ComTech: IT Support Stirling

Should you encrypt your laptop?

I had an interesting conversation last week with a potential new client regarding encryption.  He works away a lot and was wondering if there was anything that could be done to protect his data should he lose his laptop.  The answer was a big resounding YES. The yes is encryption.

To put it simply encryption scrambles the data on the hard drive making it unreadable. To read it you need the decryption key (password) which when entered allows a user to see everything.  At the moment most types of encryption are unbreakable so as long as you choose the right type you should be fine.

Sounds good but there are some drawbacks which you should know about.

1. Lose the decryption key (password) and you lose access to your data.

2. If you don’t do backups and your hard drive fails you will lose all your data.  I would never recommend encryption to a client if I wasn’t confident about their backup strategy.

3. There will be a slight loss in performance as everytime you enter your password the hard drive gets decrypted.

So which ones are best?

On a Windows system you are spoilt for choice.  On a Windows 7 system I would personally go with TrueCrypt as I have use this in the past and found it to be a fantastic piece of software.  On a Windows 8 system I would upgrade to Windows 8.1 and then use the inbuilt encryption software.  If you buy a Windows 8.1 system and log in with a Microsoft account then encryption is turned on by default so just make sure you do backups!!

On Mac OSX use FileVault2 which following the Apple way of doing things “just works” and on Linux I would again go with TrueCrypt (unless someone has any better suggestions?).

So the question remains should you use it?

If you are a mobile worker who is away from the office quite a bit then definitely yes.  Encryption will give you that added protection and piece of mind should your laptop go “walkies”.  Just remember to do backups and don’t forget your password.

If you work all day, every day from a desk in an office then encryption is probably not for you.

About the Author


Hi I’m Chris Wakefield the owner of ComTech IT Support. I provide Windows, Mac and Linux based IT Support to both business and personal clients in Stirling, Alloa and Falkirk.

Follow @Comtech247 on Twitter






Why Windows 8.1 drive encryption is not necessarily a good thing

I had a client last week who was interested in encrypting a Windows 8 laptop.  His personal choice was Truecrypt but he had read online that TrueCrypt does not support Windows 8. As it was not something I had been asked to do yet I told him I would do some research and get back to him.  This is when I came across drive encryption on Windows 8.1.

Basically it seems that Windows 8.1 comes with drive encryption turned on by default. The only thing you need to do is sign in with a Microsoft account (email address) and the feature will run automatically and store your encryption key on Microsofts servers .  On the face of it this sounds like a good idea.  There is one big downside to this new feature though and that is data recovery.

If you have a failing hard drive that is encrypted it is very difficult to get the data off as you have to decrypt it first.  If your hard drive is failing you may not have the time to decrypt it before you can get the data off.  This is where your backups come in and that is the big problem.  Most home users and too many small businesses don’t do them!!

I know way too many home users and small businesses who don’t bother with backups so a hard drive failure with Windows 8.1 could be costly indeed.  Who would get the blame for this? Microsoft of course.  Microsoft would get the blame for turning the feature on by default which of course would be ludicrous.  People need to start taking responsibility for their own actions and back up their data.

I agree that encrypted hard drives are a massive bonus when implemented alongside a sound backup strategy but I don’t agree it should be turned on by default.

You can of course turn it off (but most people don’t know its on in the first place) and if you update from Windows 8 to Windows 8.1 you would have to turn it own.

So over to you guys. Backup your data or risk losing it.

About the Author


Hi I’m Chris Wakefield the owner of ComTech IT Support. I provide Windows and Linux based IT Support, laptop repairs and computer repairs to both business and personal clients in Stirling and Falkirk.

Follow @Comtech247 on Twitter

Windows 8 – Good stuff and niggles

At the moment every spare second in the working day is spent studying for my MCSA in Windows 8.  Since I already hold the MCSA in Windows 7 all I have to do is pass the upgrade exam.  There is no point in just learning for the exam so I am also getting my hands very dirty under the hood.  This has allowed me to have a look at all the changes and decide what I think is a good idea and which of those are absolutely rubbish (don’t worry this is not another Windows 8 review but my own personal preferences).

First the good stuff.

Boot time is bloody fast.  Under the hood (for the most part) it is still Windows 7 and having the ability to pin all my applications to the Start screen and actually group them is a real bonus.  Then there is the ability to configure storage pools and file history which I think are really good ideas.

Now the other stuff.

Why change the way a user enters Safe Mode? I know they sacrificed the old BIOS for boot speed but in doing so they have also made a simple task MUCH more complicated. Before Windows 8 you simply pressed the F8 key at startup (nice and simple) but now there is variety of ways to enter it with most only being an option when inside the operating system. Why oh why?

Next is the BIOS and this to me is the biggest ‘niggle’ with Windows 8 (I am seeing this from a system admin point of view and not a user and personally I like the Start Screen anyway!!)

Sent to the grave are F2, Delete or F12 for entering the BIOS and instead we have PC Settings, holding down the shift key while restarting the system or a command which can be run from the command line.  All of these options are available when Windows 8 is running.  I can fully understand why the old BIOS setup wouldn’t work with Windows 8 but the new one is not upto the job and the following scenario will illustrate my point.

I had a customer last week who had a pretty bad virus on his system.  The system would boot as per normal but once up an running it slowed to a crawl.  Using the mouse became a chore and carrying out any simple task was not an option.  For instance he couldn’t select restart but instead had to hold down the power button instead.  Usually I would boot the system with a Linux Rescue CD and then remove the virus but this is not possible with Windows 8 unless you enter the BIOS and change the boot order. Guess what? I couldn’t access the BIOS as the system was running that slow.  I had to remove the hard drive and plug it into another system and clean it out that way instead.  This may not sound like a big deal but it makes a techs job just that little bit longer and fiddly which will cost the customer money.

Overall I like Windows 8 but one thing that comes apparent when using it for a while is that some things have changed for what feels like little gain.  Windows 8 doesn’t feel finished yet and hopefully Windows 8.1 will address some of these issues (don’t miss the start button either).

About the Author


Hi I’m Chris Wakefield the owner of ComTech IT Support. I provide Windows and Linux based IT Support, laptop repairs and computer repairs to both business and personal clients in Stirling, Falkirk and Perth.

Follow @Comtech247 on Twitter





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