Starting college? Lucky you. If you had a bad time in school, now’s your chance to do something cool with your hair and invent a rich backstory for yourself. 

What you probably don’t want is to shuffle into class late and open your laptop, to be greeted by a series of chime sounds, or worse, the full volume of whatever you fell asleep watching last night.

If it does happen that you embarrass yourself somehow, just own it and try not to look like you’re dying of shame. Better yet, do a bit of prep work on your laptop or tablet first, and save the fear for the day after your first class night out. Here’s a short list of the many ways tech can get egg on your face, (based almost entirely on my own sorry experiences) and, most importantly, how to avoid it.

student using computer
"What's that?" "Nothing! It's nothing!" (Frantically closes Windows)

1. Last night’s tabs

Who knows what you were doing last night at 3am before you fell asleep? What are the chances it's something you'd like to broadcast to all the strangers sitting behind you? Everything you do late at night, even if you're just reading facts about badgers, is going to look weird the next day.

Save yourself the occasional stomach-lurch when you open your browser, and set it to launch a specific page when you open it, not your last opened tabs. Here’s How To Geek’s instructions.

2. Search history

You might want to set this to clear at the end of each session, or start developing an incognito mode habit now. I’m not suggesting you’re looking at anything weird, but the fact is you’re probably asking search engines some pretty personal stuff that at best expose major gaps in your knowledge of politics, science, and uh... anatomy. If your laptop ever ends up used for a presentation, be aware that starting to type something as innocent as Google into an address bar may briefly - but impactfully - display all the things you’ve previously searched that began with 'G' on the big screen.

3. Sounds

It’s not a big deal to play chimes sound in a lecture, but it’s still a load of heads turning towards you that you don’t need right now. If you remember, put your PC on mute before you bring it to college. If you don't, quickly jam your headphones into the sound socket while you deal with the matter. 

When you wake up a PC, even a video left paused may begin playing at full volume, while you rush red-faced to get your password in and hope you weren't watching something embarrassing, like The Big Bang Theory.

To disable specific system sounds (such as the start up ones), click on the speakers icon on the bottom corner of the screen (Windows), click sounds, then disable the ones you can live without.

Here’s how on a Mac.

4. Your desktop

If you’re using a laptop in class, the row behind you will find their eyes drawn to your screen, where they will linger over the personal effects you have on display. If you’ve got your eye on someone geeky, for one, I’d advise you to keep a neat desktop without too many shortcut icons on it, and make sure your internet browser doesn’t have a load of toolbars or Bing installed. Also, your desktop background may be something stupid, and you might not want to publicly announce that you play Sims by leaving its shortcut visible. Here’s a chance to curate your desktop to reflect the real you, I mean, the new you!

Eww, no.

5. Your camera roll/ filing system

Laptop, smartphone, tablet: you've probably got all your images saving in a camera roll-type system, in order of date. That's probably fine if it's just you using the device - but soon you may find you're also using it to for college work. 

Whether it’s just that you use your camera as a mirror these days and would rather people didn’t know that, or if your friends happen to send you slightly NSFW memes on Whatsapp… remember your phone might collect all the media you’ve sent and received and dump them in the same place as your coursework. Be aware of where your stuff is saved, and if you want to keep things hidden, separate your private media in folders that are excluded from the pictures library, or get an app to hide it.