Guarding Against Theft

At this time of year it is important to take precautions against theft of your electronic devices. What can you do limit the chance of theft, and how can you prepare in case the worst happens? Read on.

Don’t Leave Valuables Unattended

It only takes a moment for a computer to be stolen. When you’re working in a public place like the Library, never leave your computer unattended and unlocked, even for a few minutes. Bring it where you’re going, have a friend hold on to it–or better yet, invest in a lock and anchor it securely to an immovable object

Turn on Tracking

On a Mac, System Preferences/iCloud allows you to turn on Find my Mac, which will track your device and allow you to wipe it remotely or play an alarm if it is detected on line. Windows 10 has a “Find My Device” option in Settings/Update & Security, which will show you where your device is. There are other 3rd-party options for different platforms–Prey is one option for Android, Linux, as well as Mac, iOS and Windows.

Know your Serial Number

Your serial number will be helpful for law enforcement if your computer is recovered. Many computers have the serial number printed on the computer or a sticker attached to it; if you don’t have a sticker or can’t read it, search online for how to find it on your computer–or for a Mac just use Apple–>About this Mac. If you need to know the serial number of your Hampshire-owned computer, IT has a record of it.

Know your MAC Address(es)

Your computer has a “Media Access Control” (MAC) address which uniquely identifies it on each network connection it has. For example, there is a MAC address associated with the wireless connection, and a different one associated with its Ethernet connection (if it has one). The MAC address can be used to track the computer if it’s connected to the internet. Here are instructions for determining the MAC address of many different types of devices. If you need the MAC address of your Hampshire-owned computer, IT has a record of it.

Keep your Files Backed Up

Losing your computer can be devastating, but losing your files can be irrecoverable. Keep your files backed up either on an external drive or on a cloud service. If you use an external drive to backup, always store it separately from your computer–you don’t want it to be stolen with your computer.

What to do if your Computer is Stolen

If your computer is stolen from campus, notify campus police as soon as you realize it; if you’re off campus, call the local police. If it is a Hampshire-owned computer, let the IT Help Desk know. If you have a record of your serial number and MAC addresses, provide them to the police. If you have taken our advice and set up a device tracker, check to see if you can locate your device, and consider other options as allowed by the tracker–for instance, to play an alarm or erase the drive.

If You Experience Errors Printing PDF’s, Try this Trick

Sometimes when you print a PDF, a PostScript or other error appears. What this means is that the app that is printing sent a command to the printer that it doesn’t understand. The first thing to try if this happens is to a different program to print it, if there’s something available. On a Mac, you might try Preview or Adobe Acrobat, on a PC the only choice might be Adobe Acrobat. If you’re printing from a browser like Chrome, you can try a different browser or app.

If printing from a different app doesn’t work, you can use Adobe Acrobat to print it as an image instead of a PostScript document. There may be slight differences in output, but in general it’s a good option in this situation. To print as an image:

  1. Open the document in Adobe Acrobat or Adobe Reader. Acrobat is available on all Hampshire owned computers, but you can download the Adobe Reader for free.
  2. Select the Print command. Choose the printer you want to use, and then press the “Advanced” button to the right.
  3. On the window that comes up, check the box labeled “Print as Image.”
  4. OK your way out of the boxes, and your document should print without error.

Celebrate World Backup Day!

March 31 is World Backup Day–let’s celebrate by making sure you have a backup plan in place. How devastated would you be if your computer died right now, with no possibility of getting your data off of it? Hard drives and even solid state drives (SSD’s) fail. If you don’t back up your data on a regular basis, make getting a backup system in place a priority.

If you’ve experienced a data loss due to drive failure, chances are that you’ve got a backup system in place. If you haven’t experienced a data loss, don’t worry, you’ll be a member of the club some day–unless you’re backing up your data on a regular basis.

These days a backup system is pretty painless–you can either back up to an external drive on an automatic basis (Time Machine for Mac or Windows Backup for Windows), or sign up for an online backup system such as Carbonite.

Backup drives are pretty cheap: you can get a terabyte drive for about $60. To make sure you buy one large enough, look at how much space you’re currently using on your computer and buy a drive that holds at least three times that. Once you have a backup plan in place, make sure you use it on a regular basis.

We have backup drives available for purchase through a departmental charge and are happy to help. A 1 Terabyte backup drive (sufficient for the vast majority of users) is $60 and a 2 Terabyte backup drive is $80, and a 3 Terabyte backup is $100. To buy one of these drives contact the IT Helpdesk, give us a departmental charge number, and you can stop by and pick up your drive. If you’d like assistance setting up a backup drive and starting the backup, make an appointment with an IT Tech through the IT Helpdesk at

When to Use a PDF

There are several reasons that PDFs are most appropriate for resumes, CVs, cover letters, and letters of recommendation:

  • They can be viewed on almost any device, using built-in apps or the free Adobe Reader.
  • PDFs are not easy to change like Word documents, so reference letters are more credible.
  • The appearance is the same across users and devices.

Using a PDF in these situations comes across as more professional than a Word document.

On a Mac, you can always use File–>Print/PDF to save to a PDF. On Windows 10 you can print to PDFs by choosing the “Microsoft Print to PDF” printer. Many programs also have the ability to “Save as” or “Export to” a PDF.

Check out our tips on creating accessible PDFs.

Cloud Storage Options

Cloud storage options have become integrated with applications, and sometimes it’s confusing to keep all the options straight. Here’s some information that might be helpful as you consider options.


iCloud is a cloud storage solution from Apple. The first 5GB are free. It’s a great solution for storing photos and backing up your iPhone, if you’re Apple-centric, although you may find that you end up having to pay for storage pretty quickly if you have a lot of storage.

Apple tries to sneak in iCloud storage use on the Mac sometimes. With system upgrades it may ask if you want to store your Desktop and Documents to iCloud, and we recommend you not do it. Saving to iCloud does mean that your documents are securely backed up, but we have seen very slow performance on computers with this option set.


Microsoft’s OneDrive also gives you 5GB of free storage. Besides being available as a storage option on PC’s, Microsoft apps on macOS also offer to save to OneDrive. Newer versions of Word, Excel, and PowerPoint even default to saving to OneDrive.

OneDrive is a basic cloud solution, and with all the other options out there we don’t find ourselves recommending it very often.

Google Drive

Google Drive has unlimited storage for educational accounts, and 15GB storage for personal accounts. It’s easy to use, and integrates with all of the Google services. It’s a great storage solution especially in an educational setting.


Dropbox was great as an early cloud solution, but these days it seems pretty stingy with only 2GB of free space. It’s helpful for offloading files if you don’t have enough storage space on your computer–but only if you pay for enough storage to make a dent, and also choose to only selectively sync folders (otherwise everything is still stored on your computer).

Adobe Cloud Storage

Adobe gives educational accounts 20GB of free storage per user. It’s great for storing work from Adobe products, but it’s not integrated well with other products or operating systems.

General Considerations

  • Make sure you know where you are storing files. On a Mac, to see all storage options you may have to click a button for “Details.” Look at the folder hierarchy to make sure it’s going where you expect it to.
  • Unless you’re really organized, keep your cloud storage down to one or two services. Once you start adding on services it can be difficult to remember what is stored where. Also, if you’re paying for storage, once you get past the initial free space you get more bang for the buck with bigger plans.
  • Hampshire College sensitive information never be stored in a cloud storage system. For details, see our Data Security Policy.

Thumbs Up on macOS Mojave

Way back in September we asked faculty and staff to hold off on installing the latest Mac OS, Mojave. We’ve been using it for a few months now (as have some of you), and we are ready to endorse it as a stable operating system. If you’re tired of being nagged by Apple to install it–or if you just want to try something new–you can find it in the App Store in the Featured section.

As with any new OS install:

  • Please back up your computer before you install Mojave.
  • Make sure you have at least an hour to allow the install to complete.

And if you don’t have a backup system set up, we can help you with a plan. As always, contact the IT Help Desk or your School Support Specialist with any related questions or problems. The Help Desk can be reached at or 413.559.5418.