Securing and encrypting your files is often either expensive or uncertain. If you own Windows 7 Enterprise or Windows 7 Ultimate, however, then you already have a free way to secure your drive, included in your operating system. These versions of Windows 7 include BitLocker, Microsoft’s drive encryption software – and if you own a business, work in an office, or just want file security, encrypting your files is the thing to do.
To access BitLocker drive encryption, double-click on My Computer, and then right click over the drive you want to protect.
Remember: you need Windows 7 Enterprise or Windows 7 Ultimate to be able to run BitLocker.
The main caveat here is that without special hardware or administrative changes, you must choose a drive or partition that is not the one containing your operating system files (your WINDOWS folder).
If you do want to protect the drive your operating system is on, it can be done – but it’s complicated! Information on allowing this can be found here on the Microsoft website: http://technet.microsoft.com/en-us/library/ee424299(WS.10).aspx
The good news, however, is that BitLocker works on USB and external drives. This is an ideal way to secure portable devices that can be lost or stolen.
Once you’ve chosen a drive to encrypt, you will be asked to choose how you will unlock your drive. Click the checkbox for the “Use a password to unlock this drive” option. Enter your password twice to confirm it with BitLocker. Remember that longer passwords, especially ones incorporating combinations of letters, numbers, and symbols, are more secure. When you’ve entered a password, click Next.
Now the wizard will ask where you would like to store your recovery key. Your recovery key is a special key, in the form of a small text file, used to unlock the drive if you forget your password. Since this key can allow access to your drive, you want to put this file in a safe place.
The option we’ll choose here is to save the key to a USB flash drive. You can also print the key or save it to a file – but if you choose either of these options, make sure that the key is in a place that is both safe and secure!
To continue, click “Save the recovery key to a USB flash drive,” and then click Next.
The wizard will ask for you to locate the device you want to save your key to. Make sure your device is attached, and then left-click on it to select it. Click Save, and then click Start Encrypting to begin the encryption process.
Encrypting a drive can anywhere from a few seconds to several minutes – this all depends on how many files are on the drive. Once you see the dialog box informing you that encryption is complete, you’re all set! From now on, the contents of this drive will be encrypted. If you connect it to another computer, it will prompt for your password. Your files are safe from prying eyes!