How to Encrypt USB Drive on Windows 10?

Windows OS has a great built-in encryption feature – BitLocker. It allows user to secure information on USB drives, memory sticks, external hard drive etc. and prevent unauthorized access to it. The operating system will ask user to enter the password once such USB drive will be connected to the computer. This option can be extremely useful when you don’t want anyone to be able to get an access to your private files on USB drive, SD card and other.

It’s important to mention that BitLocker is available on Windows 10 Professional and Enterprise editions – you won’t find it in Home version. However, you can encrypt Flash drive with the help of BitLocker To Go on Home version.

How to Encrypt USB Drive in Windows 10?

You won’t need any additional software to use BitLocker. Everything you need is already built-in within Windows, and allows you to manage encryption process fast and in comfortable way. Follow the instructions:

  1. Connect the USB drive to your computer. In File Explorer right click on driver’s icon and choose Turn on BitLocker;
    turn on bitlocker
  2. Wait until the system will initialize the drive. It’s very important not to disconnect the USB drive during the process!;
  3. The next step is to choose how you want to unlock the drive. Common user should use a password (it’s better to create a strong password, which contains lowercase and uppercase letters, symbols, spaces and numbers);
    bitlocker drive encryption
  4. Now you need to choose how do you want to back up your recovery key. This option can be extremely useful in case you forgot or lost your password. At this step the system will propose you to choose between 3 options:
    – Save it to your Microsoft account (if you choose this option – the key will be stored at your OneDrive (with link live.com/recoverykey);
    – Save it to a specific file;
    – Print it on a printer;
    bitlocker drive encryption back up
  5. In case you are going to use one from last 2 options – make sure nobody can get access to your printed key or a file with the key. We recommend you to use all of the options for recovery key backup. On the screenshot below you can see a contents of Recovery Key file:
    bitlocker recovery key screenshot
  6. Here you need to choose how much of the drive do you want to encrypt. You can encrypt used disk space or the entire drive;
    bitlocker encrypt drive
  7. At this step you need to confirm the action;
    bitlocker encrypt USB drive windows 10
  8. After that drive encryption process starts and this can take a lot of time (it depends on drive’s capacity and amount of files on it);
    bitlocker encrypt flash drive windows 10
  9. After successful finish you will see an appropriate message:
    bitlocker drive encryption complete
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Now user gets message when connecting an encrypted drive to the computer – it says that the drive is encrypted and you need to enter password to get access to it.

unlock bitlocker drive

You can see a golden lock on the encrypted drive icon in File Explorer:

bitlocker encrypt usb drive

Double click on the encrypted drive’s icon and you will see a field to enter password.

password usb drive bitlocker

If the authorization was successful, you will see a gray opened lock near encrypted drive icon.

bitlocker unlock drive windows 10

Once you disconnect the encrypted drive, you will need to re-enter the password again. That will be happening each time when connecting the drive again (that gives a great level of security for the encrypted drive).

In case you want to give an access to the encrypted drive for a specific computer, you need to click on More options and check on Automatically unlock on this PC when entering the password.

bitlocker auto unlock USB drive

Now the system won’t be asking you password each time when you connect the drive to this specific machine (but in all other cases user still needs to enter the password for authentication when connecting drive to the computer).

What to Do in Case You’ve Lost the BitLocker Password?

In such situations you can use a recovery key from backup that was created a few steps before. The important thing is that you won’t be able to unlock BitLocker if you lost the recovery key.

  1. Connect the drive to your computer and open it – the system will ask you to enter the password. Click on More options;
  2. Now click on Enter recovery key;
    bitlocker recovery key
  3. You will see a window, here you need to enter recovery key. Using Key IDs can be extremely useful in cases when you are managing a few different drives!;
    bitlocker recovery key unlock
  4. After that click on Unlock and the system will give you an access to the drive, but it won’t be decrypted;
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How to Change BitLocker Password?

  1. At first you’ll need to connect the encrypted drive to computer. Unlock it using password or recovery key;
  2. After that right click on the drive’s icon and choose Change BitLocker password in the context menu;
    change bitlocker password
  3. In newly appeared window you need to enter the old password and then set the new one. If you don’t remember the old password, click on Reset a forgotten password;
    bitlocker reset password windows 10
  4. In new window type in new password and confirm it (keep in mind to set strong password here too!);
  5. After you’ve entered a new password, press on Change password. The system will ask you to confirm the action. Remember that the recovery key remains the same in this case.
    bitlocker password changed

How to Turn Off BitLocker and Decrypt the Memory Stick?

In case there is no more need in using encrypted USB drive or memory stick with password, you can turn off BitLocker To Go. To do that follow the instructions:

  1. Connect the drive to computer, enter the password and unlock it. Open File Explorer, right click on the drive icon and choose Manage BitLocker;
    manage bitlocker
  2. Now you will see an interface that allows you to configure BitLocker settings for all connected drives. Find the needed drive and choose Turn off BitLocker;
    turn off bitlocker
  3. Confirm the action and click on Turn off BitLocker.
    bitlocker decrypt drive windows 10

This process can also take some time. Wait until Windows complete all of the needed tasks (don’t disconnect the drive from computer – this can cause file damage), after that the drive will totally decrypted.

Right after that the keys become invalid and during next encryption Windows will create a new recovery keys. Hope that this was useful and helped you to learn how to encrypt USB drive, memory stick, external hard drive and others!

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