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Keep tabs on who uses your personal computer with this simple guide

how to see who uses your computer
Iriana Shiyan
Given the sheer amount vital information we save to our personal computers every day, the need for dependable security is higher now than ever before. Web browsers like Firefox and Google Chrome may grant us the ability to save passwords and banking information with just a few clicks of the mouse, but the added convenience of not having to remember each variation of your tried-and-true password also opens up the possibility of others accessing your computer and assuming your identity.

So, what options do you have to ensure your private data stays, well, private? While the recommended, first course of action might be to set up some form of account encryption using a password, it’s not always the most effective or practical. Fortunately, employing proper surveillance software such as an activity tracker or keylogger grants you ample opportunity to keep tabs on your PC, even while you’re away. What follows is our simple guide on how to protect your computer and keep track of its daily activities.

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Webcam security


Perhaps the best surveillance software currently on the market, iSpy is one of the most feature-rich programs on our rundown. The program — which iSpy offers as a free download — uses your PC’s cameras, webcams, and microphones to identify both movement and sound on or around your computer. Moreover, iSpy lets you automatically track motion, or snap videos and photos, even while you’re out of the house.

After installing the program, all that stands between you and monitoring your computer is a few minutes assigning a compatible webcam and turning on motion detection. Luckily, iSpy provides a straightforward user guide to help with the initial setup and execution of the program. It even lets you save any media to a desired desktop folder, or to a cloud service such as Google Drive. You can also configure the program to send emails, texts, or tweets alerting you of any suspicious activity if you’re willing to shell out for either a monthly or yearly subscription.

iSpy Screenshots
Image used with permission by copyright holder

The downside of the program is the fact it only works if you’re currently signed in to your user account, meaning the program doesn’t automatically launch on start up or on other active accounts. To combat that, simply stay logged into your account when you leave the house and launch the program in Silent Start mode, so it operates undetected. With said setup, you can rest assured your desired settings will work their magic on unsuspecting snoopers.

Skype‘s nanny cam feature

Yes, you read that correctly. The popular video chat client Skype allows users to set up a nanny cam. Well, sort of.

While not a standard Skype feature, some simple tinkering of the program’s settings — and an auxiliary Skype account — allows anyone to create their own mock nanny cam. To do this, first create a second Skype account reserved just for nanny cam duties and make sure to set it as the primary account to sign-in when Skype launches. We also recommend you change Skype’s settings so the program launches and signs into the account when your system starts up, thus ensuring Skype automatically launches even if your home computer restarts.

Note: To change Skype’s startup settings, simply log out of your current account and check the boxes beside “Sign me in when Skype starts” and “Start Skype when computer starts.” Also, make sure your nanny cam account is either already signed in when you leave the house, or is your default Skype account.

After creating your nanny cam account, log in and add your primary Skype account to its Contacts List. Afterward, click Tools and Privacy to access the privacy options for the nanny cam account before selecting the option to only receive calls from people in your Contacts List. Now go back to the Options menu, select the Calls tab, and check the boxes next to “Answer incoming calls automatically” and “Start my video automatically when I am in a call” after clicking on Show advanced options.

Once you finish configuring these settings, the nanny cam account will accept and immediately begin broadcasting video with each incoming call. Keep in mind some webcams feature an LED light, or some other notification when in use, meaning the video call may alert anyone near the computer once the call connects.

Next page: Activity trackers and keyloggers

Activity trackers and keyloggers

Spytech SpyAgent

Image used with permission by copyright holder

So what if your PC doesn’t have a webcam, or you insist on employing a more all-encompassing monitoring program? Fret not, there is a bevy of feature-heavy activity trackers designed to answer your specific needs, albeit for a price. The best one we’ve found comes from Minnesota-based Spytech Software and Design, Inc., a company that claims they’ve provided “computer monitoring solutions since 1998.” As you might expect from the name, the company offers a slew of security and monitoring programs for large-scale corporations, small businesses, and home owners.

Its flagship monitoring software, Spytech SpyAgent, retails for $70 and comes packed with an extensive array of features and benefits. Once installed, the program has the ability to log any keystroke made on your home PC, chart and record every website and search inquiry, and even take note of every email sent or received.

SpyAgent’s greatest asset is its Invisible Stealth Mode, though, which allows the program to run completely undetected to anyone using the computer it’s installed on. SpyAgent even showcases the capability to block unwanted websites, programs, or games from launching, and instantly sends behavior alerts directly to the owner’s email address. Although it still carries a hefty price tag, SpyAgent remains one of the most well-rounded activity trackers available, providing an abundance of information pertaining to what goes on with your computer while you’re gone.


Image used with permission by copyright holder

For those of you who prefer activity tracking on a budget, the crew over at ActivTrak offers its ActivTrak Agent completely free of charge. Though the developers originally intended for employers to use it as a means for monitoring their employees’ Internet behavior, the program’s tracking abilities are perfect for keeping tabs on home computers or workstations.

To begin using the software, simply head over to the ActivTrak website, input a valid email address, and let the program to install on your desired computer. After installation completes, the program will have the ability to send you reports regarding website access, application usage, and the amount of time spent within various programs. ActivTrak can even capture screenshots while your computer is in use and store them in the cloud for easy access later. It’s not the most comprehensive activity tracker, but its nonexistent price tag still makes it worthwhile for anyone looking to keep tabs on their home computer.


Image used with permission by copyright holder

Kidlogger not only proves itself as one of the most in-depth keylogging programs on the Web, but its freemium price tag makes it an incredibly attractive offering.

After downloading the comprehensive program — available for Windows and Mac — you can instantly begin tracking your computer’s keystroke information, as well as information regarding webpage access and application usage. You can also set up Kidlogger to periodically capture screenshots, as well as webcam images when video chat applications such as Skype or Google Hangouts are active.

It’s a detailed activity tracker which works great as a standalone application, or moreover, when paired with any other tracking solution on our roundup.

Rick Stella
Former Digital Trends Contributor
Rick became enamored with technology the moment his parents got him an original NES for Christmas in 1991. And as they say…
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