It's a familiar feeling deep in the pit of your stomach. You're driving down the road and realize your smartphone is missing. Or you're in the airport, and you just realized you left your laptop or iPad behind as you were rushing to the gate.

First, you think of the expense. But then the larger problem begins to come into focus. Your phone or laptop is full of information that is incredibly valuable to you and difficult to replace. And, worse yet, your lost item could very easily fall into the wrong hands. Then you become vulnerable to identity theft

Fortunately, there are free apps and programs that can help in this situation. With these downloads, your data can remain safe until you are able – hopefully – to track your device down and have it safely back in your possession.

Find My iPhone Thankfully, you can track your iPhone with Apple's Find My iPhone. It is completely free if you have a new iOS device. To get it for no charge, you need to own an iPhone 4, iPad or fourth generation iPod touch.

With Find My iPhone, you can track your phone using its GPS. Find My iPhone also allows you to wipe your device remotely. This way, even if you are unable to find or recover the gadget, you are still able to delete and protect your sensitive data.

More On This...

Where's my Droid Misplacing your phone can be frustrating. Typically, you call your phone and find it by hearing it ring. So how much more frustrating it is when you realize that you silenced your ringer.

In that instance, Where's My Droid becomes invaluable. It uses a set of attention words to activate a silenced ringer. It even turns up the ringer volume if you had it dialed down. Where's My Droid can also obtain GPS data for your phone. Simply send the phone a text, and it responds with its location. 

Prey Owning a laptop is a great convenience. It allows you to work, play games, watch movies and connect with people where you are. With this mobility, however, comes danger. The ease of portability can quickly translate to ease of loss.

Prey is a free program that works to track your laptop should anyone try to steal it. As soon as the thief turns on the laptop, Prey will try to broadcast its location. Even if it isn't connected to the Internet, Prey will attempt to find the nearest open hotspot. To activate it, you simply send the laptop a message from your phone or another computer.

Prey offers a wide range of other features as well. You can take screenshots to view what's happening on the screen. You can hide personal information, such as stored passwords, remotely. You can even activate the Webcam to get mug shots of the person using your computer.

Lookout As smartphones become more versatile and powerful, we use them for a wider variety of tasks. But this also makes them more attractive to criminals. Attacks on cell phones are becoming increasingly commonplace.

This app can protect your iPhone or Android phone against malware. It can also block attacks via Wi-Fi, Bluetooth and text message. It backs up your important data to an online account. It also helps you locate your phone if it becomes lost or stolen.

Plan B Finally, what happens if you lose your phone before you get around to installing one of these great apps? If your phone is an Android, there now is a solution.

The very aptly named Plan B is quite a revolutionary app. It's currently the only app that allows you to remotely install it on your phone after you've lost it. It accomplishes this via coordination between the Android Market and your Google account.

After installation, you will immediately receive the phone's coordinates by email. The app will track your phone, emailing updates if it moves.

Plan B doesn't have the data wiping or other mobile security features of the preinstalled apps, but if you never installed a security app to begin with, it's a good second plan of attack.

Kim Komando hosts the nation's largest talk radio show about consumer electronics, computers and the Internet. Get the podcast or find the station nearest you at www.komando.com/listen. Subscribe to Kim's free e-mail newsletters at www.komando.com/newsletters. Copyright 1995-2012, WestStar TalkRadio Network. All rights reserved.