A USB drive is a portable device that offers a convenient way of storing and/or transferring your data, though this can come with several security risks. Thankfully, you can encrypt a USB drive and protect your sensitive files and data whenever they’re transferred between different locations.
You should note that encryption doesn’t protect your data and files from password prying methods and password-collecting malware. It’s simply a way of preventing your sensitive and confidential files and data from landing in the wrong hands or being accessed by unauthorized persons via security incidents and data breaches.
We’re going to show you how to encrypt a USB drive in Windows 10 so no one can read or access the data stored in it without entering the right password.
Encrypt a USB Drive in Windows 10
Windows 10 comes with BitLocker, a tool that makes it easy to encrypt your USB drive, but it’s only available in the Windows 10 Pro version.
In order to encrypt your USB drive using BitLocker, take the steps below:
1. Plug in your USB drive into your Windows PC and let the computer recognize the drive. If you see the AutoPlay on your screen, click the “Open folder to view files” option.
2. Choose the drive you’d like to encrypt and then click Manage tab.
3. Click BitLocker.
4. Click “Turn on BitLocker”.
Note: You can also click This PC, right-click the USB drive you want to encrypt, and select “Turn on BitLocker”.
5. Wait a few seconds for BitLocker to setup.
6. Next, check the “Use a password to unlock the drive” box.
7. Type in a password you can remember in the “Enter your password” box, and do it again in the “Re-enter your password” box.
You’ll get a prompt to back up a recovery key. This key allows you to access the USB drive in the event that you lose the encryption password you entered in the previous step. You can save this key or print it out and store it someplace safe instead of storing it in the cloud.
8. Next, select how much of your USB drive you’d like encrypted. Here, you have two options: select the entire drive or the used space only. Choose the method of encryption you’d like to use.
BitLocker has the new 256-bit XTS-AES encryption mode in Windows 10 version 1511, and with the improved algorithm, it also offers integrity support. Older Windows versions don’t have this new encryption mode though, which is why you need to pick an encryption method.
If you’re going to use the USB drive you’re encrypting on the same computer you’re encrypting it on, pick the new encryption mode. However, if you want to use it on other computers running old Windows versions, you can still do so by selecting “Compatible Mode”. This uses the previous 128-bit AES encryption standard though.
9. The next step is to encrypt the USB drive. The speed by which it encrypts you drive may move fast or slow depending on the size of your USB drive, the amount of data you have stored on it, and the system specs of your machine. Click Start Encrypting when ready.
If you open This PC by the lock symbol, you’ll know the drive is securely encrypted. You’ll also be prompted to enter the password you created initially each time you plug in the encrypted USB drive. There are also other options you can pick to automatically unlock the drive on your computer, or if you forgot the password, you can enter the recovery key instead.
Use USB Drive Encryption Software
If you want a different way of encrypting your USB drive in Windows 10, you can use an encryption manager. This is a tool or software that encrypts only the files on your USB drive, but it doesn’t partition the drive in its entirety, which is good because not all your files need protection via encryption.
One of the best USB drive encryption software you can use is VeraCrypt. You don’t have to install it on your Windows PC; just download it to your USB drive directly.
VeraCrypt uses the 256-bit AES encryption, which is very strong and can’t be cracked by brute force. It creates two security levels: a hidden vault that’s protected using a single password and a visible vault or outer volume, which is protected using a different password.
The purpose of the visible vault is to protect the hidden data if someone tries to forcibly get the password from you, but in the real sense, they can’t access the real files as they’re still hidden. However, this decoy vault is only effective against data thieves who don’t know about VeraCrypt, though with a bit of research, they can still find out about it.
Once the software formats your USB drive, you can only access the drive via VeraCrypt. When you plug it into your PC, it’ll appear in Windows Explorer, but you only see the VeraCrypt program and the outer volume or decoy vault.
We hope you now know how to encrypt a USB drive in Windows 10. If you have any further questions or you weren’t able to get the drive encrypted, let us know by leaving a comment in the section below.