How to Protect Your Laptop Hard Drive While Traveling

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You know when you purchase a laptop it will probably take at least a few trips with you. Whether you are a businessperson on the go or lucky enough to be going on vacation, sooner or later you’ll be bringing your computer with you. It’s important to realize how much you stand to lose if someone walks off with it. Everything from your address, possibly your social security number, bank account information, corporate information, and more can fall into the hands of a nefarious person. The following steps will aid in protecting you if your computer is stolen:

Use a BIOS or hard drive password
Use Bitlocker Drive Encryption or Windows file encryption
Choose a strong password

Many laptops these days come with built in hard drive encryption on the BIOS. The Basic Input/Output System is the first little piece of software that starts when you press the power button on your computer. If you go into its settings and look under security, you will see something to the effect of hard drive security, protect this hard drive with a password. This basically tells the drive not to accept any command other than the enter password command and will render it completely useless without the correct response.

If you find your computer doesn’t have the previous type of protection you should consider using some type of  Windows encryption. This can come in a couple of different flavors depending upon which operating system you are using. If you have XP Pro, your only option is to use file encryption. Pick the folders you want to protect such as your My Documents folder and right-click it. Go to properties, advanced, and check encrypt contents to secure data. Make sure you apply it to the folder and subfolders. This will prevent anyone from being able to read or copy your sensitive data without knowing your user password. The next option is newer and only applies to Vista or Windows 7. It’s called BitLocker Drive Encryption and encrypts your entire hard drive. Unfortunately, it’s only available with Ultimate and Enterprise versions.

The final line of defense if your computer is stolen is to pick a good, strong user password. That way if someone pulls your hard drive and runs a password cracking tool on it it will be exponentially tougher for the program to decipher your password. A strong password should be a bare minimum of eight characters and consist of upper and lower-case letters, numbers, and special characters.

In addition to the above-mentioned tactics, something as simple as using a cable lock while you are not around your laptop and having some type of locating software installed on your system will prevent or help locate your computer if it’s stolen. You can imagine how important it is to protect your data on your laptop. If nothing else, it provides piece-of-mind if you discover your computer has decided to take a ‘vacation’ on its own.