Technology in terms you understand. Sign up for the Confident Computing newsletter for weekly solutions to make your life easier. Click here and get The Ask Leo! Guide to Staying Safe on the Internet — FREE Edition as my thank you for subscribing!

16 comments on “How Do I Give Someone a Laptop Without Including Access to My Accounts?”

  1. In most of these situations, wouldn’t it just be easier to create a second/additional user account on the computer’s operating system and make sure your’s is password protected?

    • Depends on how much you trust ’em. It’s pretty easy to get at unencrypted data in another user’s account if you’re knowledgeable enough.

      • Wouldn’t it just be easier to create a second/additional user account, provided that your home directory is encrypted? (For instance, Ubuntu offers home directory encryption out of the box, not sure about Windows.)

        • I don’t know that that’s “easier”, for most people. It also assumes that encrypting your home directory is enough. (There may very well be sensitive information outside the home folders.)

  2. Why not remove the HDD, and let them purchase a new Hard drive themselves. Make sure they made the recovery disks, before any of this happens. HP, make the customer make their own recovery DVD’s, today(2 to 4 hours, 6 DVD’s on my last machine).

  3. When you say ‘restore your backup image to the computer’, how long would you expect that to take to transfer the data? I realize that the size of the image comes into it, and the method of connecting the drive you are restoring from. But, just say you are restoring a small image of 250GB, from a NAS, over a 100Mbit/s wired connection ? I know, you can connect the drive directly, or through USB2 or3, or gigabit LAN, or wifi, or in the cloud via internet, but as a starting point, that is my situation, and I am wondering how long I would be offline if disaster struck ? (Longer without a backup, I know!)

    • To give a ballpark figure, I’ve had the restore process take between 3 and 5 hours depending on the size of the backups. Those were restores from a 7,800 RPM external USB hard drive.

    • There’s no real answer to that since SO MANY different things could affect it – interface speed, disk speed, not to mention just how much data is involved. Could be less than an hour, could be several hours or more.

  4. I have to agree with Douglas Brace here. Just set up a second user account even with limited rights if necessary. Make sure your loged out of your account. She won’t even see your stuff when she logs in .. Thanks Dave deLanie

  5. The way I would do it:
    > clone HDD / SSD to new HDD / SSD,
    > create recovery media
    > perform factory reset, and update
    > hand it over for use
    > when it comes back, clone the new HDD / SSD back to the original HDD / SSD
    – no compromises,
    – no chance for compromises,
    – no one sees my stuff
    – no worries about the other users stuff being compromised etc.
    – if they get it infected, no worries about clean up, as it will be nuked and repaved from the clone when it’s returned.

  6. I mentioned the incorrect OS in my question, so I’d like to repose it as it makes a huge difference!

    If I completely wipe the hard drive of a Windows XP laptop, after reinstalling Windows XP from the CD’s I have, will I still able to download all the updates up to when they stopped being offered, or will I be stuck with a really old version of XP?

    If the latter, what would be the best way to clear the hard disc, whilst retaining the updated XP OS?

    • Your computer should be able to download all of the updates which Microsoft has released for XP for quite a long time into the future.

  7. I’d also clear cookies in all browsers I use. You mentioned logging off Facebook and all other accounts you have “stay logged in” or “remember me” set. Clearing cookies on all of your browsers would log you off of any sites you may have forgotten you’re logged into.

    If you use a password manager, be sure to log out of that or the person you lend it to will be able to access all of your accounts.

    Actually though, if I didn’t trust someone, I wouldn’t lend them my computer.

  8. You can create a guest account and by letting others sign in to that guest account you can keep your administrative account and any other files safe.

    • As Leo said in answer to a similar comment:

      “Depends on how much you trust ’em. It’s pretty easy to get at unencrypted data in another user’s account if you’re knowledgeable enough.


Leave a reply:

Before commenting please:

  • Read the article.
  • Comment on the article.
  • No personal information.
  • No spam.

Comments violating those rules will be removed. Comments that don't add value will be removed, including off-topic or content-free comments, or comments that look even a little bit like spam. All comments containing links and certain keywords will be moderated before publication.

I want comments to be valuable for everyone, including those who come later and take the time to read.