The shop where I work has a strict policy of data preservation and privacy for our customers. Any good computer repair shop will. Nevertheless, there are some safety precautions you should take.
Backup your data
Usually there is no threat to your data when taking it into the shop. In most cases, the actions performed by the repair techs have little risk of data loss. But there’s always the possibility. Such is the nature of digital information. Especially if the issue is a virus or major hardware failure. Make sure you have your stuff backed up and stored at home before leaving your computer in anyone else’s hands. You are responsible for your data.
Remove any sensitive data
If there is any data that you would not want anyone else to see, take it off first. This should go without saying, but you would be surprised how infrequently people think about this. Again, there should be minimal risk of privacy intrusion. But it’s always a possibility.
Use a reputable business
You need to be careful with who you trust with your things. Make sure to do your homework first. If they come recommended to you, then that might be a good sign. But if it’s Joe Schmo who you’ve never heard of who works out of his garage with a sign on his lawn, be wary. It’s best to find someone who’s listed and/or has a reputation of integrity.
Make sure you have all your software keys
Not strictly a safety or privacy matter, this is still worth mentioning. The repair shop is not responsible for preserving your programs like Microsoft Office, Photoshop, or even your operating system like Windows or Mac. They will try, but if it comes down to having to reinstall your software, it’s your responsibility to have everything needed to do so. Hopefully they will be able to walk you through the process or even do it for you if you have everything that’s required. But you don’t want to end up buying your programs again just because you didn’t have the forethought to keep the discs and software licenses.
If you use your computer for illegal activity, don’t even bother taking it to the shop. They don’t want to stumble onto anything they have a responsibility to report. Even if they don’t report you, they’re probably never going to help you again.
The Bottom Line
Ultimately what it comes down to is that your data is your responsibility. “Computer illiteracy” doesn’t matter if your important files are lost or your privacy breached. When you take your computer in, be sure to perform due diligence to ensure you’re as safe as possible. If you don’t know what to do, ask the shop to help you before they operate. Follow these guidelines and you should not have any reason to worry. It’s better to go in with peace of mind than worry that you’re risking something important.