If you didn’t already know it you should be aware that the password protection on your PC is about as much use as a chocolate teapot. There are things you can do to make it harder for anyone to get at your files, and we’ll come to that in a moment but first, at one time or another many of us forget our logon password. Faced with an inaccessible PC, some users resort to drastic action, like re-installing Windows.

There’s really no need, blanking the password using a special type of Linux boot disc is fairly straightforward. Cracking a password takes a little longer but again it’s easy enough if you know what to do, and one way is to use another Linux live CD boot utility called Ophcrack. Download the .iso file and use a utility like Imgburn to create a CD. Just boot the PC from the CD and watch it hack away at your password. Most times it only take a few seconds to crack a 4 – 6 character password otherwise it might take a few minutes but if you thought your PC was protected, think again, it’s scary stuff.

The good news is it can get you out of a hole if you’ve forgotten your password. The bad news is anyone with access to your PC can use it, so how do you go about safeguarding your computer? Creating a really long password helps, but it has to be 14 characters or more to cause trouble for programs like this. Even that’s not going to stop anyone using a password blanking utility, so what can you do?

One solution is to activate your PC’s BIOS password – check the manual for details. This will stop anyone attempting to use a live CD to boot your machine, but that’s still not going to protect your data if anyone steals your PC or removes the hard drive.

If you have anything on your PC that you don’t want anyone else to see the only solution is to encrypt it, or better still encrypt the whole drive. There’s no excuse not to, it’s reasonably easy to do in most versions of Windows 7, some drives have their own encryption facility otherwise there are plenty of free encryption utilities available.

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