the encryption will be tied to your user id so you should use a strong password. you only need to encrypt your data folders. if your laptop is lost/stolen, the files will be difficult to access (but not impossible) and just as secure as most inexpensive 3rd party password protection products.
there are some *very secure* 3rd party products like safeboot and checkpoint but they're very expensive and aimed at businesses.
After reading CNET's recent newsletter article about the poor guy whose laptop was stolen from his hotel, I'd like to try password protecting my hard drive. My data is backed up via Carbonite for my own needs, but I'd hate for the thing to get stolen and have some hack get my stuff.
I understand that some PCs offer the option to password protect HDs and some don't. I have an HP Pavilion dv9500t, Vista Premium--any idea whether this is a possibility for me? And if so, where can I find a how-to? I've tried searching the computer's own HELP function and got nothin'.