Carrying a Powerbook may be a status symbol, but those most impressed are likely to be computer thieves. According to an analysis by the Stolen Computer Registry, Apple laptops are lifted much more often than other machines are. Among desktops as well, an Apple system is nearly as likely to be stolen as one by any other manufacturer, even though Apples make up only 10% of the installed base.

There's an explanation for the desktop imbalance, says Robert Zises, publisher of NACOMEX Insider, a bimonthly newsletter reporting on the used-computer market. Many of the desktop thefts occur at universities, which tend to have a lot of Macintoshes and a laxity of security. The corporate environment is more into IBM-type PCs and boasts higher degrees of security. When a business does get hit, usually it's by professionals who case the joint and prearrange disposition of the loot.

The number of stolen laptops increased fourfold from 1991 to 1992 -- a trend that will only be steeper among sublaptops. "The smaller they get," observes Zises, "the faster they go." One reason Apple notebooks are pinched more frequently than their market share suggests: "Thieves know what they're stealing. Apple Computer creates more demand than supply, so resale value stays high."

One solution is to tote a brand of laptop nobody wants. Better, consider a portable alarm that, when jarred, emits a loud signal. (See "Safe and Sound Policy," [Article link].) It may not deter the thief, but you'll know which way he's running. -- Reported by Phaedra Hise

* * *