What you should do before bringing the PC in for repair

Martin Brinkmann
Dec 18, 2007
Updated • Dec 2, 2012

Have you ever brought in a computer for repair to the friendly computer store next door or send your notebook to that big company that sold you it so that they could check what's wrong with it ? Did it ever occur to you that the technicians that would check the computer could do more than just checking ?

I never did send in my computer for repair yet but I would be very cautious about it because of the privacy issue. The computer technician will check the hardware and software installed on your computer which means that he will use software that can read from your computer.

I'm not sure about you but I have stuff on that computer that I do not want a computer technician to see. Here are a few guidelines that could help you protect your privacy and data when bringing in the computer for repairs.

  • Check if it is necessary to bring in the whole computer or if bringing in part of it is sufficient. If the DVD drive can't read disks it would be enough to bring in that drive and not the whole computer.
  • If you can still boot you should backup all important files first, most computer technicians know their job but bad things can happen there as well.
  • I would move all important files to a external hard drive so that no one at the computer store would be able to access them.This works well if you use a program like Eraser afterwards to clean the free space of the drives so that it is not likely that they can recover the deleted files.
  • If you do not have an external drive create an encrypted container on one of your hard drives with True Crypt and move your important files in there. Again it is unlikely that they can break the protection of that container.
  • If all things fail you could tell the store owner that you want to stay during the check which would make sure that the technician would not snoop around.

Do you know other possibilities ? Let me know about them.


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  1. Digitarius said on June 2, 2008 at 7:50 pm

    Having worked as a big box repair tech, I feel like I can say a few words.

    Backups, as others say, are terribly important. But why aren’t you doing that anyway?

    So is copying off and deleting anything you don’t want them to look at, but using eraser is a little paranoid except in the most extreme cases. Any snooping done by a tech is a crime of opportunity. If they don’t open My Documents and see porn or that new CD they want already ripped, odds are they have other stuff to worry about and will move on.

    The store level techs under me were all pretty good about resolving issues without requiring a reinstall. But what you should ask yourself, is why don’t you go ahead and reinstall yourself? Nuke it from orbit and start fresh. It’s probably time for it, anyway, and it’ll solve virtually any problem. Good computer hygiene, and saves you a bundle of money.

  2. Leander said on April 23, 2008 at 7:23 pm

    Lots of good comments.

    Removing part of your computer to get it tested sounds impractical in most cases unless you are already knowledgeable, in which case you probably have a friend who would perform the test for free.

    I second/third the posts that hovering over the tech while he’s trying to work is a bad idea.

    The bottom line seems to be that if repairing the machine yourself isn’t in the cards, you have to find someone you can trust, and you probably won’t have any control over this if you hand it over to a large corporation.

  3. Billy Bob said on February 4, 2008 at 4:47 am

    Always put in a generic hard drive. I wouldn’t trust anyone else with my data to possibly destroy it, to be looked at or even changed.

  4. Syber said on December 21, 2007 at 3:23 am

    Have you heard a news that talk about Geek Squad employee stole pornographic images from a customer’s machine? We know that is not safe but for most people they are no choice.

  5. Computer Repair Virginia Beach said on December 19, 2007 at 2:41 pm

    Another reason to back it up before you turn it in is because the first thing a technician will do is perform a system restore and erase all your data. This is standard practice with depot level repair for warranty work, and some other techs who just get in a rush.

  6. trendless said on December 19, 2007 at 2:38 am

    Good comment, slobu.

  7. slobu said on December 18, 2007 at 9:48 pm

    1. Unless you can diagnose and fix it yourself I’d never *just* bring in the part I thought was bad. Even a Tech is just guessing what single part to bring in via a phone call. Since problems can have more than one cause it’s always better to bring in everything – especially the Windows discs in case a reinstall is needed.

    2. Always back up. Always ask that your files are backed up if needed. Often you can save on the labor (and make things easier for the Tech) if you have already backed up and made it clear to the service center. If you need specific info imported after a fresh install of Windows make that clear as well.

    3. Treat your Tech like a doctor or mechanic. He’s not a pervert eager to slander your name. He just wants to heal your PC. If you have inappropriate material certainly move it off your PC or use Truecrypt at least.

    4. Never, ever expect respect or thorough service if you choose to harass the Technician by staying at the service center and leering over this shoulder. They will do less and often skip tests just to get you out the door. In short, less respect for them equals less value for you.

    It’s all about respect and decorum. Respect yourself enough to back up and protect personal info. Respect them enough to understand this is their profession. Make it clear what you want and bring them the items needed to do it.

  8. vance said on December 18, 2007 at 5:31 pm

    I will back up everything including movies, documents and save game files.

  9. CaitSith2 said on December 18, 2007 at 1:10 pm

    Really good point. However, thats really only applicable to prebuilt systems, and even then, only if you take it back to the store/chain that covers that prebuilt system. Otherwise, yeah, remove the DVD drive and take it to whereever you get computers fixed/tested. More than likely, if the DVD drive quit reading DVDs on me, I would get a replacement ASAP anyways.

  10. dip said on December 18, 2007 at 11:14 am

    Hi, uhm doesn’t removing your DVD-Drive void the warranty? Still the best solution you pointed out is to encrypt your data, that is if your computer still boots.

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