When you have to walk away from your PC for a few seconds, you can just lock it using the built-in Windows locking feature. But this does not discourage a prying colleague who might try to guess your password and use your computer. You can lock your computer in a more robust way using the free Predator application. Predator allows you to use your USB key (pen drive) as your locking key. If you want to lock your PC, then just remove the USB key. Similarly, if you want to unlock your PC locked by Predator, just insert your USB key.
Predator is a very simple free application that locks your PC when you are away. It creates a small file on your selected USB key and continuously monitors it. When you remove the USB key from your PC, Predator no longer finds the file and locks your PC. Once the USB key is removed, the keyboard and mouse are disabled and the screen becomes dark. Later if you want to unlock your PC, just insert the USB key back into your PC. You can create many USB keys to lock a single PC. Conversely, you can also create a single USB key to lock many computers.
Here are some of the key features of Predator :
- It logs all attempts of intrusion while you have been away.
- It can post this log on your Twitter account.
- It keeps changing the security code file on your USB key for better security.
- Disables Task Manager when PC is locked, so that nobody can kill Predator using it.
- If you lose your USB key, you can still use a password to unlock your PC.
- Sounds a loud alarm if someone enters a wrong password.
- You can use one USB key to protect several PCs
You can download Predator from its official website. The download is available as an installer. It supports all versions of Windows starting from Windows XP SP3. The download is a small 1.6 megabytes long file. Before you can install Predator, make sure you have installed Microsoft .NET 4.0 as this software is programmed using this technology. You can download Microsoft .NET 4.0 from Microsoft’s website. When you first run the Predator application, it shows the Preferences screen so that you can create an unlock password and a USB lock/unlock key.
You can choose an unlock password to be used in case you lose your locking USB key. You can choose various alarm options like beeping the PC speaker or playing a sound file. You can also put in your Twitter account details to update the intrusion log (if someone tries to guess your password). You can choose to lock all the monitors if your are using multiple monitors (this darkens all the monitors when PC is locked by Predator). After settings the options and creating the USB lock key, Predator is restarted and shows an icon in the notification area as shown.
This icon shows a green color when Predator is monitoring the file on your USB key. It changes the color to orange, when Predator monitoring is paused. Monitoring is usually paused when you open the Preferences window. It changes the color to red when Predator is writing the file to the USB key. You can choose the read and write intervals in the Preferences window. By default, the read interval is every 30 seconds and write interval is every 60 seconds.
The moment you remove your USB key, it locks down your PC disabling the mouse and keyboard and making your screen dark. To unlock your PC all you have to do is to plug-in your USB key again. In case you lose your USB key, just click on the locked dark screen with left mouse button once, then press the Enter key on your keyboard three times. This would show the password entry dialog for Predator. Here you can enter your unlock password that you had set in the Predator Preferences.
Predator is a very secure and fast way to lock down your Windows PC. It turns your simple USB flash drive into a locking and unlocking device. What can be a faster and simpler way, than to just remove the USB key and walk away? If you find your colleagues routinely try to snoop into your PC when you are away, then Predator is the solution to your troubles. You can download it from http://www.predator-usb.com/.