PC PhoneHome

PC PhoneHome is software that can help recover a lost or stolen laptop. Columbia University has purchased a site license for PC PhoneHome from Brigadoon Security Group.

PhoneHome is an application which runs silently on Windows and Macintosh computers, sending information to Brigadoon Security Group whenever a network connection is made. This information is only accessed if the machine is reported stolen. In this case, Brigadoon shares the appropriate information (IP address, time) with law enforcement officials who attempt to recover the machine. 

Since PhoneHome is designed to be undetectable, there is no sure way for a user to verify that it is running. 

If you want to remove PCPhoneHome from your laptop, contact the CUIT Computing Support Center to make an appointment to bring your machine to 202 Philosophy Hall. If you cannot come to campus, or if your machine is not a laptop, notfity the Support Center of that and a technician will contact you to assist in removing the product.

If you want to remove MacPhoneHome from your computer, you will need to contact Brigadoon to request a customized installer. Be sure to include complete indentifying information in your request, such as your full name, Unique ID and address and an email address where your uninstaller can be emailed. As Columbia's email system does not accept file attachments in .exe format, you should specify a separate address, such as a Yahoo or Gmail account to receive this email.

If your machine is stolen, you should notify Columbia Public Safety immediately and inform them that you have installed PhoneHome. 

If your laptop is administered by your department, you should speak to your system administrator before installing software like PC PhoneHome.

Download and Installation

(Current faculty, staff, and students of Columbia University and Barnard College are eligible to download.)

  1. Locate the serial number of your computer and write it down, keeping that information in a safe place.
  2. Identify the MAC addresses of network cards on your computer and write them down as well. For instructions, visit this page.
  3. Download and run the installer. (Required UNI login)

PC PhoneHome 4.1 for Windows (1.1 MB - for 7 & 8 and 10) 
(MD5 checksum for PCPhoneHome: 181174E1505E5BD8DD962C6D189E9A02)

Mac PhoneHome 4 for OSX 10.6 through 10.13 (120 KB)
(MD5 checksum for MacPhoneHome: 5e2a63abbe18e4b59549d61a6367a1a7)

PC PhoneHome Stolen Computer

If you have installed PhoneHome on a machine and that machine is stolen, you should notify Columbia Public Safety immediately, even if the theft did not occur on campus. Make sure you mention that PhoneHome is installed. 

You do not need to contact Brigadoon Security Group. Columbia Public Safety will notify them of the theft reported, and will speak with Columbia University IT Security if more information is required.

Once Brigadoon has been notified, they will contact law enforcement in the area that your machine has been seen since the theft and provide technical assistance to help them recover the machine. Once law enforcement officials have recovered it, they will turn it over to Columbia Public Safety.

The process is much easier if you can present Public Safety with some information about the machine at the time of the report. Knowing the MAC address of network cards and the serial number of the machine can expedite the process of getting your computer back returned.

Find your MAC Address

If you are connected to the Columbia University network, you can use this script to determine your IP and MAC addresses.

On Windows operating systems, you can determine your IP and MAC addresses by opening a command prompt windows (Start -> Run -> cmd) and typing ipconfig /all. Look for the value of Physical Address.

For Macintosh OS X, open a Terminal window and type ifconfig -a. Look for the value ofether..

Recovered machines will be presented to Public Safety's Morningside office where owners can reclaim them.


PhoneHome is a piece of software designed to help law enforcement officials recover a stolen computer. It is available for the PC and the Mac. It can be used on both laptops and desktop computers.

Whenever the computer connects to a network, it sends an email message to Brigadoon and Columbia IT Security. If your machine is lost or stolen, These messages can be used to help recover your machine.

Information provided includes computer name, MAC addresses, and IP addresses. No one is ever given your name, contact information, or anything else identifying. Brigadoon and law enforcement officials contacted will only know that it is a Columbia person's computer and it will be returned to Public Safety where you can claim it.

Yes. You can install PhoneHome on home and work computers, laptops and desktops.

No, you can leave PhoneHome running on machines that you have installed it on, and if it becomes stolen, you can still contact Public Safety.

No, you can no longer install the program after you leave.

The installer does not report that installation has completed successfully. If it does not give an error, it has installed successfully.

PhoneHome is designed to be invisible to people using the machine, so there is no easy way to verify its presence.

PhoneHome software cannot be removed in the standard way, because we don't want thieves to be able to uninstall it. Please contact the CUIT Support Center for assistance removing the software.

Contact Columbia Public Safety and file a report. Public Safety will contact Brigadoon who will contact law enforcement officials in the location where your machine shows up. The machine will be recovered if possible and returned to Public Safety where you can claim it.

There are two pieces of information that will assist Public Safety in their investigation. The first is the serial number of the computer, usually on the back or bottom of the computer. The second is the MAC address of the network card in the computer. You should write these down and keep them in a safe place, such as the place where you keep your warranty information and manuals.