Q. I need to take my laptop to get its dead battery replaced, but I’m worried about other people being able to see my files. How can I make sure no one working on the computer can get into my personal information?
A. Your computer repair shop probably has a checklist of things to do before you drop off the laptop, but start by doing a full backup of your system so you have a copy of all your files in case something inadvertently happens when the machine is open on the work table. Fixes like battery or keyboard replacement, memory upgrades and jack repair should not affect the data on the hard drive, but making a complete backup should provide peace of mind in case of complications.
As for the security of the data on the drive, you can lock up personal folders that you would like to keep private with encryption software — or encrypt the whole hard drive if you do not think the technicians will need to log into the computer. Windows 10 Professional includes a utility called BitLocker, and macOS has a disk-encryption tool called FileVault you can use to lock up the contents of your disk behind a password; third-party encryption software like VeraCrypt is available for systems without built-in security features.
If you think a technician will need to start up your computer to verify the results or assist with the repair, you may want to take other privacy precautions, like deleting browser history and stored passwords, and any files that contain financial or identity information. Unless the technician needs to use an administrator account, creating a guest or limited user account can also keep the intrusions to a minimum. If an administrator account is needed, disabling the password or changing it temporarily lets you avoid sharing the real one.
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