4 Tips for using shared computers

This week I needed to send my laptop back in for repair.

Computers, the internet, and email are my life and it was very difficult to not have my “brain” with me (I’ll go back and edit my previous posts from this week for clarity after my new brain arrives).  This means I spent a bit of time on public computers in the hotel because somethings just can’t be done on a phone or iPad. 

1. Always assume someone before you has installed keystroke loggers.  Yes, that’s paranoid, but never do something on a public computer that you wouldn’t want someone to access.  Most of the computers I used this week had Uniguest or other restrictive software in place to prevent random people from installing anything, but it can still happen.  Many hotels may have no security software on the computer.  Don’t access your bank accounts or even frequent flyer accounts if you don’t absolutely have to.  I handled all of my banking on my phone this week.  I did log into work email once, but I made sure it was set to a “Public” computer although I’m not sure what that *really* does.   Also make sure to logout.

2. Don’t save files to the computer!  It’s amazing how many times I use a computer and I see excel files saved to the desktop and a full recycling bin.  If the computer won’t let you print off a flash drive and you save to the computer, make sure you delete your file and then empty the recycling bin!  I love reading random PowerPoints and expense reports!

3. Remeber, it is SHARED.  If a hotel has 2 or more computers you should be OK, but if there is just 1 computer try to do your business and move on, especially if you have seen someone who looks like he or she may want to use the computer.  I’ve stayed at hotels with computers in the breakfast area where someone has been camped out at the single computer for the whole time I’m eating breakfast.  Sure, usually the front desk will print boarding passes as well, but breakfast is a popular time in business hotels for people to prit boarding passes and many people who need to use the computer will just get on and do that.  Just like gym equipment, stick to 30-minutes or less!  I prefer airport boarding passes so I rarely print from OLCI if I can’t use a mobile boarding pass, but I understand that I am weird.

4. Never expect the printer to work so always plot a plan B.  When I used to print at hotels more often it seemed a common occurence that the printers didn’t work or only printed from the 1 computer with the person busy chatting on Yahoo Messenger.  It was a pain.  That led me to stop most of my printing on the road or to figure out other ways to get things printed: emailing to the client to have them print, finding a FedEx Office, or just using my iPad or similar if I just needed powerpoint slides for myself during a presentation.
I became a big fan of PrinterOn since for some reason it is very difficult to pull up a file from Outlook and print it.  With PrinterOn or similar printing software I just email it or upload it from my computer and then enter my unlock code on the printer…no need to bother the person surfing Facebook.  When all else fails I have had to head over to FedEx Office a couple times.  I also don’t want to be that person using a ream of paper to print a 20-slide presentation for 50 people.  That isn’t what hotel printers are for and probably why they are often out of paper, out of alignment, and print weird streaks on paper.

It seems like as with internet the higher-end the hotel is the more likely it is to charge for the use of computers.  I was lucky I was at Courtyards this week, but when I was buying my house I did need to use a Hilton’s printer to print several pages and fax it in.  That cost a few bucks, but it was more convenient than the closest office store.


  1. Always get totally out of internet browser (Internet Explorer etc.). Otherwise somebody may be able to hit backscreen and see what you were doing. Logging off what you were in may not be enough.

    Delete browsing history or use InPrivate browsing (or non-IE equivalent) if you mind others seeing what you were doing.

    Usually “public computers” makes it so the site times out, or insistz on logon credentials, more often. There is less exposure time if you were to walk away without logging off site.

Comments are closed.