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How to Secure Your Laptop

Laptops are stolen every day.  In fact, nowadays, with the amount of data that can be stolen in a split second (laptops, flash drives, and portable hard drives) laptop security is more important than ever.  This article will touch on how to properly secure your laptop and its contents.

Laptop:  Luckily the most vulnerable item is also relatively easy to secure.  Every laptop comes preconfigured with everything you will need to properly secure it.  I recommend multi layered security for your computer; this means setting a Windows password, a BIOS / Power On Password, and a Hard Drive Password.  A Windows password is a great place to start- Let me explain why.  Windows lets you specify multiple users on any given system, and set varying levels of access for each one.  You have an admin account, user accounts, and guest accounts.  Only admins have complete access and are capable of implementing system wide changes.  It is recommended you make any major changes under the Admin login, and create a normal user login for your daily computing tasks.

Windows will prompt you to select a user upon startup, and to provide the correct password for that user.  This will prevent any unauthorized user from accessing your laptop, or and information on it- to a certain degree.  There are ways around Windows passwords and they are easily circumvented by knowledgeable thieves, so this type of password by itself is not sufficient to keep your data safe.  You will also need to set a power on password to ensure protection.  A power on password prevents any user from accessing the boot menu, thus preventing any boot from removable media (which is how you circumvent a windows password).  Without the correct power on password, the system will not progress any further in the boot sequence.  A power on password adds an additional layer of security.  To specify a power on password, access the BIOS menu (usually F2 on boot) and enable it under “security”.  It will usually be disabled for easy setup, however it is always there and able for you to enable anytime you wish.  Keep in mind an identity thief can easily slide your computer’s hard drive out and into another computer, so we will need further protection.

A power on password protects your laptop; however it will not safeguard your data by itself.  Your personal data remains on your hard drive, and hard drives are easily removed from laptops.  There is no way I know of to prevent a thief from removing your hard drive completely from your laptop and placing it in another computer.  So, to ensure your data is safe you will need to also set a hard drive password.  A hard drive password prevents access to a hard drive by unauthorized users.  A would-be thief can’t even format the drive without knowing the correct password.  All of these passwords are set by accessing the BIOS.  Right after you turn on your computer, you will see text in the bottom half of the screen.  Follow the instructions for the BIOS, usually F2.  Under security settings, you are looking for “Enable HDD Password” or “HDD Protection”.  Enable the password and create a new one.  Your data is now reasonably secure.  Unless you are carrying state secrets, I doubt anyone is willing to spend the time to un-encrypt your Hard Drive.

You might think setting all of these passwords is overkill, however if your laptop is ever stolen you will now have peace of mind.  I have had a laptop stolen before; and I can tell you there is no worse feeling than realizing how much confidential information may have just been stolen.  This level of security is not necessary on every computer you own, just the portable ones you carry with you into public.

Why You Should Delete Every Program You Do Not Use

When you bought your computer, I’m sure there were quite a few programs installed on it that you weren’t familiar with.  Removing unnecessary programs is one of the keys to keeping a computer running quickly after many years.  If you want quick performance after a few years it is important you optimize your computer.  Deleting every program you do not use is an important part of this.

You can use the programs feature built into Windows, or you can use a third party program like CCleaner.  Each will sort all programs installed on your computer by size, frequency of use, or date installed.  Use these sort functions to remove programs you are not sure of.  If there are a bunch of programs installed on your computer on the same date, before you bought your computer, this is the factory trialware, bloatware, and crapware.  Remove everything you do not use and you will see significantly improved computer performance.  Your computer will run faster and be more responsive.  You will also have a computer that lasts longer at performing basic tasks, and I bet you will even notice a slight increase in battery life as well (if you use a laptop).  If you are unsure what any program does, Google it before you remove it just in case it is something you need.

Each program you install takes up valuable resources, in both terms of the hard drive and the background processes.  Many programs run on startup, even if you are not using them; this means they are consuming the limited resources of your laptop or PC.  Dozens of these programs running at once in the background could dramatically slow down your PC.

You will likely see a significant performance increase from uninstalling any unneeded programs and your computer will thank you in the long run.

Interesting Uses for an Ancient Handheld – Old Smartphone Uses

If you have an old smartphone or an old Blackberry device lying around that you no longer use, there are still many things you can use it for.

Camera – Assuming the camera still works, you can put an SD card in it, and start taking pictures with it.  Most smartphones have decent quality cameras on them; this would save you from having to buy a camera just for one event.

Media Storage – Again using the SD card you can load music and movies on your smartphone, and use it to play them back.  So you can have an mp3 player and a portable movie player rolled into one.

Webcam – Using the camera, there are programs you can download that will allow you to use a phone as a webcam.  You can just leave it plugged in all the time via USB, and it will transmit and charge at the same time.

SD Card – If nothing else, many phones at least have a SD card that you can salvage.  Most of these older phones contain SD cards that are 4GB or 8GB; but you might just find a 16GB if your old device is more recent.  You can use the SD card for mobile media storage, or you can use it just like a flash drive if you have a SD Card reader.

Emergency Phone – Any phone, even phones without service must still be able to dial 911; this is a law.  So if you don’t happen to have a home phone anymore, just keep your old phone somewhere you can get to it and make sure to keep it off and charge it once a month.

These are just a few of the many old smartphone uses.