The proper way to let a guest use your computer

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Whether it’s a friend stopping by for a visit or a business associate spending an afternoon meeting at your office someone will eventually will ask to borrow your computer for a few minutes to check an e-mail or a website. Such a request immediately thrusts you into a an awkward social situation. You likely want to show you trust the person but inside you’re feeling a squeamish about relinquishing control of your machine to anyone else. Indeed, you are either a very trusting person or perhaps a bit of a fool if you allow just anyone to use your computer without your direct supervision!

The reason I raise this issue is that I have spent the better part of a day working on a friends’ computer that was mangled by some unruly house guests. She unwittingly gave them access under her account (with administrator rights!) and after they left, said computer was essentially useless! I am still in the process of trying to repair the damage and it’s not yet clear if I’ll get off easy or whether I’ll need to wipe the disk and reload the OS. Either way it’s already been a long day and it will surely take a lot more time and effort to repair so I figured why not save you or your computer repair guy some trouble and prevent these kinds of outcomes.

If anyone ever asks to use your computer you should simply say NO! If however you feel compelled to say “YES” to save a relationship here are some suggestions that might help keep you out of trouble:

  • Never ever give them control of the machine under your user account or any account with administrator rights!
  • Never ever give them your login password!
  • DO NOT allow them to connect USB flash drives, memory sticks, memory cards, MP3 players, cameras, etc. to your computer!
  • Do take a moment to create or enable a temporary guest account for them. Guest accounts should normally be disabled so be sure to delete or disable the account immediately after your guest leaves!
  • If they have had unsupervised access, you may want to run a virus / malware scan after they have left just to be sure they did not infect your machine.
  • Consider getting a cheap notebook computer just for guests to use. It takes away a lot of the worry and allows you to keep on working on your primary machines while they surf the web or check their e-mail. Be sure to keep an image of the disk handy so you can restore the OS easily as it will eventually get “borked”!

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