ARTICLE TABLE OF CONTENTS
This is whether computer repair shops look at your files.
The answer is, unfortunately, they could.
So if you want to find out whether computer repair shops look at your files and how you can prevent them from doing so, then this article is for you.
Let’s jump right in!
Whether Computer Repair Shops Look at Your Files
When your computer or smartphone runs into issues, or worse, crashes, taking it to a repair shop is a standard next step.
Your friendly repair technician might be able to save you from the expense of a new computer, or at least may be able to retrieve necessary files.
There’s only one problem with that; many of those vital files may have private or sensitive information that you don’t want your local repair shop to view.
Things like your social security number, private photos, or drafts of personal documents may all exist on your hard drive.
But is that something to be concerned about?
Do computer repair shops look at your files?
Do phone repair shops look at your files?
Or is all this worry misplaced?
Below you’ll learn everything you need to know about potential computer repair invasions of privacy. Then the article shows you what to do before taking a computer in for repair, so you can rest assured your photos, files, and personal information are protected.
Let’s get started!
Are Computer Repair Shops Safe?
Let’s start with the most basic question: are computer repair shops safe? Or, will they take advantage of you by finding and exploiting your private information?
The answer is, unfortunately, they could.
A quick google search will likely reveal several computer repair shops in your area. But not all computer repair shops are equal.
Some computer shops are INCREDIBLY safe. They provide lengthy contracts stating they won’t touch your private files, even if they find them. They may even have you remove your hard drive before sending in your device, depending on the necessary repair.
Others are less reputable. Given a chance, they might take advantage of the personal information you’re storing on your hard drive.
The only way to weed out disreputable computer repair shops is to do your research before bringing your computer in. It’s recommended to:
- Read the shop’s online reviews and look for any red flags like complaints about privacy breaches.
- Ask friends and coworkers where they’ve taken their computers or smartphones in the past. What was their experience?
- Consider avoiding repair technicians that you know. Unfortunately, the better a technician knows you personally, the more incentive they have to spy on your personal folders. Sometimes it’s best to be just another customer.
Once you do the research, you should be able to pick a reputable computer repair shop. That doesn’t mean you should trust them with all your private files, though.
There are things you can and should do to protect yourself, even with a reliable repairperson. Those steps are covered below:
What To Do Before Taking in a Computer or Phone for Repair
Before taking your computer or smartphone, which is essentially a pocket-sized computer, in for repair, we recommend taking the following steps to protect yourself from privacy breaches.
You should be backing up your data regularly, but it’s an absolute priority before taking your computer in for repair.
Data backup doesn’t directly protect you from a privacy invasion, but it will make it so you don’t lose any of your important files either during the repair or in the next few steps we recommend.
You can backup your computer to an external hard drive, a USB drive, or a Cloud. Most smartphones automatically back up to a cloud, like Google Drive.
Make sure your phone has backed up its data recently, though. Otherwise, you might lose your most recent photos or files.
Once you back up your data, we suggest you delete any extra-personal photos or documents from your computer or phone.
You can encrypt the semi-personal stuff; we discuss how below.
Once you backup all your data, you can use encryption software to protect important files.
Data encryption converts your files into a format that requires unique credentials to open and read them. Hopefully, you’re the only person with those unique credentials.
If the repair you need shouldn’t require the technician to log into your computer, you can go ahead and encrypt the entire hard drive.
However, some repairs will require a technician to at least login to your computer. Usually, they do this to confirm a repair worked. If that’s the case, you’ll only want to encrypt important and personal files.
Windows10 comes with an encryption tool called BitLocker, and Mac uses FileVault. If your computer doesn’t have encryption software included, you can purchase and download separate encryption software like CertainSafe or AxCrypt.
You can encrypt files on your smartphone too. However, most smartphones today come encrypted already. Meaning, your files are pretty safe because only your fingerprint, password, or another form of credentials can open your information.
This is different from your computer. Though your computer may require a password to get past the login screen, with the right knowledge, a technician can quickly get around that. It’s not as powerful as your phone’s encryption.
So, you need to encrypt either the entire hard drive or specific files within it.
Delete Browser History and Stored Passwords
Once you’ve encrypted imported data, it’s a good idea to delete your browsing history and any stored passwords.
Your repair technician shouldn’t need to go online for most repairs, but for peace of mind purposes, deleting browsing history and stored passwords is a good idea.
Create a Separate Guest or Admin Account
As mentioned, most of the time, a computer repair person will NOT need to login to your computer, except to confirm that repairs were successful. Typically, they only need guest access, so creating a guest account will keep them out of your personal files.
Sometimes, they may need Admin access to adjust settings. If that’s the case, you can rest easy knowing that you’ve already encrypted personal data and deleted your browsing history. From there, disable your admin password, so you don’t have to share it, or change your password temporarily.
Shred Deleted Files
We told you to delete sensitive photos and documents after you back them up. However, a technician can easily recover a recently deleted file.
Frequently Asked Questions
If you still have questions, don’t fret. The most common questions surrounding computer repairs and privacy invasions are answered below:
Do Computer Repair Shops Need Your Password?
If your computer repair shop is asking for a password to your computer, don’t freak out.
Often, computer technicians need a password to confirm repairs, but it may be more than that.
So, first, ask why they need it.
Then, if they need administrative access, change your current password and be sure to encrypt your personal files.
Delete your browsing history along with any saved passwords for websites. When you get the computer back, change the password again.
Should I Wipe My Computer Before Repair?
This is up to you. If you have a lot of sensitive information and you backed everything up, then wiping your hard drive is an option.
Just know that once you wipe your hard drive, there’s no getting any of that information back.
Yes, data recovery software exists, but it’s for recovering deleted files that can leave a trace on your hard drive.
Once you wipe the hard drive, there’s nothing to recover.
Do Computer Repair Shops Look At Your Pictures?
While we’re at it, do phone repair shops look at your pictures? After all, that’s where most of us keep the majority of our photos these days!
The answer is that yes, they can. But they shouldn’t.
Like many industries, computer technicians follow a CODE OF ETHICS that says they shouldn’t be rifling through your personal files at all.
That said, we all know many people DON’T hold themselves to ethical codes, and a file full of personal, perhaps even embarrassing, photos could be too tempting for even the most upstanding technician to ignore.
As we mentioned, it’s best to back up and then delete any personal photos off your device before sending it in for repairs.
Do Data Recovery Companies Look At Your Files?
If you send your computer or smartphone in specifically to recover lost data, there’s no way to avoid the technician seeing at least your file names. They shouldn’t go through the files, of course, because that’s unethical.
However, they can, and there’s not much you can do about it. So, if you’re sending in a device for that reason, finding a very trustworthy repair person or company is a must.
If you’re super anxious about it, some companies will allow you to watch the repair or data recovery process. If you’re standing there watching the technician work, it’s unlikely that they’re going to go perusing through your private files.
Of course, this takes up more of your time and often makes technicians uncomfortable. So, you’ll have to weigh those pros and cons for yourself.