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Encrypt a USB Flash Drive In Windows 8

USB flash drives are an often overlooked back-up tool. Though convenient, their portability can be a security risk. Here’s how to use BitLocker in Windows 8 which is a built in encryption utility that lets you keep your flash drive secure.

Note: The BitLocker feature – technically called BitLocker To Go for removable drives — is available in Windows 8 Pro, Windows 7 Ultimate and Enterprise editions. After encrypting the drive with Windows 8, you can use it on XP and higher to read and copy files, but not save to it directly.

First, plug in your USB flash drive. After Windows recognizes it, go into Computer and find the drive and highlight it. From the new Windows 8 Explorer Ribbon you’ll see Drive Tools highlighted. Click BitLocker >> Turn on BitLocker.

Turn on BitLocker Win8

Alternately, you can right click the external drive and select Turn on BitLocker from the context menu. This method works best in Windows 7.
Turn on Bitlocker Context Menu

Next, check Use a Password to Unlock the Drive and type in your Password twice. Click Next.

Enter BitLocker PW

Windows asks how to backup your Recovery Key. The Recovery key is a string of characters that lets you access the drive even if you’ve lost the password.

Recovery Key

Next choose how much of the drive to encrypt. If you select Used Disk Space Only – it’s faster and any data you add will also be encrypted. I recommend selecting Encrypt Entire Drive, even though it takes longer.  That way even deleted data, that’s possibly recoverable is encrypted too.

Encrypt Disk

Then click Start Encrypting to kick off the process.

Ready to Start

You’ll be able to monitor the progress while your drive is encrypted. The amount of time it takes will vary depending on the amount of data on your drive and its size.

Encrypting Progress

After the drive is encrypted, you’ll see a lock icon on the drive listed in computer.

Encryption iCon

Now when you want to use the drive, plug it in and you’re prompted for the Password before you can access it.

password to unlock

This is the screen you’ll see on Windows 7 to enter the password to unlock the encrypted drive.

Enter Password Windows 7

After that, AutoPlay comes up (if enabled) and you can start using the drive how you want.

Start Using Drive Windows 8

If you need to change the Password or manage other options on your BitLocker encrypted drive, in Windows 8, right click on it and select Change BitLocker Password or Manage BitLocker.

Windows 8 manage or change pw

manage bitlocker win8

In Windows 7, right click the drive and select Manage BitLocker. Then you’ll get a menu listing different options to manage, including Change Password.

Options Windows 7

If you want to use a third party utility to encrypt your drives – including Dropbox, we recommend using TrueCrypt.

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