How to Encrypt a Thumb Drive in Windows 7


BitLocker is Microsoft's answer to full disk encryption. It is a very safe and effective way to protect your data if it falls into the wrong hands. With the release of Windows Vista, you were originally able to use BitLocker to encrypt the drive that had the Operating System (OS). With Windows Vista SP1, you can encrypt multiple drives. Windows 7 adds the ability to encrypt portable media such as thumb drives and portable hard drives.

  • Locate the USB ports on your computer and plug in a thumb drive. Click the "Start" orb or "Start" button from the left-hand side of your computer. Type "BitLocker" in the instant search field.

  • Click "BitLocker Drive Encryption." A list of drives will appear that can be encrypted. In order for your thumb drive to be encrypted, it must be inserted into the computer.

  • Click "Turn on BitLocker" for your thumb drive located under the heading "BitLocker To Go." You can also encrypt your local drive or other portable media if applicable. If you do not have the ability to turn on encryption, please make sure your thumb drive is properly connected.

  • Create a password for your thumb drive. This password will be vital in order to open the encrypted thumb drive on other machines. It is recommended that your password is at least eight characters and has a combination of letters and numbers.

  • Back up your recovery key. You can do this by either saving the file locally or printing the file. It is recommended that you do both in case of a hard drive crash. In order to save the file, click "Save the recovery key to a file" and choose your destination on your computer.

  • Click "Start Encrypting." This will begin the encryption process of your thumb drive. The time it takes to encrypt your key will vary on the size of your thumb drive. If you have a 1-GB thumb drive, it will take significantly less time than a 16-GB thumb drive. A progress bar will indicate the percent complete. Once it reaches 100 percent, your thumb drive is encrypted and ready to use.

Tips & Warnings

  • If you carry a thumb drive on your key chain, it is recommended that you encrypt the drive to keep your contents safe. Many people keep password programs on their thumb drives.
  • Do not pull the thumb drive out of your computer while it is encrypting the drive. If you do, it can corrupt the data.

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