Every Windows has a built-in tool called BitLocker which allows you to protect a USB drive with a password. It works with USB sticks, SD-cards, externals drives, and any other removable drive you can connect to a modern PC. Every time you plug in BitLocker-protected drive, Windows asks you to enter a password. That makes it a very convenient and easy tool for protecting important data on a drive. This article will tell how to protect a USB drive with a password.
For your information: no third-party apps. Do not download any third-party protection apps. Use native encryption tool to ensure the best compatibility and user experience. BitLocker is the kind of feature that just works without any problems. Also, it is completely free and comes pre-installed no matter what Windows SKU you use. Full-fledged BitLocker encryption is available on Windows 10 Pro/Enterprise only, but the one we need, called BitLocker To Go, is available on Windows 10 Home.
Password Protect USB Drive
- Connect your drive and press Win + E. This command opens File Explorer.
- Press the right mouse button on a drive you want to protect with a password. Click on Turn on BitLocker.
- Wait for the system to initialize the process. Usually, this takes just a couple of seconds. Do not remove the drive during that process.
- Next, select how to protect your drive. Since we are talking about the average user, we have only one option here. Check Use a password to unlock the drive.
- Create a strong password. It must contain uppercase and lowercase letters, numbers, spaces, and symbols. Obviously, make sure to remember it.
- On the next screen, back up a recovery key. It is very important to back it up in case you forget a password. A recovery key is the only way to restore access to your drive. If you choose Save to your Microsoft Account, Windows will generate restore key in the OneDrive. Use link onedrive.live.com/recoverykey to access it.
- Save to a file generates a simple txt-file with a recovery key (as seen on the screenshot below) and Print the recovery key sends it to the default printer. Choose whatever you prefer. Just make sure not to lose a recovery key.
- Next, select how much of your drive Windows must encrypt. If your drive is brand new with no data on it, select Encrypt used disk space only. In this case, Windows will automatically encrypt all the data you copy to a drive after the encryption process. Encrypt entire drive is better for a drive with some data. This option makes impossible to restore any data by encrypting the entire drive.
- Next screen asks you to select encryption mode. Starting from Windows 10 1511 and newer, Windows provides additional encryption mode called XTS-AES. It is much safer but not compatible with previous Windows versions (Windows 10 1507, Windows 8, Windows 7). If you won’t be using this drive with PCs running old Windows version, select New encryption mode. Otherwise, select the Compatible mode.
- Hit Start encrypting on the last screen, sit back and wait. This process may take some time depending on how big your drive is, which encryption method you chose, and how much data is stored on a drive.
After the process is done, your drive will change its icon to the one with a lock and key. It unlocks automatically after you enter the password and remains unlocked for some time. When you remove a drive from a PC, Windows automatically locks the drive to prevent unauthenticated access.
When you plug in a drive that is encrypted with a BitLocker Windows asks you to enter a password. If you trust a PC you plug a drive to, you can click More options and check Automatically unlock on this PC. From here you can also enter recovery key in case you forgot a password.
How to Set Password on USB or Change It?
- Right-click a drive you want to change the password to and select Manage BitLocker. This will get you to the Control Panel with a BitLocker Drive Encryption settings section.
- Locate your drive in Fixed data drives. From this menu, you can create another copy of a recovery key, change password, remove password, enable or disable auto-unlock or turn off BitLocker.
That’s it. Now you can safely store important data offline on a special drive and rest assured that no one will access it without your permission.