Checklist before go to computer repair shop

Before bringing your computer into a computer shop for repair, here are a few things to consider:

  • If you are not sure about how to plug everything back in when you are able to bring the computer back, take a digital picture and use stickers to label the cables and ports where they plug into.
    (For example: label #1 on the mouse cable and #1 where the mouse plugs in, #2 on the keyboard cable and #2 where the keyboard plugs in, continue the numbers for each cable and port.  This takes less room in a tight area with lots of cable than writing out the full names.  Plus, you don’t have to understand what they are, you just need to remember where to plug them in.)
  • Make sure you don’t have any CD’s in the CD tray.  The CD may need to be removed and could be forgotten.  Even worse, it could contain private info.
  • When you do bring your computer into the shop, don’t say things like “I use this password for everything”.  That just opens a whole lot of possibilities for liabilities.
  • If the computer is still functioning enough that you can turn it on, you may want to do the following:
    • Blank out your password or temporarily change it if is the same password you use for many other things.
    • Make sure you don’t have passwords saved for logins like your Facebook account, and especially not your bank. Although passwords for banking sites are not normally saved without password management software, it may have your bank account number stored.
    • Disable your screen saver if you have it running a picture slide show looking at your personal pictures.  I’ve seen pictures I shouldn’t have seen before and it’s not like I went looking for them.  The screen saver kicks in while waiting for a scan to finish and then “HELLO!”  Awkward moment…
    • You can reset your recently viewed documents to clear it out and view them later when you get your computer back to see if the tech was looking through your private files and photos.
    • Clear your Internet history if you don’t want the tech to see what websites you’ve been visiting.  Better yet, set your Internet history to automatically clear every day or two so worst case scenario, you can’t boot the computer up, you take it to the tech shop and the history is not a concern.
    • If you can access your data, move any private confidential information off the computer to an external drive temporarily to ensure no snooping around by the tech.  You should be doing regular backups anyway.
    • As per above, if you can, do a full backup of all your data.  Some tech repair depots do not backup your data and make you sign a waiver.  They just delete everything without wasting time troubleshooting.  Everything could be lost.
    • Most important of all, don’t leave any text documents on your computer that have a list of all your passwords!  I’ve seen this a few times and one noticed it afterwards and there is no way they would know for sure if I looked at it or not.  There’s nothing we can do about it, you need to protect your passwords.  Password protect your password list if possible, or have it on paper.  If you forgot you had that list on your computer and recently had your computer repaired, maybe you should change your passwords.  It’s a good idea to change all your passwords annually anyway.

These are just a few things to help you prepare when possible to take precautions for your own privacy and ensuring you don’t lose any of your data.  It’s also a good reason why you normally don’t want to take your computer to some neighbours kid or big box store where they don’t waste much time troubleshooting and go straight to formatting, but only after potentially spending time browsing your personal photos first and maybe even looking for banking information saved.