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Encrypting Disks and USB

Encrypting disks is an essential part of prudent computer use. In this era of privacy breaches, you have to know how to do it right. Read here on how to.

By Marcus Davidson

Thumbnail Image for Blog Article Encrypting Disks and USB
date_rangeDecember 06, 2019 remove_red_eye 20620

Do you know that by encrypting disks or USB, you convert the data contained therein into a code that only you and any other authorized people can read? Firstly, this information that you encrypt becomes indecipherable.

The breadth of this narrative talks about encrypting disks or USB, and the importance of doing so.


Disk encryption refers to the technology that protects information contained in these devices. The technology uses either software or hardware to convert the data contained in the devices into almost indecipherable gibberish that is only readable by authorized personnel upon unlocking or decoding.

The software or hardware referred to here above can be installed in the disk or USB during manufacturing or may be an add-on usually as a software driver. Also called FDE (Full-Disk Encryption), this action converts the data contained in the bootable OS partition into material that can only be understood by the person with the decryption key.

Hard Drive Encryption

Before delving into the various kinds of disk encryption, how about you learn a little something about the benefits of FDE?

Importantly, disk encryption makes the encrypted data inaccessible to unauthorized individuals. This applies even if you install the encrypted device on another computer. The process, thus, is beneficial when using small electronic devices since these get lost a lot more often; to keep the integrity of the data contained in these machines.

The essence of USB or disk encryption serves the following purposes:

Encrypts majority of the data, including temporary space and swap space.
Allows the data to self-destroy if unauthorized user destroys the cryptographic or authentication keys.
Establishes authorization before booting the computer (pre-boot authentication).

There are two kinds of encryption processes; individual folder or file encryption and whole disk or full disk encryption.

Individual Folder or File Encryption

This method only encrypts the specific items or data that you direct it to. The method is preferred on computers that store considerably less business documents.

If you have several folders that you want to encrypt but prefer not to encrypt the entire disk, then you can opt for volume encryption. This process is one level above individual file or folder encryption. Here, you create a container that holds fully encrypted files or folders only.

Whole Disk Encryption

Refers to the most complete form of encrypting a disk drive. It is straightforward and transparent since users do not have to save files or shift them into the various folders that they need to encrypt. Instead, the action initiated encrypts every file and folder in the drive.

Because of its extensive nature, the demands for encrypting disks wholly are a lot more rigorous. For instance, you have to either provide a passcode for encryption, or provide an encryption key that the computer reads before it unlocks the files.

What Do You Need to Undertake a Successful Disk Encryption?

First and most important is the data you want to encrypt. You, then need to identify the process or method you want to apply. If you are going for individual files or folders, then you need to highlight these and prep the necessary keys where appropriate. And, you need to have the necessary encryption programs.

The Best Encryption Software

The encryption space has seen two kinds of encryption programs; the inbuilt software, and the third-party programs. The two leading programs inbuilt software are Microsoft BitLocker and Apple FileVault.

Inbuilt Programs
Microsoft BitLocker

This software is part of certain Microsoft OS that include the Enterprise and Ultimate editions of Windows 7, Windows 8.1 (both Pro and Enterprise editions, and Windows 10. It is programed to work with the Trusted Platform Module chip where the encryption key in your computer is stored.

However, in the absence of the chip, the program may still work if you configure certain settings on your OS. These configurations may need you to invoke administrative privileges.

Apple FileVault

Encrypts disks on computers that run the Mac OS X.

Third-Party Encryption Software

The three leading open-source disk encryption programs available are:

VeraCrypt – Supports Windows, Linus, and Mac OS X. It is highly regarded by both users and independent third-party testers.
Gpg4win – This program encrypts and signs emails and files using military-grade security.
AxCrypt – Easy of the three to use. It comes with an additional unique feature that allows you to share the encrypted data with other users.

In Summary

Encrypting disks is an important security precaution. You can lose your computer at any time and if it has sensitive information in an un-encrypted state, then you can imagine the dangers of such information landing in unsafe hands. However, using the methods and tools shared above, you should be on the safe side.

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