Key Points:

Note to computer thieves - steer clear of Waikato University and - soon - schools.

Software designed at the university has tracked down an Apple iMac stolen in November from the home of a computer support group worker at the university's School of Education.

The software pinpointed the stolen iMac's location in Hamilton to within 100 metres when it was set up again by its new "owner" and "talked" to the machine.

Steve Leichtweis, IT group manager at the School of Education, said the computer had an inbuilt camera and staff took control of the computer remotely and told it to take photos every two minutes.

The photos showed the users in what appeared to be an apartment or dormitory.

Armed with the photos and information - and a search warrant - Hamilton police found the computer and arrested a man who is now facing a court hearing.

Dr Leichtweis said the software would be free to all primary, secondary and tertiary institutions.

"We hope it will be a deterrent to thieves who often treat schools as supermarkets," he said yesterday.

He said the university was not interested in making money from the idea, but wanted to help stem the tide of computer thefts from schools and tertiary centres.