A couple days ago I found out whenever I'm out of the office (meetings, vacation, etc), that one of my coworkers have straight up been using my work computer in addition to their own work computer before logging off and putting everything back to normal before I'm back. I asked them about it and they said that it was okay because they logged into their own account and it is a company computer. That's true I technically don't own the computer but it's the one assigned to me so isn't it expected that others don't use it, especially so secretively? They won't tell me what they're even using it for (though it's probably non-work stuff...) and I am honestly shocked that this has just been going on without me knowing at all. Shouldn't they ask my permission to use my computer first, or is this acceptable behaviour since it's a company computer and they use their account?

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    Sorry, this isn't really something we can help with - it's something that is very dependent on your specific company policies. I suggest you ask your manager. Commented Aug 24, 2018 at 7:24
  • Does everyone have an account on every computer in the office?
    – DonFusili
    Commented Aug 24, 2018 at 7:48
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    @DonFusili it is normal in a Windows corporate infrastructure to be able to log into any PC on the network if you have been issued with a login. However, unless you have local administrator rights, you cannot usually access another users files stored within the user profile (which usually includes the 'my documents' and desktop folder).
    – AdzzzUK
    Commented Aug 24, 2018 at 7:52
  • @AdzzzUK Sure, I know that, but I don't see an indication of the system being used in the question. When I read "using my work computer", my first reaction is to think of remote access. I only dismissed that because I can't think of an adult complaining about remote access.
    – DonFusili
    Commented Aug 24, 2018 at 8:22
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    @Fattie Considering every answer makes a ridiculous amount of assumptions about the questioner's workplace environment (It's normal/You had to sign for the computer/They were able to run Kali on it) just to have a base for an answer, this is a bad question as long as OP doesn't clarify their perception of how this workplace views computers.
    – DonFusili
    Commented Aug 24, 2018 at 9:21

6 Answers 6


I think you're over reacting a bit here.

It is a company computer // I technically don't own the computer

Well then what's the problem?

Surely when you go away the person cannot log into your account (if so, ensure you lock your computer when leaving it), so even if they do use your computer for none work related things it'll be tracked on their account (Assuming activity is logged) if not try and get email proof about the conversations just be like when you used my PC did you.... ?.

As long as it doesn't intervene with your work I suggest you just turn a blind eye and just carry on with your job as it really doesn't and shouldn't affect you. If your manager/whomever it concerns does ask you about activity on the computer you have email proof, or even ask colleagues

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    Unless there was "desk promiscuity" at my workplace (in which case I'd be looking for a new one), I would very much have a problem with someone else using my desk and computer there without asking first: 1) Some people just make a mess, I've seen keyboards that should have been burned with fire. Maybe that other person scratches his balls and then goes back to the keyboard. Or maybe I did that (since it's my keyboard, bought with my own money). 2) Malware. Yes, even if there were locked-down user accounts. I don't want to have to re-install because someone else clicked on bad link. Commented Aug 24, 2018 at 7:44
  • @ThiefMaster It depends on the company, People always use set PC's but when people are away on holiday, the PC's still get used. That's just how it works at my place, giving from my perspective this is my answer
    – Twyxz
    Commented Aug 24, 2018 at 7:49
  • On a lot of setups, things would get logged under the computer/network address rather than the user logged in
    – PlasmaHH
    Commented Aug 24, 2018 at 9:40
  • @PlasmaHH Potentially true, but alternatively email proof could be a solution if ever pulled for any reason
    – Twyxz
    Commented Aug 24, 2018 at 10:33
  • I really hate it when someone has used my keyboard and extended the little feet to tilt it up, and left it that way. I like my keyboard FLAT. As for cake or cookie crumbs, etc, I am just as bad as anyone else, so I don't care about that. Commented Aug 24, 2018 at 17:34

If you don't know what they are doing with your computer (or, even worse, if you know what they are doing and it's non-working stuff) you should speak clearly with them and, if they continue, address the issue with your manager.

While it's true that the computer is not yours and any action they take is going to get logged under their account, it's still a company asset assigned to you. You might even have signed some piece of paper stating you'll take care of the company computer (I know I have done it) and you'll be responsible for any non work-related incident involving that computer. Moreover, action (malicious or erroneous) on their part might compromise your ability to work with that computer. This is going to impact your job and thus is clearly something your manager should know about (they may be ok with it, but it's not your job to take that decision for them).

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    Unless this is a laptop, there is no reasonable expectation that OP is required to take care of the desktop 24/7. OP cannot be held liable for improper use when OP is not in the office.
    – Flater
    Commented Aug 24, 2018 at 10:19
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    Depending on the incident, it might be tricky to prove it happened while OP was out office (expecially if the company policy is "one desktop per employee" and there is no record of other people using OP's equipment). Even worse if it's not immediately recognizable damage, so OP cannot report it straight away.
    – frollo
    Commented Aug 24, 2018 at 10:23
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    You're missing the point. OP is only responsible for what is reasonably their responsibility. If a coworker takes an axe to the computer, regardless of whether OP was in the office or not; that is not OP's responsibility. OP would only be liable if he e.g. gave express permission to the coworker to break his computer. Similarly, your example in the comment is akin to OP being essentially framed for damaging the device. OP is not reasonably capable of preventing anyone from ever damaging the desktop 24/7, and OP should not be forced to ensure this at his expense.
    – Flater
    Commented Aug 24, 2018 at 10:32
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    Bringing it back on topic, if OP had a reasonable claim that the coworker hindered OP's usage of the computer because of something they did, that is valid complaint for OP to lodge. But OP's question focuses on usage of the computer. While he cannot prove that it was used for work related purposes, he also has no proof that it was used for non-work-related purposes either, so he currently cannot in good faith lodge a complaint for improper usage of the computer, unless company policy explicitly prohibits using a coworker's computer (even if for work-related purposes).
    – Flater
    Commented Aug 24, 2018 at 10:37
  • I'm not only talking about physical damage. Clicking on a link, opening an email, running a script are all things that can cause software damage which could be attributed to OP (which is practically certain if the company works under the assumption of a single PC per employee) and/or damage OP's productivity. If OP is not 100% certain that the situation (both the coworker using the PC and how the coworker uses the PC), the best course of action is to notify the management either to have a trace of "I'm no more the only one using that PC" or to stop the improper usage.
    – frollo
    Commented Aug 24, 2018 at 11:07

It doesn't matter that much.

This is a work computer, so there shouldn't really be a need for "your" data to be on there - you have an expectation that anything you do on a work computer is liable to be visible to co-workers/IT.

So you lock your workstation and someone else logs in with their own corporate credentials. It seems as though nothing bad has happened, but you feel some kind of ownership over "your" computer.

I feel the same way when someone uses my desk when I'm gone, leaves their chewed biros on my desk, lowers my chair. What do I do about it? Shrug, reset my chair and throw the crap away and get on with my day.

If the configuration of your computer changes (software installed/uninstalled in a way that interferes with your day-to-day work, then address this with your manager or co-worker as appropriate.

  • This might be true when you're building software, but finance people probably don't want other workers to see the financial records or salaries stored on them. Just because it's work doesn't mean everyone should be able to see it.
    – Erik
    Commented Aug 24, 2018 at 8:30
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    @Erik: True, but finance people don't need local admin permissions, so, by default, user A won't be able to see the data of user B, even if they use the same computer.
    – Heinzi
    Commented Aug 24, 2018 at 9:28
  • @Erik: Documents should always be stored with access rights pertaining to the correct user or group. That can be done in many different ways, but the gist here is that non-local-administrators should never be able to access someone else's files unless they have been explicitly given permission to do so. Local admins, however, do need to ensure that they do not abuse the local administrator privileges that they are granted.
    – Flater
    Commented Aug 24, 2018 at 10:21
  • I was talking more about the expectation that "anything you do is liable to be visible to co-workers". I agree you really shouldn't be able to, and you shouldn't expect them to, either.
    – Erik
    Commented Aug 24, 2018 at 10:55

They claim that they are using their own account, but you are not sure about this. You don't know what they did so you need to protect yourself but without "going to war" with your coworker.

1) Check with IT about the status of the computer. ( it is likely that it should only be used by you). But before you inform your boss you shoul check the internal rule to avoid going to your boss and find out in the end that you are wrong.

2) After you checked with IT, voice your desagreement during a a face to face with you corworker : "hey guys, please don't use my computer i don't like it". You can also ask why they do that, but don't pressure them, just ask one time casually to see if they reply. You don't want to be the "annoying guy in the office" even if you are right.

3) Have a face to face with the manager : " hey boss, other cowokers used my computer, maybe they did illegal stuff, i don't know, so i think my duty is to inform you". (again, you don't want to be the guy that complain, but be the guy that wants the best for the company and inform his boss when there is something suspicious.). after the face to face, send an email to your boss to sum up what you talk about. so you have a proof : as soon as you know something suspicious you have inform your manager

You don't know what they did For whatever they did, they use your computer ( IP + mac adress) -> you need to protect yourself.

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    "hey guys, please don't use my computer i don't like it" is a bad suggestion. OP does not get to claim what people do or don't do with company property based on their own personal preference. This is the company's decision. They can allow it or disallow it. OP does not have the rank required to make this call. maybe they did illegal stuff, i don't know is similarly bad. Alleging illegal behavior when you have no proof whatsoever is nowhere near acceptable workplace behavior. At best, you're wasting the manager's time. At worst, the manager reads into your implications.
    – Flater
    Commented Aug 24, 2018 at 10:23
  • Please read what i wrote : "2) After you checked with IT". AFTER. OP wrote "especially so secretively?"And why would the coworkers would use his computer in secret if it is not to do not safe for work stuff? if it was work related, they would'nt hide.
    – Dupond
    Commented Aug 27, 2018 at 1:15
  • Assumptions are not evidence. Whether OP has talked to IT or not is irrelevant, what matters is if there is explicit company policy that prohibits using each other's computer. Even if that is the case, "I don't like it" is still not the right thing to say as OP's opinion does not factor into it.
    – Flater
    Commented Aug 27, 2018 at 5:59
  • "They claim that they are using their own account". Well, they do not have much choice. Unless the original poster gave them his/her password. And that is very likely against company policy.
    – Hennes
    Commented Aug 28, 2018 at 18:18

Non-escalation related solutions:

  • offer to "help" him in the tasks he performs in your computer, do not be afraid to try to understand why the same task cannot be accomplished in his computer;
  • if he doesn't provide a clear explanation, jokingly ask him if he's watching "you know what" when he uses your computer... If he shies away, look to him seriously and tell him that you will not take lightly someone using your assigned computer to other matters than work;
  • as another dialog alternative, point out that the keyboard and mouse are vehicles to propagate contagious diseases (they generally have a lot more bacteria than toilet seats) and since you often get sick, you want to avoid to getting sick more times than usual, also, it would be unfortunate that he would start getting as well (let him understand if he's going through all the trouble logging in in your computer, ask him to use his input devices, if he breaks them or makes a mess out of them, you will not be blamed for it and you may consider escalating the issue if he simply does not respect your request)...

To check what he may be doing:

  1. Run eventvwr (Windows) or some sort of logger to know which time frames your computer was used by other person(s);
  2. Use some tool for verifying which files were recently deleted (in SSDs it's particularly easy to recover them);
  3. If your account is an admin of the computer you are using (i.e. the IT department gave you that privilege by default), you are allowed to access his user folder to check temporary/browser files;
  4. Install a screenshot snapper (again, if you are an admin) and make it run globally.

If you identify files that are non-work related which may be harmful to you if found by others in your company (especially if later you are reassigned), print the logs of both times and files you found and head to management directly and prove that you were not the one using the computer. Let management decide your colleague's behavior (you don't need to tell your colleague anything if this is the case).

I was responsible once for resetting up a laptop after one of my colleagues left the company. My boss at the time had enough lack of curiosity to simply ask me to wipe out his files, since all relevant files to the company were already shared. So I simply needed to do a basic clean and prepare it for a new worker. I was doing that in the beginning, but it was clear that my former colleague did really not care or dedicate any time cleaning his junk files and I ended up wasting more time making sure none of that stuff showed up anywhere else later. The one coming after him would have definitely found those and would perhaps reconsider working there.


Of course depending on your company policy...

Secure your computer

Consider enabling BitLocker (or whatever drive-level encryption is relevant to your OS) so that a password is required to boot the machine. They will need to awkwardly ask you to unlock it if they have a legit reason to use it.

I personally doubt that you could be reprimanded for taking data security seriously with regards to securing your workstation.

Edit: Unless your workplace specifically uses hot-seats, where your computer MUST be accessible by your coworkers.

Secure your individual data

If encrypting the entire drive is not an option, I would still strongly recommend enabling encryption for at least your own user account. As a good practice.

Because there is still the risk that somebody can access your data from another account or even by booting via a live disk like Kali Linux. One of the many purposes of Kali Linux is nefariously stealing data.

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    The first option, if carried out by anyone other than the company IT department, could quite easily lead to disciplinary action, so I absolutely do not recommend. I do recommend securing your personal data, but moving everything to your personal drive on the network (assuming there is one) would be better for career longevity as opposed to encrypting the device.
    – AdzzzUK
    Commented Aug 24, 2018 at 7:49
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    In any company with a serious IT department and policy, drive encryption should be already installed on every machine and regular users shouldn't be allowed to execute such actions.
    – Simon
    Commented Aug 24, 2018 at 8:06
  • @Simnon why - on laptops yes but why on desktops - ay data should be on a network share - or roaming profile
    – mmmmmm
    Commented Aug 24, 2018 at 10:17
  • @Mark: "should" and "is" are two different things. Policy suggests taking the right course of action. Drive encryption ensures that any data that violates the policy (unintentional or not) is still secured. It's more likely that a laptop's drive gets stolen compared to a office computer, but it's not impossible for the office computer's to be stolen.
    – Flater
    Commented Aug 24, 2018 at 10:27

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