Keeping the Geek Squad Outta my Biznass
September 1, 2007 8:05 AM   Subscribe

How to keep prying eyes from the files on my laptop...

My laptop is starting to give out. I have a 3-year service plan, so I'm going to send it in soon. However, I have a lot of ones and zeros on there I don't want some service plan geek checking out while my laptop is away. What do I do with XP if I don't want anyone to have any access to my personal files while they repair my computer?
posted by TheGoldenOne to Computers & Internet (9 answers total) 3 users marked this as a favorite
I like TrueCrypt for easy file encryption. Easy to use, fully secure. I've used it for everything from encrypting entire drives to keeping a small text file with passwords & the like. Works like a charm.
posted by Banky_Edwards at 8:08 AM on September 1, 2007 [7 favorites]

Truecrypt's great. But bear in mind that repair shops have been known to hand back a machine with a fresh install and call it "repaired". If it's really important, back it up locally too.
posted by Leon at 8:18 AM on September 1, 2007

Seconding TrueCrypt, but take a backup first, in case your service geek mistakes a large encrypted disk image for a pagefile / temp file / core dump.
posted by holgate at 8:22 AM on September 1, 2007

Best answer: As long as the hard drive isn't your problem, take the hard drive out before you give it to them. They should have an extra one to use with it while they are repairing it and if they don't, they aren't competent to be working on your machine. If you don't feel comfortable taking the drive out, ask them to do it while you wait and leave with it in your possession. Otherwise, Truecrypt.
posted by mattholomew at 8:35 AM on September 1, 2007

What Mattholomew said.

That said, I highly recommend Truecrypt just on general principle.

Also. Too. :-)
posted by Pogo_Fuzzybutt at 9:40 AM on September 1, 2007

I agree in principle with what Mattholomew said. I disagree that having a hard drive to use as a replacement has anything to do with competence. Hard drives are no sweat, I have, like ten. However, I may not have your hard drive bracket at hand.

Laptop hard drives are installed in a bracket. The bracket is easily removed from the machine. It's usually one or two screws, maybe a lock mechanism that holds it in place.

Not every repair shop is going to have every bracket - there are three different styles used on Dell laptops, there are a couple different ones on HPs, too, for example. We have a few of them, but not every single one that customers may present.

If you really want to be nice to the repair tech, remove your hard drive, remove the screws holding it to its bracket, and put the bracket back in the hard drive.
posted by disclaimer at 12:21 PM on September 1, 2007

Sorry, correcting my last sentence: put the bracket back in the laptop.
posted by disclaimer at 12:22 PM on September 1, 2007

You mention "sending it in", which I think means you're sending it to geek squad central, as it were, rather than taking it to your local best buy. I read in an article, that I can't find or is no longer up, in the city pages that security at the center for repairs that are sent it is much tighter than at the in store best buy locations. IIRC, they have lots of cameras, and people roaming up and down the rows peering over everyone's shoulder to make sure they're doing their job. So if these ones and zeros are nothing but pictures, or something else easily identifiable that they shouldn't be looking at, you might be fine. If it is something that one might not recognize immediately as having nothing to do with fixing a computer, then you might want to be more cautious.
posted by gauchodaspampas at 12:45 PM on September 1, 2007

Eraser: this freeware program can securely erase files to govt standards. Since files that have only been sent to the recycle bin may be recoverable, this software offers an option to erase "unused" disk space that may have old, recoverable file fragments that you wouldn't want the Geek Squad to share with their friends.

Search for posts on the depth of the privacy problem posed by Geek Squad and other repair services.
posted by bbranden1 at 2:03 PM on September 1, 2007 [1 favorite]

« Older Healthier Microwave Popcorn   |   How to bridge two wireless routers for a single... Newer »
This thread is closed to new comments.