House sitters and computers

Tips & Hints

You need to be take some care when you leave your computer in the hands of a housesitter or guest.

Posted 13 October 2005

House swapping and house sitters are popular, but there are a number of things that can go wrong when you leave a computer or Internet connection available for them to use. Problems can include virus infections, lost files and huge ISP bills. It’s best to take some precautions before leaving your system in someone else’s hands.

Setup user profiles

Windows computers allow you to set up separate profiles for different users. Make sure you choose your profile to be an Administrator and your visitors to be Power Users. Set passwords for all the profiles you have given administrator rights to and don’t use the cat’s name as the password.

Hide your files

Even if you have nothing to hide and don’t mind your guests rummaging through your files, you don’t want those files accidentally deleted. You can hide them by opening “My Computer,” right clicking your documents folder, select “Sharing and Security” and ticking the “Make this folder private” box. Administrator privileges can override this which is one reason why you don’t give such rights to your guests.


If you have an Internet plan that charges for excess hours or downloads then you could recieve a big bill on your return. If you are going to allow your visitors to use your Internet account make sure you are on a “capped” plan which doesn’t incur excess charges. The alternative is to disable your Internet account, either by deleting your login details or disconnecting and hiding the modem.

Virus and security

Before going, make sure your anti virus is fully up to date and your computer is fully patched. This is another area where not giving the guests Administrator rights pays. It’s much harder to infect a computer when you only have user privileges.

Backup your data

Before going away, make sure all your data is backed up and that backup is secure. If something goes horribly wrong, at least you have your data. This is something you should always do before you go away.

Lock up your stuff

All your software disks should be locked away securely. A lost or damaged copy of Microsoft Office might cost as much as a thousand dollars to replace. Similarly, make sure any valuable hardware is out of reach.

Installing new hardware

One problem with not allowing your visitors administrator rights is that they cannot install new hardware or software. This can be a problem if they want to plug in their camera or music player. If they are going to do that, it’s best to install the appropriate software and hardware before you leave.

Your computer is too valuable an asset to risk with house guests. If you choose to let visitors use your system make sure it is secure and difficult to break. You don’t want any nasty surprises on returning home.
PC Rescue Pty Ltd, Suite 236, 4 Young Street Neutral Bay NSW 2089
ABN 36 082 635 765
ŠTechnology Publishing Australia, 2008