In present there are many products on the market that can help you protect your files. But what most of us are looking for is a quick, simple and reliable encryption for our confidential files, and most of us are not looking to do this on the main disk of our laptop or desktop computer, but on portable devices (USB keys/portable disk drives). In fact, it is a logical desire to protect information as we are transporting it, either if we are talking about personal files or confidential documents.
BitLocker encryption system
Starting with some versions of Windows Vista (Ultimate and Enterprise), an encryption system named BitLocker was introduced. But unlike what it should have been, simple and accessible it was difficult to set up for the normal users.
Starting with Windows 7, BitLocker drive preparation is now completely integrated in the OS. The process of encryption was also simplified a lot;
Encrypting a USB drive can be now done in just a few steps:
1) BitLocker activation
BitLocker can be found under System and Security in the Control Panel. By default, USB stick support is not enabled.
To enable it, connect your USB key then click on BitLocker in Control Panel. Once in the BitLocker Encryption screen, click on the drive corresponding to your USB key, and Turn On BitLocker.
2) Encrypting with password
A new windows will be opened, that will allow you to choose to protect your drive by password, by smartcard or by both. We will choose password; type you desired passowd twice, then click Next.
A new window will ask where to save the recovery key, which is a text document containing information allowing you to regain access to the encrypted USB key in case the password is forgot. Select the path to save the file, the click Next. In the following screen, click Start encryption.
The encryption process is pretty fast, for me it took around 1 minute for a 2 Gb key.
Using the encrypted drive
Once the process is completed, open the File Explorer, then click on the USB key. A windows will ask you to input the password for the previously encrypted drive. Once you did this, the USB key can be used just as a normal drive.
Managing encrypted drives
In File Explorer, the icon of an encrypted drive will have a lock drawn over its standard icon. Once we right click on it, the popup menu will contain a new menu-item, the option Manage BitLocker…
Clicking on it will open a window allowing a number of options to help you manage the the encrypted drive.
Turning off encryption
This operation can be done either from the previous window, either from Control Panel accessing Security Settings, Bit Locker, then clicking on Disable BitLocker for the selected drive.
The decryption process will be a bit faster then the encryption process, once it is finished, your USB drive will be back to normal.