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  March 27, 2014

Use your USB stick as a computer lock

Most all computer users still have some USB sticks that are not used anymore, just sitting around, waiting to be useful again. But why not put them to good use once more?

Imagine that you’re at your home or work computer, you have a dozen tabs opened in your browser window and you’re writing or updating some documents or sheets. But tired from work, you decide to take a break, to go for a little walk or prepare a snack. Now you have to decide if you leave your computer unprotected, to close all apps and shut it down, to activate the password protected screensaver or to take your computer with you. All these options are time consuming or not feasible, especially if you work at a desktop computer.

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Predator Software

But there is an alternate, more secure way lock your computer, and it’s as easy as plugging in or out your USB stick. We are talking about using a free application named Predator, which is designed especially for situations where your computer remains switched on and unattended. This tool actually turns your USB flash drive into a physical key, it saves you the time and trouble of going through the menus and includes features that ensures privacy. Also, this software does not erase the data from your future key and you can keep using your USB stick when the Predator is active.

To find the Predator on the web and to create your own USB key is very easy. You can free download it from the developer’s website and install it. Once it launches, just plug in the USB stick and you will be prompted to create a password. Again, this tool will not erase any data stored on the USB flash drive, so, if you desire, you can use any of your USB sticks, even the one you are regularly using.

Also, take a look in the Preferences window of the Predator. You will find there a few key setting that can tweak the desired security level and other options that can make your computer accessible even if your USB flash drive is lost or broken. In the New Password field, you can enter a secure, unique password that can be used to unlock the computer. The Always Required box, if checked, will make your computer ask you for the password every time you plug in your USB stick for unlocking. And in the Flash Drives section, you can see what USB memory drive is used as key, to ensure that the right one is selected.

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The learning curve of the Predator is quite minimised by the default settings. These work for most users, but you can tinker with more of them as you get comfortable with this tool and understand its basic usage. Among other options, you can give another user access to your computer by creating an additional key or you can create a backup key. For users with more than one display there is the Multiple Monitors checkbox and many other options that are in fact self-explanatory, like the alarm sound, the Access Denied screen, the password change or resetting, the Show Notifications checkbox and so on.

After the Predator is installed and all desired options are selected, it will exit. When its icon in the taskbar turns green, the Predator will be up and running, making your computer more secure with the help of your USB flash drive. Remember that if you leave the default settings, every 30 seconds, the Predator will check to see if your USB stick is plugged in. If it’s not, your computer will dim and lock down.