table leg, loop the lock head through the loop, and insert it into the Kensington slot on your laptop. This lock is closed by pushing the button on the side of it, which is much simpler than the traditional Kensington lock.
One feature we grew to appreciate was the rotating lock head. Laptops often have different orientations for the lock slot. Depending on how you attach the cable, it could be coming from any direction. The lock mechanism is attached to the cable through a rotatable ring. This makes it easy to move and adjust as necessary, so the lock will never impede functionality.
Features & Options
There are two different versions of this cable, the Ultra and the Standard. The only difference between them is that the Ultra’s cable is 60% thicker. We’d always recommend getting the Ultra. It doesn’t cost very much more, and it is significantly more durable than other options.
Regardless which option you choose, there is one bonus feature that many users will appreciate. Kensington gives you the ability to access their “register and retrieve” online code program. You can submit your code, and choose a username and password. If you ever forget it, you can always log in and give yourself a reminder.
Kensington uses a cable made from carbon steel. This type of steel is the hardest on the market, and its unique woven pattern increases tensile strength beyond your typical cable. Carbon is better than stainless in almost every way, with the exception of one thing – shearing. Bolt cutters are a real threat where cable locks are concerned, so Kensington used an anti-shear sleeve. This sleeve prevents these cutters from effectively grabbing into the cable.
This particular lock uses a combination to gain access. This is helpful in an environment where you might be sharing the lock with others, or where you’re concerned about losing the key. With four separate digits, there are over 10,000 codes to choose from. You can rest assured that nobody is going to be able to guess your code without a lot of effort.
Kensington Microsaver 2.0 Keyed Cable Lock
Kensington’s best selling cable lock has been slowly updated over the years, but many of the core principles have remained the same. But we can’t say the same thing about our laptops. Even budged-minded computers are wafer thin compared to the behemoths we used to carry around. The Micro saver lock was designed for those ultra-portable computers where space is at a premium.
Ease of Use
With the Microsaver 2.0, some of the core functionality remains the same as other tried and true Kensington locks. You loop the cable around a stationary object, feed the cable through the loop, then attach the lock to your computer. But there are a few key differences. First, you’ll notice that the lock is attached to a swivel joint. This joint allows the lock to bend along a pivot, making it easier to fit it into tight spots.
The lock is operated using a key, so using it will feel natural. When the lock is open, the key is fixed to the lock head. You’ll only be able to remove it when the lock has successfully been rotated 90 degrees.
Features & Options
This is the lock that Kensington designed for devices that didn’t play well with their other models. For that reason, no other line of locks is available with more options than the Microsaver.
The first thing you’ll need to decide is the size. You can get portable, regular, or ultra. The portable lock uses a thin, but reasonably sturdy cable. To make it easy to carry around, the cable is looped much like a telephone cord. It fits right in the palm of your hand, or the pocket of your pants. This lock is ideal for lightweight devices where ease of use is more important than security.
The Regular size is the cable that most users will need. It offers the best balance of price, performance, and security. But if you’re in a high-theft environment, you might want to check out the Ultra cable. The Ultra MicoSaver is much larger than the typical Ultra, designed primarily for display devices at retailers.
The final option you can choose from is the number of heads. The Twin Heads cable, as you’d expect, has two separate locks. This is useful if you have a pair of items you need to protect. Maybe you have a laptop and a projector, or a pair of computers on display. The twin heads lock is only available with a regular cable size, although this shouldn’t be a problem for most users.
For many, a key lock is much more secured than a code lock. Although unlikely, a code lock can always be cracked, or the installer can forget to mix up the numbers after it is installed. But that doesn’t mean that key locks are unbreakable. Most can be picked.
The key word in that sentence is ‘most.’ These tumbler locks rely on a number of pins located around the inside of the tumbler in a circular arrangement. While most are evenly spread, this lock has a secret pin. The secret pin is in a nonstandard location, and one of the standard pins has been replaced with a dummy. In order for this lock to work, the secret pin must be held in the correct position while the dummy pin remains untouched. Any lock pick designed for this style of locks will not function.
Bodyguard Laptop Combination Lock Security Cable
Kensington makes great locks, but they don’t own the format. There are tons of fantastic third party locks available for a reasonable price. If you’re looking for the cheap and cheerful alternative, Bodyguard takes some of the best features of the Kensington lock and adds a unique flair.
Ease of Use
What stands out about the Bodyguard Combination Laptop Lock is the unique lever mechanism. Flip the lever down to unlock it, flip it up to secure it. Your fingers are already making the same motion while entering your code, so using the Bodyguard lock feels natural. The lock also gives you a simple way to change the code, if necessary. At the end of the lock housing is a pin. Just use a pen or pointed object to push and hold the pin in. While this is done, you can change the code as you see fit. Once released, you’ll be able to lock it using your new code.
Like the Kensington lock, this model has dual swivel points. The code pad rotates a full 360 degrees, while the cable mount travels 180 degrees. This makes it easy to insert into almost any laptop.
Options & Features
Bodyguard used some creative engineering to ensure that this lock would fit all makes and models of laptops without the need for different versions. But there is one major challenge that lock manufacturers face. Because the lock itself travels through the shell of the laptop and binds around the casing, laptops with thin plastic cases won’t be as secure. To correct this, there are three gaskets included. These gaskets slip in between the lock and the laptop, allowing it to get a secure grip regardless of the make and model.
Fitted with a steel cable, this lock is more than secure enough for most environments. Although it has an anti-shear coating, this isn’t the type of cable that can withstand bolt cutters. That being said, it’s still more than enough if you’re leaving your laptop out at a café, or in the office.
Alternative: Dell Premium Laptop Keyed Computer Lock
Virtually every computer on the market uses a Kensington lock. However, there was a brief period where several Dell notebooks released in 2016 used a special type of locking mechanism. For business notebooks, this lock was used in the Inspiron and Latitude series notebooks.
For consumers, it was found in the Venue and XPS notebooks. You’ll want to check your computer, as many laptops manufactured before and after 2016 have gone back to the standard locks. But if you have the special port, this Dell branded lock is your best option.
Which Laptop Locking Cable is Right for Me?
Having trouble deciding? Fortunately, each of these cables is designed for a different purpose. Depending on what kind of computer you have, and how much security is needed, different features will be needed.
For keeping your hardware locked up in a public space, the Kensington Combination Ultra Cable Lock is ideal. It’s got one of the thickest cables that you can buy, making it virtually unbreakable even to committed criminals. This very same hardware is used by businesses for demo purposes, so you know that it can be trusted. This cable is compatible with virtually all laptops, with the only exception being ultra-portables.
If you still want top notch security but use a compact, or unique device that won’t work with the bulky ultra lock, consider the Kensington Microsaver 2.0 Keyed Cable Lock. With an ultra-small locking head, swivel mount, and highly flexible cable, this is one of the most versatile options on the market.
If you’re looking for an affordable theft deterrent, the Bodyguard Laptop Combination Lock Security Cable is a fantastic option. While it might not be safe from bolt cutters, it’s still a highly effective theft deterrent. Unlike many other affordable options, Bodyguard didn’t compromise any quality when designing this lock.