How to Encrypt Your USB Drive on Mac and Windows

Have you ever lost a flash drive? I bet you have. If you're lucky you lost a cheap USB drive containing a bunch of useless or near-useless files. If you're unlucky, however, you'll lose a lot more than that. Maybe something personal, like a video or pictures, or maybe it's an important business file, like a corporate plan. Either way, it happens.

To get around this issue you can secure your hardware by encrypting your USB drive in case you lose it. That would prevent malicious third parties from going through your private data. Now, that won't help with getting your data back, but it will at least keep your information safe.

How to encrypt your flash drive on a Mac.

If you intend to use a Mac to encrypt your flash drive, you will have to make some minor alterations to that USB before that. Apple devices and machines utilize the HFS+ file system to encrypt removable data, so you will have to format the USB stick using that same file system.

Go to the Disk Utility app, insert and select your USB drive, and hit "Erase". Select the MacOS Extended (Journaled) format and delete the drive, then format it with the correct file system. Now we're ready to encrypt your USB flash drive. You will right-click your USB drive within the Finder. Then choose "Encrypt" and type in a sturdy password to keep unwanted visitors out. The encryption isn't immediate, however, so prepare yourself to wait for a few minutes if the file(s) and flash drive are particularly large. It's worth it, though, because you'll have a secure flash drive at the end of the day.

How to encrypt your flash drive on a Windows computer.

Now, unlike Mac computers, Windows has its own built-in file encryption tech, named BitLocker. You can use if you have the Pro, Ultimate, or Enterprise versions of Windows Vista. You can also find it on any and all newer version of Windows, including Windows 10. BitLocker uses NTFS, FAT, or FAT32 files systems. Right click on your drive and select "Format". This will allow you to choose what files system your newly formatted drive will use.

Afterward, encrypting the drive stick is pretty straightforward and easy. Just pick the drive in your file explorer, and press on the Manage tab up top. Choose BitLocker, then Turn BitLocker On. You will be prompted to enter your password twice, alternatively, you can use a smart card if you have one on you. You can then save your recovery key (in the event you forget your newly created password) to your Microsoft account, to a file on your Windows computer, or just print it out and store it somewhere safe.

If you're using a different version of Vista or an older version of Windows altogether then you can use a different app than BitLocker. There are a few available out there.

May 28, 2019

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