USB drives or Flash drives are small storage units that can save hundreds of GBs of data in the form of files and folders. People prefer to use USB drives because of their portability, reliability, and ability to store as much data as you want.
People who work on multiple computers all day, then they have to plug in and play the USB drive to access all of their programs and data.
However, USB drives lack a lot of security breaches. For instance, anyone can access the data stored in the USB drive, they have to connect the drive to any computer or laptop and they are able to do whatever they want to.
If someone stole your USB drive and used the data in an illegitimate way, then you might become a victim of identity theft. Before you store any valuable information in your USB drive, you have to first learn how to make it secure.
To maintain the privacy and security of your USB drive, I have come up with some solutions that will encrypt your drive and no one can access the data without your permission. You can buy a secure flash drive, encrypt the drive or individual files.
In this article, we will look at various methods through which you can protect your USB drive in Windows.
Password Protect the Drive using BitLocker
For Windows 10 users, they will get access to the in-built encryption tool known as BitLocker. It encrypts the drive and limits the access with a protected password. Even if you add new data at a later time, it will also be protected automatically.
Before we move ahead on how to protect your drive using BitLocker, you need to remember some things.
- BitLocker encryption is only available to Windows 10 Pro and Enterprise, if you have Windows version lower than that, then you will not be able to use the encryption feature of BitLocker.
- Trusted Platform Module (TPM) chips must be installed on your computer as it enables advanced security measures. If a TPM chip is not installed, then also you will be able to use BitLocker, but it will require an additional process for authentication purposes.
- Download the latest firmware updates for your BIOS from the official website of your computer brand manufacturer.
- You need to make two partitions of your hard disk, if not, then BitLocker will automatically create them. If you are manually creating partitions, then it must be in NTFS format instead of FAT32.
- Your computer must remain “ON” until the process gets completed.
Now, we will look at the steps through which you can protect your USB drive in a few seconds using BitLocker.
Step 1: Insert the USB drive into your computer and launch “This PC” in Windows Explorer. Then, right-click on the drive and click on “Turn on BitLocker”.
Step 2: Check the box that says “Use a password to unlock the device” and enter the password twice. Click on “Next”.
Step 3: On the next window, you will be asked to back up your recovery key. In case you forgot your password, you can use the recovery key to open your password-protected USB drive.
Step 4: Now, select the “Encrypt entire drive” to encrypt the drive instead of an individual file. On the next window, select “Compatible Mode” under “Choose Which Encryption Mode”. The process of encryption will be started and wait for a while until it encrypts your entire drive.
Once the process is finished, you can plug your drive in any computer and it will ask you to provide a password to unlock the drive. If you mistakenly forgot your password, you can use the recovery key to reset the password again.
Password Protect the Drive using VeraCrypt
If you don’t trust Microsoft then you can use VeraCrypt to password protect your USB drive. It is an open-source and free to use software package introduced by Idrix, a software company based in Paris.
VeraCrypt is used for on-the-fly encryption using various algorithms such as 256-bit AES, Serpent, and many more. As of March 2020, VeraCrypt will be releasing version 1.24-Update6 for Windows.
To protect your USB drive using VeraCrypt, you can follow the steps below.
Step 1: Download VeraCrypt for free. After downloading and installing the app, open it on your desktop.
Step 2: Click on “Create Volume”.
Step 3: From the available options, select “Encrypt a non-system partition/drive” for protecting especially a USB or flash drive and then click on “Next”.
Step 4: For Volume Type, select the “Standard VeraCrypt volume”.
Step 5: After clicking on “Next”, choose “Select Device” and select your USB drive from the list. Then, click “OK” and then “Next”.
Step 6: Now, you have to select a creation mode. If you want to avoid the loss of data (already in your drive), then select the “Encrypt partition in place”. In case your drive is empty, then choose the other option, i.e, “Create encrypted volume and format it”.
Step 7: After clicking on “Next”, choose the appropriate encryption and hash algorithm. Select the encryption algorithm as “AES” and hash algorithm as “SHA-512”. Click on “Next”.
Step 8: VeraCrypt will automatically detect your drive size, but still, you have to confirm it once. After confirming the volume of your USB drive, click on “Next”.
Step 9: Enter the password that you want to use to unlock your USB drive.
Step 10: Now, you have to tell whether you want to store large files in the VeraCrypt volume or not. If you intend to store files larger than 4 GB, then select “Yes” otherwise “No”. Click on “Next”.
Note: Depending on your choice, Veracrypt will choose a file system for the Veracrypt volume.
Step 11: Select the Volume Format. Move your mouse within the VeraCrypt app window as randomly as possible. The longer you move, the better the cryptographic strength of the keys.
And, to create the volume, click on “Format”.
Step 12: The process will take a few minutes to an hour depending on the size of your drive and the data in it.
Now, mount the drive in VeraCrypt by providing the password and your USB drive will now be encrypted.
Password Protect the Individual Files
If you don’t want to password-protect the entire drive, instead you want to secure specific directories or files. As we discussed above, Windows 10 users can use in-built software BitLocker. But, what about those who do not have Windows 10 Pro or Enterprise?
There are some other methods through which you can protect an individual file or folder within the drive.
For instance, if you are using MS Office, then you can protect your data using its in-built solution. For doing so, navigate to File > Info. Select “Encrypt with Password” under the “Protect Document”. Enter a password and confirm it, then click on “OK”.
From now onwards, you will have to enter the password every time you try to open the file or document.
In case you don’t have the option of in-built encryption, you will require to install WinZIP or any other compression software. Generally, WinZip is used to compress the files, but it also offers to let users add a password to encrypt the files.
To encrypt your data using WinZIP, right-click on the file you want to protect, then select “Add to Archive” or “Send to Compressed” folder. Now, select the “Password” or “Password Protect” and enter the password and confirm it.
Therefore, you need to enter the password every time you try to open the file.
The encryption method of WinZIP is a time taking process and large files take hours to compress. Additionally, the password can be cracked (not always) by WinZIP password recovery tools.
You can even install third-party software that offers data encryption to protect your files and folders. But you have to make sure that you download these third-party apps from trusted sources or companies.
Whether you use different computers all day or not, it’s always better to encrypt and password protects your confidential and personal files and folders. Once your data is stolen, you cannot do much about it and you will become a victim of identity theft.
If you have any queries or want to know more methods of how-to password protect a USB drive, feel free to tell us in the comment section below.