Security screw bits are a crock.

Dear readers, one of the privileges of running this blog is that I occasionally get to go off topic. WAY off topic. Probably further off topic than I would allow any of the other staffers to get. And when I get cranky, I take to this blog and put my frustrations down into words so all of you can share them.

Let’s talk security screws

Do I need to explain what a security screw is? It’s pretty much any screw that won’t come out with your garden variety Phillips or flathead screwdriver, or with your typical Allen wrench. If you’re attentive, you’ve probably noticed them in public restrooms. Right there you know I have to stop for a second. Who goes into a public restroom and their first thought is “I want to disassemble one of these partitions and take it home?” I mean, anyone? I have to say, if this is your first thought when in a public bathroom, please seek help.

Other places you’ll find security screws

The big problem isn’t security screws in public restrooms. For me anyway, the big problem with these things is finding them in consumer electronics. Because hey, I’m paid to take these things apart and test them. And I’m not going to call out any names, but let me just say some of our biggest manufacturers at Solid Signal use some sort of tamper-resistant screws in their products.

I think these screws are supposed to say “Hey, don’t go in here.” Maybe for some people, they do. I mean, there have been times I’ve opened something up and really regretted doing it because it was practically impossible to put back together. Other times I’ve seen these screws used on equipment where you would void the warranty if you opened it.

The security screw just kind of annoys me, though. It doesn’t stop me for a second from opening anything. OK, it stops me for a second. It stops me just long enough to go to the garage and get my handy dandy set of security screwdriver bits.

The solution

I found a set that looks like these about 15 years ago at a local hardware store. I’d be surprised if I paid more than $5 then. I’ve noticed that you can get this same set online for about $7, so that should tell you about what I paid way back when.

And let me tell you something. I didn’t have to show some sort of fancy installer license to get these things. I walked into the store and said, where are the security screwdriver bits. That’s literally how I remember it. They had quite a few sets and this one looked intriguing. And cheap. Don’t forget that they were cheap.

Which essentially means, there’s no benefit to security screws at all. The set you see above you is about half the height and width of a cell phone, and about as tall as three phones stacked on top of each other. It fits just fine in the pocket of a coat, although maybe putting them in a pants pocket might seem a bit snug. Nonetheless, you could carry it around anytime you wanted to. That’s my point. But…

Who has that kind of time?

If I were so inclined, I could just walk into any restroom or whatever with my handy dandy $5 security bits and a driver I got for free from a trade show in the 1990s and take down every partition. But who has that kind of time? No one, that’s who. Which is the whole point. Someone, whether it was the manufacturer or the owner of these things, thought “oh, I better put a security screw in there. Don’t want people just kinda stealing things.” Come on. How ridiculous.

The world needs less complexity, not more

There’s absolutely a need for security in some things. I don’t want a lock that’s easy to pick. I don’t want a door with no lock. And I want my personal information on my phone to be secure. But if I pick up a device and it has star-shaped dimples on the screw heads, that’s not security. That’s stupidity. It just makes everything the tiniest bit more complex for absolutely no reason.

That is, unless you’re the makers and sellers of security bits. If I happened to capture one of you and you’ve read this far, you’re probably pretty torqued that I am attacking your livelihood. (Torqued? See what I did there?) But for the other 99.9999% of us, these things are just one of those little things that makes life a tiny bit worse for no reason. That’s right, I said it.

 

Ah… that feels better. Glad I got that off my chest.

About the Author

Stuart Sweet
Stuart Sweet is the editor-in-chief of The Solid Signal Blog and a "master plumber" at Signal Group, LLC. He is the author of over 8,000 articles and longform tutorials including many posted here. Reach him by clicking on "Contact the Editor" at the bottom of this page.