Encrypting an External USB Drive for Windows

Bitlocker will encrypt your USB drive and then require a password to be entered whenever it is connected to a PC. It’s a simple and secure way to encrypt a flash drive that doesn’t require any third-party tools.

Setting up an encrypted drive

  1. Connect your USB drive to your computer.
  2. Open up File Explorer ()
  3. Right click on the USB drive and click on [Turn on BitLocker].
  4. Check the box to choose how you want to unlock the drive. You can choose to use a password, use a smart card or use both. For most personal users, the password option will be the best choice.
  5. Click on [Next].
  6. Choose how you want to save the recovery key in case you lose your password. You can save to a file or print the recovery key. If you save it to a file, make sure that file is stored somewhere secure. If someone can easily find the recovery key, then they can access all of your data. You can save to a file or print the key and then store that in a bank lockbox or something very secure.
  7. Click on [Next].
  8. Choose how much of the drive you want to encrypt. If it’s a brand new drive, just encrypt the used space and it’ll encrypt the new data when you add it. If there is already something on it, then just encrypt the whole drive. Click on [Next].
  9. Depending on which version of Windows you are using, you may not see this screen. On Windows 10, you’ll be asked to choose between the new encryption mode or the compatible mode. Windows 10 has better and stronger encryption, which will not be compatible with earlier versions of Windows. If you want more security go with the new mode, but if you need to connect the drive to older versions of Windows, go with compatible mode. After this, it will begin to encrypt the drive. The time will depend on how big your drive is and how much data needs to be encrypted.
  10. When the encryption process is complete, you'll get a popup box notice and you can click on [Close].

Viewing the contents of an encrypted drive

Image: Bitlocker notificationNow if you go to another Windows 10 machine and plug in the drive, you’ll see a little message appear in the notification area.

In earlier versions of Windows, open Explorer.




You’ll also see that the drive icon has a lock on it when you view the drives in Explorer.



Now when you double-click on the drive to access it, you will be prompted to enter the password. Once you've entered your password, click on [Unlock].

If you click [More options], you’ll also see the option for using the recovery key.


If you want to turn off BitLocker at a later point, right-click on the drive and choose [Manage BitLocker]. Click on [Turn off BitLocker] in the list of links.

You can also change the password, backup the recovery key again, add smart card verification and turn auto-lock on or off.


If you are having difficulty or you have unanswered questions, please contact the Help Desk via email, through the ITS Service Catalog or call (518) 388-6400.


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Article ID: 84795
Tue 8/13/19 2:27 PM
Fri 8/16/19 9:25 AM