Locking your PC: How to keep your data safe when you are away from your PC

I’m often asked “What should I do with my PC at the end of the day?  Turn if off or leave it on?”   The On or Off debate will be another Blog article, but in short I usually favor just leaving the PC on (the least amount of effort needed by the staff). If you choose to leave them on, you should always close out all your work and applications (don’t leave programs open and running).


The Problem

If you leave them on you have to consider a secondary security risk I call the ‘Janitor Factor’.   If you leave the computer logged in at night, anyone with access to the office could use your computer.  There have been multiple times in my career that the night Janitors have been the source of computers on the network getting infected while they leisurely peruse the adult oriented sites on the Internet from the large screen fast computers in the Consult room.  What if someone was to break into your office, they could sit down at any PC and start to access your patient data – a HIPAA violation for sure.

You might be thinking “Well, I will just turn them off over night and prevent this”, but I would suggest a more limited version of the problem exists even during the work day.  If you leave a patient unattended in a Consult room while the Treatment Coordinator is doing something, what is to prevent that 14 year old boy from getting curious and poking around in your PC like they tend to do?  I’ve heard many stories from TC’s walking back into the room and the child is messing around on the PC to entertain themselves.  Logging off the PC entirely is too time consuming.

Super Simple Solutions
One of the simplest tricks I’ve ever shown people is the “Windows+L” command (pressing the special Windows symbol key and “L” at the same time).  It is the “Lock” command built into Windows for many years now.  Using it will “Lock” the computers console, leaving the computer at “Locked” screen message. When you return to the PC, you will be required to re-enter your Windows password to start using the PC again.   Locking does not log you off, but merely locks the screen so someone can’t see what was on screen or use the computer.  If you were in the middle of creating Document when you walked away and locked it, you’ll be in the exact same place when you unlock it.   The Windows+L keystroke is very easy to learn and use – your staff can start using it today immediately after you show them about it.


A second tip would be to consider that your staff often won’t remember to Lock each PC at the end of the day.  In this case, we can use another feature built into Windows that can Lock the PC when the screen saver kicks on.   You might be familiar with how to enable and select one of Windows many built in screen savers, but did you know there is a check box called “On Resume Display Logon Screen” that will require a user to unlock the session to use the computer?   If you use this feature, all your PCs will essentially be automatically locked at the end of the day as soon as the screen savers kick in (protection from the Janitor factor).


The combination of these two steps will help secure your network from unwanted intrusions.

Since your existing IT person didn’t share this with you, perhaps you would consider working with the people that did. If you need a little help with your Practice, this is what MME Consulting does. Just give us a call at 866-419-1102 or check us out online at

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By Steve McEvoy

Car Guy, Nerd, Canadian hiding in California