PC Doctor February 20, 2015
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Dear PC Doctor:
If I print financial and tax forms at the Athol Library, is any of my personal information saved on the printer’s hard drive?
Thank you, Don
Thank you for this question. As we enter tax season, with
the IRS and the state encouraging more residents to file online, I expect many people will want to know the answer.
Absolutely nothing gets saved to the printer. Some information can be, temporarily, saved to the public computers at the library.
The library has 14 computers available to adult patrons (three more are for children and two are for teens). Eight of the computers use a program called “Steady State” and six of the computers use a similar product, called “Clean Slate.” Both have the effect of wiping the computer free of changes so that, each morning, the computers look and behave the way they did the previous day.
Both programs restore the computer to a set point, which is determined by the system administrator. This means that any changes to the desktop or settings will be removed. Here’s the “but”: the changes are removed when the machine is re-started. Simply logging out of your sessions will not erase all changes. So, if you have temporarily saved some personal items to the desktop or are logged in to personal websites, the next user may be able to see it.
So, what you should you do to protect your personal information? First, never check any “save this password” or “remember me” options when using any public computer, including those at the library. Second, log out of everything before ending your session. Save to a flash drive instead of trying to save to the computer’s desktop. If you accidentally save to the desktop, put the item in the “recycle bin” and empty it before your session closes. I also recommend clearing the browsing history before closing out of the internet. If you are really concerned, please ask a member of the library staff to fully re-start the computer after your session. If you do these things, the next public computer user will not be able to stumble upon your personal information.
Until next time… Happy Computing!