Digital security is becoming stronger and criminals and governments could choose to physically take your computer or other storage device. It’s possible to protect your privacy with encryption. This article will show you how to encrypt your hard drive using Windows 10, macOS, and Linux.
It will be difficult for anyone to access your files if you have encrypted them. While it won’t protect against most cybercrime but encryption will make your data much more secure than if you leave them open for others to see,
Full Disk Encryption: The Benefits
Full disk encryption protects your entire hard drive. It keeps your files safe from prying eyes. It will ask for your passkey or password when you first boot up your computer. This will allow you to decrypt all files. For a full explanation of encryption, please read our article.
While you could choose to encrypt certain files, you would still need to decrypt all files individually. This method could lead to data security holes as you might miss temporary files. Full disk encryption will not leave sensitive information exposed.
Full disk encryption may not always be the best form of protection. A thief can guess a simple password with access to the drive and plenty of time. You could try a long and random password to prevent this. However, if you don’t write it down, the criminal could have access to the entire disk.
The Best Hard Drive Encryption Software
There are many options available for encryption depending on what operating system you use. However, most likely your computer has some type of encryption software. These options are solid so we will be using them. However, they may not be the best encryption software for you if you are willing to pay extra and only want to encrypt certain files.
Your password is the most important thing about any software encryption. A flash drive can be used as a passkey. This is a great way to save time and avoid having to remember complex phrases. You will lose all your files if you forget your password or recovery key.
Encrypting a Hard Drive with Windows 10, Mac, or Linux
We will now show you how to encrypt your hard drive using each major operating system.
Windows 10 Hard Drive Encryption
Since 2007, every version of Windows has had BitLocker access. This is the software that we will be using. This section can be found in Windows 10’s control panel under “system and Security”.
- You can find BitLocker on Windows 10 by going into the control panel and typing “encryption” into the search bar. This window will allow you to enable BitLocker. Wait for BitLocker to turn on and confirm that your computer is encrypted.
- A prompt will be displayed if you have a Trusted Platform Module (TPM) and it will ask you to restart your computer to enable BitLocker’s TPM. You might get an error if BitLocker is not allowed to run without a TPM.
- After BitLocker has completed checking your computer for errors, you can create a password and a physical passkey.
- Save or print the recovery key. This is important in case you lose your password. You can attach this to your Microsoft account. However, a hacker may take it.
- Next, you need to decide whether you want to encrypt your entire drive or only save files. While both options will protect your saved data, you can’t encrypt the entire drive.
- However, deleted files on the hard disk will still be accessible if you don’t use full encryption.
- Next, you can choose whether to use Windows 10’s new encryption method, the XTS-AES. It offers better security but older versions of Windows cannot decrypt it.
- Make sure that you enable the “BitLocker” system check and follow the prompts to restart your computer. You will receive a request to enter your password at your next boot. This means that your entire disk is encrypted, and your data is protected from theft.
Windows 10: How to Encrypt Your Hard Drive
- Enter “encryption”, in the search bar, to find BitLocker
- Get BitLocker!
- Enter your passkey or password
- Keep your recovery key safe
- Select the encryption setting you prefer
- Restart your computer when prompted
MacOS Hard Drive Encryption
Apple is known for its strong stance on privacy and it’s no surprise that macOS includes disk encryption. FileVault uses AES 128 bit encryption and a key of 256 bits encryption keys, making it a good choice for data security.
- Open your system preferences to find FileVault.
- Click the second tab at the top of the screen to access the FileVault settings.
- Click the lock at the bottom-left corner to enter administrator details. This will allow you to edit these settings.
- Press the button marked “turn on FileVault” to set up the encryption. Next, choose where you want your recovery key stored and then press the Continue button.
- FileVault will start encrypting files as soon as you restart your Mac. Wait until FileVault has completed protecting your data before continuing to use your Mac.
How to Encrypt Your Hard Drive with MacOS
- You can find FileVault under your system preferences
- Unlock FileVault settings
- FileVault now
- Keep your recovery key safe
- Wait for FileVault’s encryption to take place.
Linux Hard Drive Encryption
Linux encryption is more difficult than Windows 10 and macOS. There is no pre-installed standard program. You can encrypt your hard drive without performing a complete wipe. It will however require you to have unallocated space available, enable Logical Volume Management, and be willing to use the command line.
However, many Linux distributions, including Fedora and Ubuntu, Debian, Linux Mint, Linux Mint, and openSUSE, offer the option to encrypt your hard drive during installation. Linux is easy to install. You should back up your data, get your bootable installation media, and create an encrypted Linux environment.
- Logical Volume Management for Linux Unified Key Setup is used by most Linux distributions. This means that you have a variety of encryption options to choose from when installing your operating system.
- When you see the option, choose to encrypt the hard drive during the installation. This usually happens when you are formatting or partitioning drives.
- Next, choose your password and any additional security measures such as overwriting disk space.
- Continue the installation as usual, and then, after this, restore your files from the backup.
Linux: How to Encrypt Your Hard Drive
- Back up your files before you install Linux.
- You can choose to encrypt the drive
- Please enter your password to continue.
- Finalize the installation and then recover your files
How to Encrypt an External Hard Drive
A backup using local storage is an inexpensive and efficient way to protect your data. There are many reliable external hard drives on the market, but the Samsung T5 is the most popular. It even has its own encryption software to protect your data.
If you are able to do so, you can encrypt most external hard drives. This is a different process than encrypting internal drives. We’ll show you how to do it on the three main operating systems.
Windows 10 allows you to encrypt external hard drives
You should use BitLocker on Windows 10 with an external hard drive for maximum security. You have access to the most recent encryption methods and compatibility options. The Samsung T5 can be transferred to a Mac straight out of the box, and it also has an additional encryption layer.
- You can lose data if you don’t back up your files before you start the encryption. If you are only using Windows 10 or 8, choose NTFS. However, if you want to use it on a Mac, or on a computer running Windows Vista or XP then exFAT or FAT32 would be better options.
- After you are certain that your drive is the correct file system type, launch Windows file explorer. Next, right-click your drive name to activate BitLocker
- Choose BitLocker to enter a password.
- Save the recovery key in a file or to your Microsoft account. This key will be needed in case you forget your password.
- You can choose to encrypt data deleted but not overwritten for extra security. This will take longer, but it is not usually necessary.
- Next, choose the encryption method you want to use. “Compatible mode” is best if your computer doesn’t have Windows 10, but “new mode” offers greater security.
- Next, begin the encryption process. This may take a while.
How to Encrypt an External Hard Drive in Windows 10
- Right-click the external hard drive in file explorer
- Choose “turn on BitLocker”.
- Enter your password
- Keep your recovery key safe
- Select the encryption setting you prefer
- Wait for BitLocker’s encryption to complete
- Protect an External Hard Drive with Mac
- Encrypting an external drive on a Mac is as simple as doing it with an internal one.
- If the drive isn’t properly formatted, the only problem you might encounter is formatting.
- So make sure to get one of the best Mac external hard drives, like the Samsung T5.
- Plug in your hard disk and verify that it is properly formatted. Next, open Finder and right-click the disk that you wish to encrypt.
- Select the option to encrypt your data. You will be asked for a password in an overlay.
- Start the encryption process by entering your password. This password is not confidential. Apple does not create a recovery key to unlock external drives.
- It will be done when the disk is unmounted automatically and then remounted. You will need your password to mount the disk.
How to Encrypt an External Hard Drive with MacOS
- Right-click on your drive and open Finder
- Choose the encryption option
- Start the encryption by entering your password
- Wait for the encryption process to complete
- Linux allows you to encrypt external hard drives
Linux allows you to use the terminal to encrypt external hard drives. You’d be better to use software that has a GUI and walkthrough, as there is always the possibility of something going wrong.
Alternatives to TrueCrypt, which was discontinued a few years ago, have become more popular. VeraCrypt is one of the most popular, and it still offers excellent Linux support. We’ll be using VeraCrypt here. Read our VeraCrypt full review to learn more about this application.
Backup any data to prepare your drive for encryption. The encryption process will format them. You don’t have to be specific about which drive you want, as most external hard drives of 2TB or less will work.
- Plug your disk in, then open VeraCrypt to begin encrypting it. Next, select an empty slot and click on “create volume” for the encryption window.
- The defaults will work fine for the first two options of the volume creation wizard. Next, you can choose your partition or disk. You can use the total storage space to help you choose.
- Continue using the default encryption options, and then enter your password when you are prompted.
- You can choose to save large files now if you have to. It’s a good idea to choose the option that you’re not sure about. Next, set your formatting options to Ext4 for Linux users, NTFS to make it compatible with Windows computers, or exFAT to allow you to use the drive on any other computer.
- Select “Enable cross-platform support” and then go to the page for volume format. You will need to drag your mouse around until the first bar is filled. Then, press “format” to create an encryption key that is harder to guess.
- After VeraCrypt is finished, mount the drive by clicking on an empty slot and selecting the encrypted drive. Then, click “select device” to mount the drive.
Linux: How to Encrypt an External Hard Drive
- Plug your drive in and VeraCrypt will open
- Select a slot that is empty and click “create volume”.
- You can go through the encryption window to choose your settings
- If you are asked to select your disk, choose it based on the total space.
- After you have completed a few settings, you can enter your password
- Next, select the option to download large files and then choose the type of filesystem.
- Now mount the drive using VeraCrypt. Enter your password
It can be stressful to lose your laptop or hard drive. But encryption will help you keep your data secure. Encryption is now more accessible than ever, even if you don’t have the right operating system or a piece of hardware.
Encryption can protect you only from physical threats. You may also be at risk of other forms of cybercrime. You can secure yourself against the many criminals, governments, and companies that would like to have your data. The 3-2-1 backup rule can help protect your data from accidental deletion.