And if we DO need a password we don't have, we ALWAYS both call the customer and email using the information first given to us when we originally signed the unit in.
Very reasonable of course, and there won't be any exceptions to this kind of policy for me anymore. Sounds like I use the same tool you do usually, a boot disk that blanks out the password. As an aside, there's also the "Ophcrack" boot disk (I believe Max PC ran an article about it at some point as well), which loads dictionary tables and does in fact reveal account passwords rather than blanking them out. It's one of the tools I carry, but in my experience it doesn't work as well.
Again the purpose for even having these tools is for when the customer has locked him or herself out, so they are of course aware of their use. But I've got to be honest again; the few times I've used the tools without them knowing beforehand didn't seem to phase the customers one bit. It's definitely possible that this has been a mistaken perception, but what's more apparent to me is an attitude something like, "I don't care what you had to do; thank God my computer's fixed."
It sounds like the big difference here is when the customer finds out about the cracking tool on their own
, having never been told by the repair guy at all, before or after. I overlooked this key point in Tom's article, leading to my misinterpretation. I can see now how this could lead to a certain "creepy" factor, although in and of itself it would not bother me personally. I still think it's slightly hilarious that he called the cops, but it sounds like my attitude is the exception rather than the rule.
I also have to say that my initial reaction still holds in one small way, in that I felt somewhat insulted by the original article. I got the distinct feeling that Halfhill's message was basically, "Computer repairmen are not to be trusted." If you're going to say this, at the very least you should back it up with a story that supports it. In Tom's story, nothing bad ever even happened (except in his own mind), thus my claim of undue paranoia.