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I have a password for my Windows OS, so if my computer is stolen (hopefully) the thief will not be able to start up the operating system. But one can easily remove the hard drive and access the files as external drive.

How can I prevent this?

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marked as duplicate by Bobby, AthomSfere, Carl B, Kevin Panko, Tog Nov 22 '13 at 8:08

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Plus, if your laptop get stolen, hackers can access the encrypted password database of the OS and bruteforce it easily. There are hard drive encryption software but I don't know if they require specific Motherboard/BIOS/etc. –  Kwaio Nov 19 '13 at 13:48
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I would use Bitlocker or TrueCrypt to fully encrypt your data. –  Ramhound Nov 19 '13 at 13:51
    
@Kwaio - I don't know if I would say it is "easy" to brute force a secure User Windows Profile password. Most people who steal a laptop could careless about the data on it let alone have the skills to access the the stored password information in the Hive. –  Ramhound Nov 19 '13 at 13:53
    
Which version of Windows are you on? –  sgtbeano Nov 19 '13 at 14:01
    
@sgtbeano Windows 7 Home Premium –  Koray Tugay Nov 19 '13 at 14:06
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3 Answers

Hard Drive Encryption

Without rehashing this too much you have two potentially free choices with any modern Windows OS.

Bitlocker

Look through the Bitlocker Technet information and verify you meet the requirements:

Windows 7 Ultimate, Windows 7 Enterprise, or Windows Server 2008 R2 noteNote BitLocker is an optional feature of Windows Server 2008 R2. Use Server Manager to install BitLocker on a computer running Windows Server 2008 R2.

Trucrypt

A popular free alternative

Key features include:

  • Creates a virtual encrypted disk within a file and mounts it as a real disk.
  • Encrypts an entire partition or storage device such as USB flash drive or hard drive.
  • Encrypts a partition or drive where Windows is installed (pre-boot authentication).
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Truecrypt is the best (FREE!) method. Bitlocker has pitfalls like TPMs (which not everyone has) –  sinni800 Nov 19 '13 at 14:32
    
@sinni800 Best is subjective. I see no reason Bitlocker isn't just as good most of the time, and it requires TPM as well. Plus, with Bitlocker you can rely on support from Microsoft if you really need it or somethings goes way off the charts. –  AthomSfere Nov 19 '13 at 14:37
    
With all the stuff happening nowadays, people trust Bitlocker less and less... NSA backdoors and the like. But I know this is not the place for conspiracy theories. I find TrueCrypt a lot more comfy when you don't have a TPM, as Bitlocker makes things harder for you without one. –  sinni800 Nov 19 '13 at 21:07
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Without knowing which version of Windows you're on, there are a number of options to secure your laptop. As @Kwaio mentions, an OS password is a deterrent only and if some one wants in, it's pretty easy to do so;

http://ophcrack.sourceforge.net/

If you're on Vista, Window 7 or Windows 8 Pro / Enterprise you can use Bitlocker to encrypt your whole drive;

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/BitLocker_Drive_Encryption

This is far better way of protecting data on your hard drive as it will prevent all but the most determined attacker.

It's not quite so easy in XP to do full disk encryption, there are a ton of 3rd party apps and a useful technet article here;

http://technet.microsoft.com/en-us/library/bb457065.aspx

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As your per your comment, here's a technet article on Bitlocker for Windows 7 - technet.microsoft.com/en-us/library/cc766295(v=WS.10).aspx –  sgtbeano Nov 19 '13 at 14:07
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Pre windows 8, all windows passwords are very easy to get past to the point where I say they are almost not worth having except to prevent other people in the household getting access. Windows 8/8.1 machines can be set up with either Local accounts or Microsoft accounts. Local account passwords are still easy to "break", those set up with Microsoft accounts are much much harder.

The safest way to stop access without the drive being removed is to use a bios password (IMO).

With protecting data on a removed drive, there are many software programs to choose from. Just be sure to read reviews before you decide which suit your needs best.

Folder Lock is one of the higher rated paid packages.

TrueCrypt is one of the most popular free ones.

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bare in mind of course that bios passwords can also be reset. –  Mark Nov 19 '13 at 14:17
    
I'd agree with @Mark, it's pretty trivial to bypass a bios password. –  sgtbeano Nov 19 '13 at 14:22
    
@Mark but not a Hard Drive password in the BIOS! Either way, a poor alternative to encryption. –  AthomSfere Nov 19 '13 at 14:38
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