Use simple strategy to hide private files

Ask Jim

Plugged In

September 07, 2006|By Jim Coates | Jim Coates,Chicago Tribune

I am an elementary school teacher and of- ten take my laptop to school, where it is occasionally used by my students.

I have files on it that I do not want them to have access to. Isn't there a way to make some files inaccessible by users other than myself? I have set up user accounts, but, frankly, I prefer to be signed in on my account when I am using my computer.

There is always the chance I will be occupied doing something when a student or teacher sits down to check something on my computer.

- John Lyman

There are a great many ways to encrypt files so that they can be opened only by somebody who knows the password, so I'll tell you about one of the least costly encryption programs. I'll also suggest a way to solve your particular problem, Mr. L., using mere strategy, instead of powerful software.

Cypherix, based in Mumbai, India, gives away a simplified version of its widely used Cryptainer software for businesses as an advertising gimmick. The software is quite good for home use and is very easy to acquire at

Once set up, Cryptainer creates a distinctive triangular icon anywhere you want on the computer. You set it up with a password of eight to 100 characters, and when you drag files into the special folder, they are encrypted with 128-bit technology, which may be cracked by the Pentagon's supercomputers in a month or two but ought to be rock solid against elementary school pupils.

Now my hide-in-plain-sight solution: I keep the prying eyes away simply by creating a folder named in Windows-like gibberish and tucking it away on the C: drive.

To do that, you can click on My Computer and then open the C: icon and then right-click and select New from the pop-up menu. Now select Folder and call it something like "0E4569215." When you close that folder, it will be as good as invisible to others yet easy for you to find.

Jim Coates writes for the Chicago Tribune.

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