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[ The PC Guide | System Optimization and Enhancement Guide | System Optimizations and Enhancements | Improve the PC's Physical and Environmental Characteristics ]

Improve the Security Level of the PC

One concern with modern PCs, especially when they are being used in an environment where many people can access them, is securing the PC so that only authorized users have the ability to use them. This can be a problem in the office, where a PC is in a common area or in an unlocked office, or at home, where you might want to be able to keep your kids (or parents :^) ) out of information that is private.

As with home security or car security, there really are no completely foolproof PC security measures. If someone is motivated and knowledgeable enough, they can work their way around virtually any security measure. Your goal is to make it difficult enough that getting around the security is not worthwhile, or at least not easy to do without it being noticeable.

Here are some ideas you can use to improve the security level of the PC:

  • Use the Keylock Switch: Some PC cases have a keylock switch that can be used to lock out the keyboard and prevent the PC from being booted up. Using this keylock provides a crude form of security. It is crude for two main several reasons: first, it is easy to disable (in most cases this involves simply pulling a two-wire connector from the motherboard); second, the keys themselves are often simple affairs and the key from one case may open any other case of that particular model. The switch provides no protection to a PC that is currently on. This technique is useful for preventing casual access to a PC that is usually off, and that's about it.
  • BIOS Passwords: Most BIOSes today allow you to set a password to protect the PC as it is booting up. In order to start the machine, or enter the BIOS setup program, you must enter the password. This provides reasonable security and is not a bad idea for many people--but you must make sure you don't forget the password. This happens more frequently than you might imagine; see here for help if you forget the password. The BIOS password works best in combination with a screen-saver password; the former protects the system when it is off (or rebooted), and the latter when it is left on.
  • Screen Saver Passwords: A screen saver is a program that automatically activates on the PC after a period of inactivity, and displays images (or just a blank screen) until the system is reactivated, generally by pressing a key on the keyboard or moving the mouse pointer. Most of these programs include the ability to lock the screen with a password. This provides protection from snoops who might try to use your machine when you walk away from your desk for a few minutes. You can generally access the password by accessing the properties of the screen saver program. Note that the screen saver only provides short-term protection while the PC is on. If the system is rebooted and the only protection is the screen saver password, the data on the PC will be accessible as long as the screen saver is not allowed to kick in again.
  • Physically Secure the PC: An underrated security measure for PCs is to secure the room where the PC is, instead of trying to secure the PC itself. If this is an option for you, it is a good one; it's much easier to lock the door to an office than it is to find some way to lock the PC itself.
  • Use Third-Party Software: There are numerous security packages on the market that are designed to help you control when and how your PC is accessible. Check out these packages and choose one if you cannot find a simple, free solution that meets your needs.
  • Use the Windows NT or UNIX Operating Systems: Both of these operating systems (well, UNIX actually comes in many flavors) employ enhanced security measures that are not found on operating systems such as DOS and Windows 95. For example, they both require a login (with password) to access any of the secured services on the PC, and they provide individual permissions and access rights for files on the system. These, along with other features, will give you much more control over not just the PC as a whole, but also the individual programs and files on it.

Next: Free up An External Drive Bay


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