updated 7/19/2011 6:49:52 PM ET 2011-07-19T22:49:52

Most people don't like to think about having their Android smartphones stolen, but perhaps they should.

If you were to know that your Droid, Galaxy, MyTouch or Xperia would be stolen sometime soon, but could do nothing to prevent it, what would you do?

Here are some suggestions to lessen the pain — and maybe even get your phone back.

Secure your data

The most important step you take should be to make sure your data is secure. This doesn’t just mean keeping it away from others, but making sure you can access it.

Keeping it private

The easiest way to keep prying eyes away from the data stored in your phone is to use its built-in screen lock.

Android’s settings have a category for "Location & Security," in which you’ll find the "Screen Unlock" settings. You can have the phone ask you to draw a pattern, enter a numeric PIN or enter a password every time you access your phone.

The unlock screen is the first line of defense, which will prevent most people from accessing your data should your phone get stolen — so don't disable it.

Keeping it accessible

Unfortunately, there's no easy, inexpensive way to back up your entire Android phone, but there are ways to access important data stored on your phone that you don't want to lose if your phone is stolen.

Your contacts, settings and a list of your apps are backed up by default to Google’s servers. If you use other Google services such as Gmail, Calendar and Docs, that data is also automatically synced to the cloud and would not be lost.

A free way to create emergency backups of the data from apps that don't have a cloud syncing option is to periodically connect your phone to your computer via USB to copy files from your SD card to your computer.

Get your phone back

There are a number of apps that allow you to communicate with your stolen phone, or give you the ability to see where it is on a map, but most cost money or require a subscription. A free one is Prey.

Prey is an open source anti-theft system that includes a web-based control panel and an app that you install on your phone.

If your phone is stolen, go to Prey's website and flag the device as missing, or SMS a pre-set phrase to the phone. Either will activate the app. (You can also pre-set Prey to activate if the phone's SIM card is changed.)

Prey can then track the phone's location via GPS or Wi-Fi hotspots, and also send you its network and IP address information.

It can also sound an alarm that makes a loud noise for 30 seconds so you can look around for it, or show the thief an alert message to let him know he's being tracked. Best of all, it can also lock the phone so it can’t be accessed without a special password.

There's also a laptop version, which can take pictures of the thief. You control which features to activate based on your situation.

This may not locate your phone every time, but it has worked for others, and it’s certainly nice to have options. Spend time now to prepare yourself and you’ll be thankful should your phone ever go missing!

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