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I have a client that doesn't not have money to pay for the repairs I have done, BUT she wants the computer in her sights. How could I lock the system up so that she cannot use it or crack the password of some sort? I need an efficient method. The OS is XP SP3 x86.

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Are you serious? You want to stop a person taking advantage of repairs by locking down the software when that person could just remove the software? If the client hasn't paid, don't give them the repairs! – WoodE Nov 26 '10 at 23:06
"doesn't not have the money"... so does she have the money or not? And if she hasn't paid for the repairs, simple, don't give the computer back. If you really don't want her to use the computer, but want it in her sights, then set a BIOS password, or just hold on to the hard drive. – nhinkle Nov 26 '10 at 23:27
Thanks for the answers @WoodE and @nhinkle. I am going to go with holding on to the hard drive for now. BTW, the lady isnt so friendly and she demands her computer back so taking the HDD out will be efficient enough. If you want @nhinkle, u could submit your answer and I'll give you the best answer. – Chris Tarazi Nov 27 '10 at 0:03
@TheLakersHighlights I apologise if I came off rude but this lady doesn't deserve any of the PC at all. If you are hired to complete a task and then told you will not be paid for that task after agreeing that you will be (as is general in a normal transaction!) then I wouldn't give her any of it back. Taking the hard drive out could be seen as damaging or worst case scenario, theft. You are well within your rights to refuse the return of the machine until your service has been paid for. – WoodE Nov 27 '10 at 0:18
Install Arch Linux on it and give it back to her.. :-) – Moab Nov 27 '10 at 1:39
up vote 10 down vote accepted

It's simple: if you haven't been paid for the services you provided, then that is theft on your client's part. Don't return the computer if she hasn't paid for the repairs you made. It doesn't matter how unfriendly your client is, you shouldn't let her bully you into working for free. I don't know exactly how she's "demanding" her computer back, but unless she's threatening you with violence (in which case you should report it to the authorities), you are under no obligation to return her computer if she hasn't paid you.

If you return the computer but retain the hard drive, you will probably make the problem worse, not better, as it will just aggravate your already unfriendly client. Instead, either forcer her to pay you, or else undo whatever fixes you made, and return the computer exactly the way you got it. If you keep part of her computer, she may have grounds for complaint against you, but if you return it exactly the way you received it, and she hasn't paid you, then you're even, and you haven't done anything wrong.

Another solution would be to return the computer in full working order with an invoice for the services you provided. Keep a copy of the invoice, and if she doesn't pay within the amount of time you specify (30 days is common), then pursue legal recourse. While it would be best to avoid, people are sometimes more cooperative when you bring lawyers into the picture. This may or may not be worth it, depending on how much the repairs were worth, but it's a thought at least.

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Ask if she can pay an amount up front to get the laptop back and the balance over a period of time. At least you have a chance of getting something and not being stuck with an unwanted laptop – Linker3000 Nov 27 '10 at 8:18
Some good solutions there. I agree 100% with not removing the HDD, that I feel would cause more problems than it would solve. Also small claims courts are a nightmare to get the money back from, I've seen claims settled paying 50p back a week. I'd refuse to return it until paid. – Joe Taylor Nov 27 '10 at 9:22
Thanks. Great and informative answer. She has finally paid for her repairs. – Chris Tarazi Nov 27 '10 at 23:08
Glad to hear it! Way to go :) – nhinkle Nov 28 '10 at 2:23

Back it up, install TrueCrypt, and encrypt the entire volume.

(Methods relying upon local Windows authentication can be bypassed, as you seem to be aware.)

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