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What is an HP Smart Card?

H. Bliss
H. Bliss

An HP Smart Card is a security device manufactured by computer maker Hewlett Packard® (HP®). A smart card is usually the size of a credit card and contains a chip that exchanges information with a smart-card-ready device. Some HP® computers come equipped with HP Smart Card-based security technology that requires a properly configured smart card to boot the computer or access encrypted data. On an HP® computer, the smart card security function is one security feature of HP ProtectTools Security Manager® suite.

A computer smart card is a data card with a microprocessor embedded inside. The smart card configuration is usually used on newer credit cards and on electronic security identification badges. Smaller smart cards make a frequent appearance as Subscriber Identity Module (SIM) cards in many cell phones. In addition to the security features smart cards present, properly equipped smart card users can scan smart card enabled credit cards for online payment. HP® is not the only manufacturer that makes smart cards — users can also purchase a Sony® Smart Card, or smart cards from other companies, like Cardlogix®, Cisco Security® and ActivIdentity®.

Woman doing a handstand with a computer
Woman doing a handstand with a computer

HP Smart Card security turns a smart card into an electronic key for a computer. Generally, HP® includes computer smart card setup functions in HP® business notebooks with the HP Smart Card security suite. In the smart card security utility, a user initializes and configures the smart card and sets up the computer to work with HP Smart Card security. Users can add other layers of security, such as fingerprint scanners and encrypted passwords, to further elevate the security protection on the computer.

Smart cards are used for security protection technology because they are built with specifications that make these types of cards more difficult to hack. Typically, smart card security is not available on all smart-card-ready computers. For a smart card to function as a computer security device, the user needs a smart card security software package in addition to a smart card reader.

Also, smart card readers are called Card Accepting Devices (CAD). Computer smart card readers are included on most computers that come equipped with smart card security technology. For computers with no built-in smart card reader, external smart card readers attach via Universal Serial Bus (USB) or serial port to provide smart card access to the computer. External smart card readers can be standalone devices, or they may be built into other devices, such as keyboards.

Discussion Comments


It sounds like you can do a lot with smart card technologies! I had no idea the same thing was used in cell phone SIM cards as well as HP Smart Cards. And of course you can use them to process credit card payments too!

I suppose all these different uses make sense, since these cards aren't easy to hack. You definitely want a secure technology if you're trying to keep your computer secure or process a credit card payment!


@KaBoom - I agree that the average computer user does not need one of these smart cards. Unless you just really like gadgets or you're extra paranoid about your personal information. But seriously, it just wouldn't make sense.

I think HP Smart Cards are probably used mostly in a business or government setting. I have a friend who works as a government contractor. He has a pretty high security clearance and works with some pretty sensitive information. So security is really important!

His work computer is equipped with a USB smart card reader and he uses a card to boot up the computer. But in his case, having a secure computer actually makes sense!


The HP Smart Card sounds cool in theory, but I don't think it would be very practical for the average computer user. Most people don't need layers of security on their personal computers anyway. Password protector your computer will usually be enough to keep your personal information safe.

Getting a product from a smart card manufacturer seems like it would be excessive. But also, imagine if you lost your smart card? I could see myself doing this! I would probably leave it somewhere, or it would fall out of my purse. Then I wouldn't be able to access my own computer!

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