Computer Repair vs Auto Repair — Why they are very different.

Computer repair agreements may not always guarantee that you get the old parts back. They also may not guarantee that the replacement parts are new.

When I go to the auto repair shop the paperwork you are asked to sign before the work is started always has a box on it that you can check if you would like to have all of the replaced parts returned to you. And, you always get new parts put on your car unless you make specific arrangements to okay the use of a remanufactured part.

For a car there really isn’t a security risk associated with not getting the original parts back or using remanufactured parts in a repair. With a computer the story is very different. It is commonplace for people to store sensitive information on their personal computer systems. If the hard-drive fails and the computer needs to be taken into the shop for repairs it should not be acceptable for the company doing the repairs to keep your original hard-drive. After all, it contains all sorts of sensitive information that you did not have an opportunity to erase prior to the repair.

Right about now you might be thinking
Hey, it doesn’t matter to me. The drive is dead. No one can read it, right?
Well, you would be wrong. Companies that repair these drives do exist, and remanufactured drives are used for repairs of other customer computers.

Just imagine your surprise when the computer you just got repaired now has your neighbor’s hard-drive in it, and the shop didn’t even bother to erase their information before installing it in your machine. Now you have all of their data! Ouch!

Also, the repaired drive in your computer may actually be older than the drive you originally had. It may not be new at all. Given that these drives do have a manufacture rated MTBF (mean-time between failures) that seems to be very accurate, you may be in for another repair within a few weeks or months.

All in all, this practice seems unacceptable on many levels. My suggestion is that whenever your hard-drive fails you should destroy it yourself and should replace it with another one from a reputable supplier. And, you should always make sure the drive is new, not remanufactured!


Protect Sensitive Data on your MacBook Pro

One thing I am always nervous about is storing sensitive data on my MacBook Pro. Over the past few years it seems like there are stories popping up in the news about some organization loosing sensitive customer data when a laptop is misplaced. As someone who makes a conscious effort to have only one computer, I am concerned about storing my banking and tax information on a portable computer.

After searching for quite some time I finally settled on a solution that has been working very well for me. My criteria were as follows:

  • Data must be encrypted.
  • Storage device must be removable.
  • Data access should only be permitted once a suitable password has been entered.
  • Password must be required to access data after MacBook Pro comes out of sleep mode.
  • To meet my goals I am using a piece of software called Knox in conjunction with an ExpressCard/34 solid-state disk. I am currently using a Lexar ExpressCard/34 SSD with an 8GB capacity since that is what the local computer store had available at the time, about six months ago. Today it is possible to get a 32GB card from TRANSCEND, so the capacity is ever increasing! logotag.gif

    The card I store my sensitive data on is the Lexar 8GB ExpressCard SSD. It fits in the ExpressCard/34 slot on the left side of my MacBook Pro and is makes for a very convenient place to store all of my Quicken and TurboTax data files. Using Knox I setup the entire Lexar card as an encrypted filesystem.