Ask Leo: How do I keep my information on a shared computer private?

askleo

By Leo Notenboom

A reader asks: “I share a computer and I want to know how to
keep my information private.”

Ultimately … you can’t. At least not easily, and even then
it depends on the data that you’re attempting to keep
private, and the technical savvy of the individuals that
you’re attempting to keep it private from.

There’s nothing like your own computer. But if you have to
share, there are a couple of things that might help. A
little.

First, you must realize that anyone with administrative
access to the computer can see everything. You can use
Windows file permissions to make files accessible to only
you, but an administrator could still quite easily access
those files using any number of techniques.

So if you’re trying to keep things private from the system
administrator, normal methods simply won’t work.

What do you really need?

[This post is excerpted with Leo’s permission from his Ask Leo blog.]

Leo Notenboom has been involved in the tech industry for nearly 30 years. After retiring from an 18 year career as a Microsoft Software Engineer Leo went on to create Ask Leo!, a free web site where he answers real questions from ordinary computer users.

FaceBook URL: Leo’s Facebook

Twitter URL: http://twitter.com/askleo

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4 thoughts on “Ask Leo: How do I keep my information on a shared computer private?

  1. If you have enough hard drive space, partition the hard drive and create your own drive with it’s own Windows installation. You can even hide the drive and use a thumb drive with utilities to unlock (unhide) it when you use the computer.

  2. We are a family of 5 and we all have our own user names & desktops (with passwords) on one laptop. Two parents and two teenagers have Administrator status, but the 8 year old does not. Your article makes our situation seem scary, but we certainly don’t want to buy a computer for each person.

  3. I was the SysAdm for a Burroughs desktop network in the late eighties and early nineties. I could assign a password to a file, a folder, a volume or a hard disk, including my choice of read/write, read only or no access at all. Even an administrator could not break in. The advent of IBM/Windows removed this innovative system from the marketplace, along with its simpler hardware architecture and ease of use. Change is not always an improvement…

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