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Protect Your Computer from Prying Eyes With a Few Keystrokes

Folks are so concerned about protecting their computers from malware, spyware, and hackers that they often overlook one of the easiest intrusion methods of all. If you don’t “lock” your computer, it’s open for anybody to access the moment you step away from your desk.

There are a couple of ways to lock your computer:

  1. Hit the Windows key and the letter L at the same time. (Applies to Windows XP and later versions.)
  2. Alternately, hit CTRL+ALT+DELETE. You’ll be presented with a menu of options. On a Vista machine, the options are: Lock this computer, Switch user, Log off, Change a password, or Start Task Manager. Select Lock this computer and you’re done.
  3. On a Vista machine in Non-Classic mode, you can also click the lock icon on the start menu.

No matter which method you use to lock your computer, you can unlock it by hitting CTRL+ALT+DELETE and entering your password.

If you don’t want to have to bother with manually locking your computer, you can set it up to automatically lock when it wakes up from screen saver mode. Here’s how to do it:

Windows 7:

This feature is automatically enabled.

Windows Vista:

Go to Control Panel and then Appearance and Personalization. Click on Change Screen Saver. Check the button that says, “On resume, display logon screen.” Click OK.

Earlier versions of Windows:

Right-click the desktop and select Properties. In the Display Properties window, select the Screen Saver tab. Select a screen saver file from the drop-down list. In the “Wait:” field, set the amount of time you want the screen saver to wait before it turns on. Then check the box that turns on password protection. Depending on your version of Windows, it might say “On resume, password protect” or “Password protected.” Click OK.

Many people resist locking their computers because it’s a hassle to enter in their password or they don’t feel like there’s any danger in leaving their machine open and unattended. But most of those people lock their homes and cars at night, even if they live in safe neighborhoods. The same reasoning applies here: while you might be fine without it, there’s no harm in using the safety features that are available to you. And if you travel frequently, you absolutely need this protection on your laptop – your office might be safe, but plenty of other places aren’t!

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