How To Use BitLocker to Encrypt and Protect USB Drives in Windows 10

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BitLocker Drive Encryption is a full disk encryption feature introduced by Microsoft first in Windows Vista but further developed in Windows 7, 8.1 and Windows 10 with enhanced features. It’s designed to protect data by providing encryption for entire disk volumes, with default in AES encryption algorithm with 128-bit key. To take advantage of this enhanced feature in Windows 10, you will need a Pro or Enterprise edition of operating system installed on your computer.

BitLocker To Go is a sub-section of the BitLocker family for protecting your portable storage devices, including those USB devices we use on a daily basis. Once encrypted, they cannot be read without a password.

This is a step-by-step guide that shows you how to use it to secure your data on a portable device.

After inserting a USB device into your computer, open File Explorer, right-click on the USB drive letter and choose Turn on BitLocker.

After a quick moment, a screen pops up asking how you want to unlock the device. Since most of us don’t have a smart card device equipped with our computer, choose “Use a password to unlock the drive” and type in a password that’s long, complicated, and easy-to-remember.

Next, you will be prompted how you want to back up your recovery key. Since the password is the key to unlocking your encrypted drive, it’s important you finish this step and save the recovery key in a safe place. There are two options for you to save the recovery key, Save to a file, and Print the recovery key. You will have to do either one of them to be able to go next. The 3rd option will appear if you log in using a Microsoft account.

Now it’s time to choose whether to encrypt the whole drive or only the used space only. As hinted on the screen, if you are to encrypt a newly installed drive, choosing Encrypt used disk space only. But if it’s a drive that’s been used for a while, it would be better to use Encrypt the entire drive option.

Select one, and click Next.

Depending on the size of the drive and the method you choose to encrypt, it may take a long while to finish the encryption process. You will be prompted a confirmation dialog box confirming that the encryption is completed successfully. By then, you can review it in Control Panel as well.

BitLocker to Go - Encrypted drive status

That’s it. You have now successfully encrypted your USB drive using the built-in BitLocker feature. It’s not hard at all, isn’t it?

The encrypted drive can be opened on any Windows PC, even one that’s running a non-business edition of Windows that doesn’t support BitLocker. You will be prompted to enter a password to unlock the drive. Without a correct password, no one would be able to access the content inside the drive.

BitLocker to Go - unlock the drive

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