Erase your hard drive

Getting rid of your computer or external hard drive? Whether you are selling it or recycling it, always make sure to securely erase your hard drive first.

Erase an external Mac drive:

  • Open Disk Utility (Applications > Utilities)
  • Select the disk you would like to erase and click the Erase tab
  • Click on Security Options and choose the single pass or 3-pass option and click OK.
  • Erase!

Erase an internal Mac hard drive:

Erase a PC hard drive:

Parental controls

Parental controls

Want to allow your kids to use your computer, but don’t want them surfing unsafe websites or using the computer for too long? Parental Controls is a feature that allows you to create a separate user account and limit that that user can do. For example, you can create a simplified desktop that’s easier to use, limit application use, limit which websites can be accessed, limit who can be emailed or chatted with, limit time usage, hide certain words using a profanity filter, and more.

  • Go to Apple menu > System Preferences and then click Users & Groups
  • Click the lock icon to make changes, and then type in your computer name and password.
  • Click the plus (+) sign under “Login Options” and choose “Managed with Parental Controls”
  • Fill out the remaining fields and Create User.
  • Select the account and then click the “Open Parental Controls” button
  • From here you can customize your settings.

More information on Macworld.com

Mac guest accounts

If other people in your house (or visiting guests) use your computer, you might not want to allow them to access all of your files and programs on your Mac. It’s easy to set up a guest account that doesn’t require a password and can be restricted to use certain programs/websites (using Parental Controls). Once they log out, all the information and files in the guest account are deleted.

  • Choose Apple menu > System Preferences, and then click Users & Groups.
  • Click the lock icon to unlock it, and then type an administrator name and password.
  • Select Guest User in the list of accounts.
  • Check the “Allow guests to log in to this computer”
  • If you let guests log in, you can also set up parental controls for guests by selecting “Enable parental controls” and clicking Open Parental Controls to manage those settings.
  • To let guests use your shared folders and their contents from another computer on your network, select “Allow guests to connect to shared folders.”

More information on OSX Daily

Guest accounts

Encrypt your important information

lockFinancial information, passwords, account info, and other sensitive data on your computer should be protected securely. Here are a few pieces of software I use to encrypt my important data so only someone with the password can access it:

  • Knox (Mac): Create a special encrypted drive to store data using either a portion of your local hard drive or an external hard drive or thumb drive.
  • 1Password (Mac/PC): Encrypt passwords, bank account information, and any other secure notes with this amazing Password manager. It also syncs with Dropbox, which enables you to use the software on multiple computers and access your passwords via the web.
  • Apple FileVault (Mac): Encrypt your entire home directory. Be careful! If you lose your recovery key, you lose all your data.
  • VeraCrypt (PC): A popular free encryption software for PC. I haven’t used it myself, but it looks similar to Knox.

Updated 12/5/2016

Create automated backups of Word files

Microsoft WordSometimes Word files can get corrupted or accidentally deleted. If you write in Word a lot, it might make sense to keep backup copies of your documents just in case. Word has a built in feature to automate this process. Once enabled, it will generate a backup (duplicate) file in the same directory every time you save your document.

Mac:

  • Go to Word > Preferences > Save.
  • Check the Always create backup copy.
  • Click OK.

PC:

  • Click the Microsoft Office Button, and then click Word Options.
  • Click Advanced.
  • Scroll to the Save section, and then select the Always create backup copy check box.

Read more on how to save and restore backups.

Browse privately

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If you are browsing the internet on a public computer, you may not want others to see what you have searched for or what web pages you’ve looked at. Fortunately there are several browsers that let you look at the web without leaving a trail behind you.

Mac:

  • Safari: Go to Safari > Private Browsing
  • Chrome: Go to File > New Incognito Window
  • Firefox: Go to File > New Private Window

PC:

  • Chrome: Go to Settings (icon next to address bar) > New Incognito Window
  • Firefox: Go to the orange Firefox menu > New Private Window
  • Internet Explorer: Go to Settings (gear icon) Safety > InPrivate Browsing

Monitoring your Facebook timeline

When someone tags you in a photo or status on Facebook it gets automatically posted on your timeline. But what if you don’t want it displayed for all your friends to see? You can easily control what appears on your timeline in a few quick steps:

  1. Click on the settings tab in the upper right corner of Facebook (the gear icon) and go to Account Settings.
  2. In the left column, click on Timeline and Tagging.
  3. Under the section “Review posts friends tag you in before they appear on your timeline?” click on Edit.
  4. Change the dropdown menu to Enabled.

From now on you will receive an email (or notification in Facebook) whenever someone tries to add something to your Timeline.

There are two ways to approve these additions. One way is to click on the notification and it will take you directly to your Activity Log. Alternatively, you can click on your profile name and then click on the Activity Log button on the right of your cover photo. This Activity Log shows everything that was approved or needs approval for your timeline.

Require a Login Password

By default, when you start up your Mac you are logged into your user account automatically. This is risky because if someone steals your computer they will have easy access to all of your data. If you require a login at startup your data is a bit more protected. To change this, follow the directions below:

  1. Open System Preferences.
  2. Find the System section, click on Accounts.
  3. Click on the lock in the lower left corner and enter your password.
  4. Click on the Login Options button (at the bottom of your account list).
  5. Click on the Automatic Login drop down menu and select Off.

Securely Empty Your Trash

When you empty the trash on your computer your data isn’t actually removed, that space is just opened up to be overwritten by other files. This means that if someone gets a hold of your computer they could possibly use data recovery software to restore your “deleted files”. If you want to completely erase a sensitive or confidential document, you should make sure to completely erase that data.

  • On a Mac, just go to the Finder menu and click Secure Empty Trash, confirm that you want to permanently erase the files in your Trash and click OK.
  • It’s not quite as simple on a PC, but still fairly easy. Follow the instructions on MIT’s website to download a free program that will allow you to securely erase files with a few clicks.

Mobile Security

If you carry around an expensive smart phone, it’s a good idea to have some sort of security program installed to protect and track it in case of loss or theft.

If you have an iPhone or iPad, you may want to sign-up for a MobileMe account so you can utilize the Find My iPhone application. There’s an annual fee, but well worth the money if you lose your phone. Check it out »

If you have an Android, Blackberry or Windows Mobile phone, check out Lookout or Prey. Lookout scans your phone for viruses, backs up your data and will track your device if it is lost or stolen. Prey tracks your device if it’s stolen and allows you to lock out unauthorized access. It also can be set up to track your personal computer. Both are free services with options to pay for additional features.