To Catch A Snoop: How To Tell If Someone Has Been On Your Computer

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It is a well known fact that a high percentage of identity thefts are done by family, friends (I use this word loosely) and acquaintances.  We’ve all heard the cases where someone who the victim knows gets a hold of their personal information somehow and wreaks havoc with their credit.  This can be done several ways including getting a hold of credit card offers (or other personal mail), snooping in purses or wallets, and even snooping on the victim’s computer.

A lot of those incidents can be avoided simply by taking care of your personal items.  Computers are no exception.


There are ways how to tell if someone has been on your computer and to keep prying eyes away from your computer in your home.  You can secure it with a USB drive, Windows logon password, or even a BIOS password.  You can also lock programs and even word documents.  However, as with most security attempts, there’s usually a way around them.  Security is basically a deterrent and the more work you make for a snoop, the less likely you are to become a victim.

OK, so you’ve taken precautions, to the best of your ability, to keep snooping people off your home computer but for some reason you believe someone’s been on there anyhow.  Did you know there are ways to tell if someone’s been on there and, to an extent, what they’ve been up to?  Your job of snooping on this snoop can be either difficult or easy, depending on how well they cover their tracks.  Let’s go through some methods of snooping on a snoop.

Check Recent Items Opened

how to tell if someone has been on your computer

Depending on your Windows version, you have a menu item named something similar to “Recent Items.”  This is a quick and easy way to tell what files have been opened recently.  Be aware that if the snoop has his head on straight, he could clear this.  However, if it’s cleared, you know someone has been on there, too.

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Check Recently Modified Files

You can search for recently modified files in the advanced search window.  Just set the location to search (all hard drives might be a good start) and the date you want to search back to.

how to tell if someone has been on your computer

Make sure you set it to search for “Date modified.”

Check Which Programs Have Been Opened Recently

Some Windows versions give you a list of recently used programs as soon as you click on the Start button (meant to make them more accessible).

how to tell if someone has been on your computer

You can also use the Event Viewer for some recent activity, including programs opened and the last time the computer was booted up.  Go to the start menu and click “Run” and type “eventvwr.msc” and click “OK.”

For more help figuring out how to use the Event Viewer, check out this article by Saikat which explains how to use it to solve Windows problems.  It’ll help you get a handle on the viewer which will help you in finding out what a snoop could have been up to.

Check Internet Browsing Histories

What browsers do you have on your computer?  Check them all for Internet activity to see if someone’s been going online with it.  In Firefox, there is a History menu item.

In Google Chrome you click on the picture of the wrench at the top-right corner of the screen and click History in the dropdown menu.

In Internet Explorer, click the yellow star and choose the History tab.

Many snoops are smart enough to clear the browsing history.  Nowadays on some browsers they can choose which history to delete or go completely incognito and browse privately altogether.  It is for these reasons that this method will work only for the careless snoop.

Install Tracking Software

If you are wondering if there is an ongoing problem, install tracking software.  Varun mentions visikid in an article about parental control software.  You can also use other software such as K9 Web Protection to see a log of internet activity and even turn off the internet during specified times.  Then there is the infamous keylogger (which often gets a bad rap because hackers often use them for gathering information) for keeping up with snoops on your personal computer.

So if you are suspecting that a visitor (or even a current resident) of your home is snooping and you are fearing something bad (like your ID being stolen) is going to happen, now you have 5 routes to take to make sure nothing wrong is going on.  This way you can curtail it before the bad stuff happens.

Do you have any more tips to help sniff out a snoop?  Share in the comments.

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