Lock Down Your Laptop

| January 16, 2014 | 5 Comments

What’s on your laptop? Your taxes? Your credit card information? Maybe your bank account password or social security number? If you think about it, your laptop contains a lot of personal data that could devastate you if lost. Laptops are gradually replacing desktops in homes and businesses and likely contain sensitive personal data. Are you taking the right precautions to protect your data by locking down your laptop? Hopefully, but if not, this article will describe some methods you can use to lock your laptop down and make it difficult for unauthorized users to access your personal data.

lock your laptop

Methods of Securing Your Laptop Data

We have already discussed folder encryption methods in software such as TrueCrypt. Portable computers need a way to either prevent access to data or encrypt that data so it can never be read.  Here are a few methods you can use to lock a laptop down.

Physical Laptop Lock – We know they look stupid, but a Physical Laptop Lock will help prevent your laptop (along with all of its valuable data) from just walking away. It can happen in seconds: you turn your head to talk to someone; you go up to the counter for a second double espresso at Starbucks, or someone just does a snatch and run. A physical lock is a deterrent that will cause a would-be thief to look for an easier target.

BIOS Password – A BIOS password is minimally helpful if your laptop is stolen or recovered by someone who isn’t tech savvy enough to get around it. The BIOS is a chip on the motherboard that contains a small amount of software that identifies your hardware and instructs your computer where to look for the Operating System. A BIOS password can be used to lock the BIOS and prevent your computer from booting. Unfortunately, there are ways to clear the BIOS and default BIOS passwords that can be used for various computer models .

Bit Locker – Bit Locker is available on Ultimate and Enterprise versions of Windows Vista, Windows 7 and Windows 8. Bit locker provides encryption for the entire volume, so if an unauthorized user manages to boot the laptop, there is no way they can decrypt the volume to read what is on the drive without providing a physical key or a password. Many corporations will have this enabled on their portable computers to prevent secure data from being stolen.

Windows Password – You would be surprised to find how many people do not even have the most basic security feature set for their computer. A simple Windows log in password can thwart most people from accessing a computer–especially in Windows Vista, 7 and beyond, where it is more difficult to change a Windows password with third-party hacking tools. Learn how to set a secure password here.

Securing A Laptop Concluded

As you can see, there is no reason why you shouldn’t be able to add even the most basic laptop security to your computer. Out of the options above, a physical laptop lock is advisable for students or people who frequently leave their laptops unattended for several minutes in public places. A BIOS password isn’t preferable to a good Windows password or using Bit Locker if your computer has the hardware and software capable of running it. In addition, the Truecrypt method is great for securing folders. But you need to remember to store all of your sensitive data in that protected folder.

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Category: laptop

Dave

About the Author ()

Dave has been providing free computer repair and tech support advice online since 2002. Join us on our forums and be sure to subscribe to our newsletter for weekly tips and other helpful computer articles. Connect with me on: Google+

Comments (5)

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  1. Brad says:

    A good password is a must! You’d be surprised just how easy it is to get into someone’s personal files. Most people don’t even use a Windows password.

  2. AmyW. says:

    I have a bag that I can lock my laptop into. The bags strap is a cable that can attach to a chair or table. Keep you laptops safe, people!

  3. Dr_Bob says:

    Encryption is always the safest but not everyone needs that level of protection. Great article and a nice variety of ways to keep your data safe!

    • Sheri says:

      In reply to Dr_Bob, no people who never store any bank statements, order confirmations, or passwords etc. on their laptops probably do not need that level of protection (encryption).

      But anyone who logs in to social networking sites, bank accounts, multiple shopping sites etc. using dozens of different, strong passwords for each of those sites, should store those passwords in an encrypted folder – unless they can remember them all! And they should never, ever allow their browser to save their login details! And do not imagine for one moment that having a strong Windows password will prevent anyone from gaining access to your data – because all anyone need do is remove your hard drive and connect it to another computer and hey presto, they can then see EVERYTHING!

      Setting up an encrypted folder only takes a few minutes and once it’s done, you have somewhere fairly safe to store any sensitive data. OK, you have to mount that volume using a strong master password that you would need to remember before you can view those files. But that is a very small price to pay for that extra layer of security:-)

  4. Dave Dave says:

    Amy, my wife has one of those bags, too. We throw everything into it when we’re out in public. They can lock to just about anything and they’re pretty stylish. If I can find the website I’ll post a link.

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