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An important aspect of maintaining account security is knowing what devices are signed into your account. Google makes this information available when you view your Google Account. But, this information is only useful if you can distinguish your devices from other devices that should not have access.

I find it easy to distinguish my Android phones, as the device name is displayed in the ‘Your devices’ information. But recognizing my Windows' computers is a different story. The information provided for Windows devices does not allow me to definitively identify my devices.

Figure 1 shows a screen shot of the Google Account device information for a Windows device that was signed into my account. It appears that only two distinguishing factors are presented: time and location. Neither are helpful. The location provided is ‘United States’, which is a very large geographical area. The time is not very useful either. I do not log the time when I sign into and out of my Google Account.

Figure 1: Windows device info displayed in Google Account                                              Figure 1: Windows device info displayed in Google Account

Is there something I can configure that will allow me to definitively recognize my Windows devices? For example, can Google display the device name of my Windows’ device? Or, is there a setting in my browser app that I could configure that would be displayed? Without some more definitive information, I feel like I’m just guessing. I would rather not guess when it involves my security.

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The device information displayed in the Google account will vary depending on the configuration of the Chrome browser used to sign-in to the Google account. If the Chrome browser is configured to sync with the Google account, i.e., the Chrome browser setting ‘Allow Chrome sign-in’ is enabled and ‘Sync’ is enabled, then the device information in the Google account will display the Windows’ computer name of the signed-in device.

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If the Chrome browser is configured to sign-in to the Google account, but not sync with it, i.e., the Chrome browser setting ‘Allow Chrome sign-in’ is enabled and ‘Sync’ is disabled, then the device information in the Google account will display the motherboard name of the signed-in device.

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If the Chrome browser is configured to not sign-in to the Google account, i.e., the Chrome browser setting ‘Allow Chrome sign-in’ is disabled, then the device information in the Google account will not display any information about the signed-in device.

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While experimenting to figure out the above behavior, I identified an additional behavior that makes using the Google Account device information problematic. The Google Account app will continue to display information for a device that has been signed-out of the Google account. But, irrespective of the Chrome browser configuration, the Google Account device information will not display any information about the device. For example, if the Chrome browser is configured to sync with the Google account, the Google Account device information for a signed-in device will list the Windows’ computer name. But, when the device is signed-out of the Google account, the device information will no longer show the Windows’ computer name.

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I also experienced several situations where I had signed-out of a device, but it still showed as signed-in in the Google Account app. In these situations, the Google Account device information showed the Windows’ computer name while the device was signed-in, but despite still being shown as signed-in, the Window’s computer name disappeared when the device was signed-out.

Overall, I find interpreting the Google Account device information problematic. Consequently, I do not find it to be a reliable way to figure out the security status of one’s account. There are too many variations and inconsistencies. I think one would be better off relying on the security alerts that are received each time a new device signs-in to one’s account. I believe being diligent about security alerts will make one aware of a suspicious sign-in attempt.

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