How to Encrypt a Flash Drive

Time to Get More Privacy for those External Devices

Encryption comes in all shapes and sizes.  VPNs offer a ton of encryption for your IP address and internet browsing, while other encryption software encrypts email messages for you.

What if you could similarly encrypt your USB flash drive?  We are here to tell you that you can and exactly how to do it.

Protecting your sensitive data is essential these days, and encryption is one of the best ways to do that.  How you encrypt a USB flash drive will depend on what operating system you are using.

We’ll look at the most popular operating systems and tell you how to encrypt your flash drive with their built-in encryption tools.  We’ll also give you some other encryption software options if a built-in encryption tool isn’t available.

Let’ get started.

Encrypt a USB Flash Drive on Windows

Windows offers a built-in encryption feature for external devices like a USB drive called Bitlocker To Go.  It’s Bitlocker Drive Encryption on removable devices.

To get an encrypted flash drive using this feature, you need to insert the USB drive and find it in your File Explorer.  Once you find it, right-click on the flash drive and select “turn on Bitlocker.”  

Like everything else that is encrypted, you will need to create a password at this step.  Choose the “Use a password to unlock the drive” option, and enter your password twice.

We don’t need to remind you that “Password123” is not a good choice for a password, right?

Once you have a password created, Bitlocker will provide you with a recovery key.  You will then be given three options.  You can either:

  • Save it to your Microsoft account.
  • Save it to a file.
  • Print it out.

Now it’s time to decide how much of your USB drive you would like to encrypt.  You can either select “encrypt used disk space only” or “encrypt entire drive.”

If you choose the first you will encrypt only the files on the disk ans new files you add won’t be encrypted. If you choose the second every file you add will be encrypted as well.

After that, you must choose the encryption mode.  Choose between “New Encryption Mode” or “Compatible Mode.”

If you use your encrypted USB flash drive on multiple computers, you need to select “Compatible mode.”  

You are finished!  Your USB flash drive is now password-protected, and your data is secure.  High fives all around!

Encrypt a USB Flash Drive on Mac

If Apple is your jam, have no fear.  The built-in encryption tool that Mac computers use is called FileVault, and here’s how to use it.

Before you can encrypt your USB drive, you must erase it and reformat it.

Move any files that are on your flash drive to another place on your computer for safekeeping.  You will transfer them back to the USB drive later, so make sure you note where you put them.

Once you have successfully moved your files to a secure location somewhere else on your computer, right-click on the flash drive and click “Erase.”  We know it sounds scary, but you moved all of your files, so you are good. 

Once you click “Erase,” you will be given a few formatting options.  Choose “encrypted.”  It will prompt you to enter a password and verify it.

Remember this is the password you will need it to decrypt your USB drive later to view your files so don’t forget it.

Once you select “choose” after inputting and verifying your password, the encryption will begin.

Once complete, you can move your files back to the flash drive, and they will be encrypted.  Woot woot!

Third-Party Encryption

Sometimes there isn’t a built-in encryption tool, and you have to look to a third party to encrypt your external devices.

It might be because the current version of your operating system isn’t compatible with an encryption tool, or it’s just not available at all.  Either way, there is a way to do it, so don’t fret.  

When it comes to third-party encryption software, you can use a paid-for or free option.  The most popular free option is Veracrypt.

A research document available online explains how Veracrypt uses a technique called On-the-Fly encryption which encrypts data transparently, so there is no user intervention.  

If you would rather pay for an encryption service, there are several popular options available.  Gilisoft USB Encryption, Kruptos 2 Go USB Vault, and USB Safeguard are excellent choices for encrypted USB flash drives.

Regardless if you pay or get a free version, you can download all of the encryption software directly from the third-party website.

Once you have done that, it will give you step-by-step instructions on encrypting your flash drive.  

There is the option of purchasing a USB flash drive that has built-in encryption.  This keeps you from having to use an external encryption program.

It may be worth it if you know you don’t have a built-in encryption service on your operating system.  

Easy Enough, Right? 

That’s all there is to it when you want to encrypt your flash drive.  Keep in mind that once a USB drive is encrypted, the files will be unreadable.

Remember that password that we told you to take note of and the recovery key?  Ensure you have those because you can input either one or both to see your files on your drive.

It’s essential to encrypt your USB drives, especially if there is sensitive data on them.  Flash drives are easy to lose, and you don’t want anyone to access your information.

Windows and Mac make it super easy to encrypt, and even if that isn’t an option, third-party tools are at your service.  Start the encryption process now and limit who can access the data on your USB flash drive. 

Happy encrypting!

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