I never planned on anyone but me looking at my files
December 1, 2009 10:42 AM Subscribe
My computer requires professional attention, but there's stuff I'd rather keep private sitting on my hard drive right now. How concerned should I be about what a technician might see/go looking for while working on my machine?
posted by EatTheWeak to Computers & Internet (22 answers total)
So, for awhile now, my computer has had some manner of undiagnosed hardware trouble that led to frequent freeze-ups. A couple weeks ago, whatever was failing has finally failed and now when I flip the switch on my power source, the lights on the case come on for a split second before going dark, the fans spin for about as long before stopping and the power button on front does absolutely nothing. This is beyond my power to diagnose, let alone fix, so I need to take this machine into the shop and let a professional do it properly. I'm due for a graphics card upgrade at this point any way, so I'm not too fussed about paying a technician to make this thing work right again.
The trouble is that there's a few things on my hard drive that I would prefer not to explain to a stranger. Much of my music collection is on there, for instance, much of it (ahem) "borrowed" from sources I'd rather not name. My browser history has not been cleared and I might even have an embarrassing website or two bookmarked. A Word file I was using as a personal journal is on there as well, and maybe a few other things I can't remember for sure. I'm pretty confident I don't actually have any porno saved on there right now, though, so that's a plus, at least.
I'm not taking it to Best Buy, as I've read much of Geek Squad's reputation for trawling customers' hard drives, but a locally owned shop instead. I'm a bit prone to paranoia, and I'm aware that my perceptions of risk here might be a bit skewed, so I'd really like to hear from folks who have intimate knowledge of the computer repair business on this topic. None of my computer's issues are software related (I've reinstalled windows too many times without solving the freeze-up problem for that to be the case) so I know that anyone working on my machine wouldn't really have much of a reason to spend too much time looking around my drive, but that doesn't account for the voyeuristic impulse. Also, there's a chance that new hardware might be installed, which would call for the installation of new drivers.
Have you worked in a computer repair shop? Was poking around in a customer's files commonplace or verboten? Would someone working on my power source, motherboard or graphics card have a reason to open up my web browser? One counter-measure I've considered is to simply buy a blank hard drive and slap that in there, and say that I noticed this problem after installing the new one. However, I'd rather avoid this expense as I still don't know how drastic my repair costs are gonna be. Also, I don't know if a machine with a blank, unformatted drive is gonna be tougher to diagnose and repair.
So, what do you think, AskMe? Is this a legitimate concern or am I making a lot out of nothing? (it wouldn't be the first time) How much risk is the average customer's privacy at in the average computer repair shop? How would you proceed?