Create Encrypted Drives and Keep Them Secure Using GuardKey

If you have important files and/or media on your computer, a good way to keep them secure and away from prying eyes is to encrypt them. Depending on your tool of choice, encryption can be more of a headache than you’d like. If you are looking to make the process easier or are just interested in another option, GuardKey is a tool worth checking out. It’s a key (Dongle) for your computer that allows you to create virtual encrypted drives on a physical drive or in the cloud. You can then lock and unlock those drives as needed using your Dongle.

The GuardKey Dongle.

In essence, GuardKey works just like a physical key to help keep your private files secure. Once you create your 256-bit AES secured virtual drive (called a Safebox), you’ll be able to unlock it automatically or manually. Unlocking (manually) is as easy as clicking the “Open” button on the GuardKey console. Locking the drive is even easier: you can either remove the Dongle from your computer or manually lock it from the console.

Here’s a closer look at how GuardKey works and how to create encrypted drives to keep your files secure.

With GuardKey you can create encrypted drives on your internal hard drive, external hard drive, flash drive, or even a memory card. If you prefer the cloud, you can also create virtual encrypted drives in Google Drive, DropBox, OneDrive, and more.

Currently, GuardKey is only available for Windows computers; however, Mac support is “coming soon.” For reference, the supported versions of Windows are XP, Vista, 7, 2008, 8, 8.1, and 10.

GuardKey 5 setup and installation.

There is also a companion mobile app for Android, iOS, and Windows Phones that has three useful features:

  • Can be used to obtain dynamic passwords to unlock your drives (thus replacing the Dongle).
  • Can be used to browse your encrypted cloud data.
  • Can be used to protect the photos and videos on your device by automatically uploading them to your encrypted cloud space.

The first thing you’ll want to do is insert the Dongle into a USB port on your computer. The next thing is to install the software for Windows. After that, you’ll have to reboot your computer in order to complete the installation.

Reboot to complete GuardKey 5 setup.

After rebooting, you’ll be greeted by the GuardKey welcome screen and will need to create a master password (up to 32 characters) to protect your Dongle. This password can also be used to recover your data in an emergency (e.g. if you lose the Dongle). So, if you’re careless or just really forgetful, they have you covered!

Set a Master password to lock and unlock encrypted drives.

Note: you’ll also see the GuardKey icon in the notification area. This can be used to bring up the console, check for updates, and to eject your Dongle (which also locks your Safebox).

For this review I will only go over the creation of a Disk Safebox on a physical drive. If you are looking to create a Cloud Safebox or want to learn more about the many other features, I highly suggest you check out GuardKey’s User Manual (PDF file); it’s extremely detailed with step-by-step instructions and illustrations.

To reiterate, the virtual encrypted drive you create will be called a Safebox. “The Safebox is based on source physical drives in the NTFS format. It shares free space of the source disk drive and makes no changes to existing files in it so that you can use them easily.”

You’ll be able to access and edit your files as desired. From the console you can create as many Safeboxes as you’d like; you’re only limited by your drive or cloud space. You can also Open, Lock, and Delete any Safebox whenever you’d like. Just know that if you delete a Safebox before backing up its contents, you’ll lose everything as it all gets deleted once you delete the Safebox.

To set up a Safebox, go to the console and click the “Create” button in the bottom left corner of the window.

Create a Safebox.

Click on “Create Disk Safebox” on the next window. (You can also “Create Cloud Safebox” from here)

Create a Disk Safebox or Cloud Safebox.

Select the drive that you want to create a Safebox in and click on “Create.”

Choose a drive for your Safebox.

That’s it. Your Safebox is created, and its folder will automatically open in File Explorer. You can then add the files that you’d like to keep hidden and secure. As you add files, you can see how much space is being used via the console.

GuardKey console and Safebox folder.

You can also opt to have the drive automatically open when the Dongle is unlocked (switch it to on). If you choose not to do this, you’ll need to click “Open” in the console anytime you want to open it and view its contents.

A Cloud Safebox is just like a Safebox except it’s in the cloud and not on a physical drive. All of the files are protected with transparent AES encryption as well. Best of all, you don’t have to worry about not being able to access those files when on-the-go because GuardKey’s mobile app lets you view them.

There are some useful options in settings worth checking out. For instance, you can enable or disable notifications about the Dongle being locked and unlocked. You can also hide the GuardKey icon (in the notification area) once it’s locked. That way if someone else uses your computer, they can’t access it (they won’t even know it’s there).

Guardkey settings.

In advance settings you can enable two-factor authentication which requires the Master Password to be entered before unlocking your Dongle. You can also back up the Dongle file.

GuardKey advanced settings.

There are also “Advanced Tools” that can be accessed from the Windows start menu (under “GuardKey Advanced Tool”). Here, you can make a backup Dongle (like making a duplicate key), format the Dongle (if you want to give it to someone else), and recover your Safebox should a system crash happen.

Although GuardKey’s concept is quite simple, it’s definitely not meant for those who aren’t very tech-savvy. There are quite a few features and settings under the surface, and things could get a little complicated.

For the most part, though, GuardKey is easy to get up and running with for those looking to create encrypted drives on their physical storage device or in the cloud. The Dongle is small and will fit in just fine on a keychain for safe-keeping.

I only wish that GuardKey was universal. Sure, Mac support is coming soon, but how soon? Also, it would be great to have Linux support coming soon as well.

How do you encrypt files on your computer? Do you think that GuardKey is a better option?

Thanks to ChangingTec we have two GuardKey dongles to give away. To participate in this giveaway, all you need to do is connect with your email and physical address (so we can contact you if you are the winner). This will earn you a single chance. You can also share this article to earn additional chances of winning a unit. This giveaway contest has ended.

The winners have been notified of their winnings.

GuardKey USB Encryption Dongle

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