Encrypting a portable USB flash drive is a great way to prevent sensitive data falling into the wrong hands. This guide will demonstrate how to securely encrypt a USB flash drive within Windows so that the data stored on it cannot be read nor accessed without entering a secure password.
This can be completed within minutes and does not require an experienced technical background. Having this method standardized for employees should be considered a normal routine especially when sharing with colleagues from different departments. Having access with consent is normally a standard practice for firms conscious of the carriage of client data.
This guide applies to encrypting a flash drive on Windows 7 Enterprise, Windows 7 Ultimate, Windows 10 Enterprise and Windows 10 Pro using the Windows built in encryption tool known as BitLocker. (by the way, Windows 7 is end of life January 2020!)
- Windows 10 can unlock a flash drive encrypted on Windows 7 and vice versa.
- USB flash drives encrypted with BitLocker CANNOT be opened with macOS.
Follow the steps below to encrypt a USB flash drive within a Windows Operating System.
1. Insert your USB flash drive into your Windows PC.
2. Open File Explorer.
3. Locate your device.
4. Right click flash drive and select Turn on BitLocker.
5. You will be prompted on how you would like to unlock the drive. Select Use a Password to Unlock This Drive.
6. Ensure you remember your password and keep complexity in mind. Do not use a password that can be easily guessed. Tip, use a two phrase word with a special character in the middle (*&%$#@!) and as many numbers you want at the end (1234567890). The password should be a minimum of 10 characters long.
7. When prompted How Do You Want to Backup Your Recovery Key, select Save to a file. Save this backup recovery file in a location of your choosing that only you have access to. Please note that this file does not contain your password.
8. If available, please select Encrypt Whole Drive Space Only.
9. Windows will securely encrypt your USB flash drive and you will be notified when it is complete. Please do not remove your USB key, nor restart your computer until the process is completed.
10. Your USB Drive will now have a lock icon associated to the device in File Explorer.
11. When you reconnect your device to a computer/laptop, you will be prompted each time to enter your password. This ensures you have successfully encrypted your USB Flash Drive.
Nadeem Safi is a Client Support Specialist at Triella. We are a technology consulting company specializing in providing technology audits, planning advice, project management and other CIO-related services to small and medium-sized firms. Nadeem can be reached at 647.426.1004. For additional articles, go to our blog page. Triella is a VMware Professional Partner, Microsoft Certified Partner, Citrix Solution Advisor – Silver, Dell Preferred Partner, Authorized Worldox Reseller and a Webroot Reseller.
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