USB sticks or flash drives are small disks that can store hundreds of gigabytes of data as files and folders. People prefer USB flash drives because of their portability, reliability and the ability to store as much data as they want.
People who work on multiple computers all day need to plug in a USB drive to access all their programs and data.
However, USB flash drives have many security vulnerabilities. Thus, anyone can access the data stored on a USB stick, he has to insert the stick in any computer or laptop and can do whatever he wants.
If someone has stolen your USB drive and used the data illegally, you may be a victim of identity theft. Before you can store valuable information on a USB flash drive, you must first learn how to do it safely.
To keep your USB drive private and secure, I have developed solutions that encrypt your drive and ensure that no one can access your data without your permission. You can buy a secure USB drive, encrypt your key or individual files.
In this article, we will look at the different methods you can use to protect your USB drive in Windows.
Hard disk password protection with BitLocker
For Windows 10 users, there is a built-in encryption tool called BitLocker. It encrypts the data carrier and restricts access with a secure password. Even if you add new data later, it will be protected automatically.
Before backing up your hard drive with BitLocker, you need to keep a few things in mind.
- BitLocker encryption is only available for Windows 10 Pro and Enterprise. If you have a lower version of Windows, you cannot use the BitLocker encryption feature.
- You should have TPM (Trusted Platform Module) chips installed on your computer because they provide advanced security measures. If the TPM chip is not installed, you can also use BitLocker, but this requires an additional authentication process.
- Download the latest firmware updates for your BIOS from your computer manufacturer’s official website.
- You must create two disk partitions, otherwise BitLocker will create them automatically. If you create partitions manually, they should be in NTFS format and not FAT32 format.
- Your computer should remain on until the process is complete.
We will now look at the steps that will allow you to back up your USB drive with BitLocker within seconds.
Step one: Insert the USB stick into the computer and start this PC in Windows Explorer. Then right-click on the drive and click the Enable BitLocker button.
Step two: Select the Use Password box to unlock the device and enter the password twice. Click on Next.
Step three: The next screen prompts you to save the recovery key. If you have forgotten your password, you can use the Recovery Stick to open your password-protected USB drive.
Step four: Now select Encrypt Entire Disk to encrypt the entire disk instead of a single file. In the next window, under Select Encryption Mode, select Compatible Mode. The encryption process runs and waits for some time until the whole disk is encrypted.
Once the process is complete, you can connect the player to any computer, which will ask you for a password to unlock the player. If you accidentally forget your password, you can use the recovery key to reset it.
Password protection of the hard disk with VeraCrypt
If you don’t trust Microsoft, you can use VeraCrypt to password protect your USB drive. It is free and open source software introduced by Idrix, a Paris-based software company.
VeraCrypt is used for on-the-fly encryption with different algorithms like AES 256 bit, Snake and many others. As of March 2020, VeraCrypt will be available in version 1.24-Update6 for Windows.
To protect the USB storage device with VeraCrypt, the following steps can be performed.
Step one: Free download of VeraCrypt. After downloading and installing the application, open it on your desktop.
Step two: Press the Create Volume button.
Step three: From the available options, select Encrypt a non-system partition/disk to secure specific USB or flash drives, then click Next.
Step four: Select VeraCrypt Standard Volume to set the Volume Type.
Step Five: After clicking Next, select Select Device and choose your USB Drive from the list. Then click OK and click Next.
Step six: You now need to select the creation mode. If you want to avoid losing data (already on the disk), select Encrypt existing partition. If the disk is empty, choose another option, i.e. create an encrypted volume and format it.
Step seven: After clicking Next, select the appropriate encryption algorithm and hash functions. Select AES as the encryption algorithm and SHA-512 as the hash algorithm. Click on Next.
Step 8 : VeraCrypt automatically detects the size of your disk, but you have to confirm it again. After confirming the volume of your USB stick, click Next.
Step 9 : Enter the password you want to use to unlock the USB drive.
Step 10 : You must now specify whether you want to store large files on the VeraCrypt volume or not. To save files larger than 4 GB, select Yes, otherwise select No. Click on Next.
Pay attention: Depending on your choice, Veracrypt selects the file system for the Veracrypt volume.
Step 11 : Select the volume format. Move the mouse in the VeraCrypt application window as randomly as possible. The longer you travel, the greater the cryptographic power of the keys.
And click the Format button to create the volume.
Step 12 : The process takes between a few minutes and an hour, depending on the size of the disk and the data it contains.
Now mount the reader in VeraCrypt with a password and your USB drive is now encrypted.
Password protection for individual files
If you do not want to password protect the entire drive, but only certain folders or files. As we saw above, Windows 10 users can use the built-in BitLocker software. But what about those who don’t have Windows 10 Pro or Enterprise?
There are other methods of protecting a single file or folder on a disk.
For example, if you use MS Office, you can protect your data with an integrated solution. To do this, go to Folder > Information. Select Encrypt with password from the Protect document section. Enter and confirm the password, then press OK.
From now on you will have to enter your password every time you try to open a file or document.
If you do not have a built-in encryption feature, you will need to install WinZIP or other compression software. WinZip is generally used to compress files, but it also allows you to add a password to encrypt the files.
To encrypt your data with WinZIP, right-click the file you want to protect and select Add to Archive or Send to Compressed Folder. Now select Password or Password Protection, enter the password and confirm it.
Therefore, you must enter a password each time you attempt to open a file.
The WinZIP encryption method is a time consuming process, and compressing large files takes several hours. Additionally, passwords can (not always) be cracked with WinZIP password recovery tools.
You can even install third-party software that provides data encryption to protect your files and folders. However, you need to make sure that you download these third-party applications from trusted sources or companies.
Whether or not you use several computers throughout the day, it is always best to encrypt and password protect your sensitive and personal files and folders. Once your data is stolen, there is nothing you can do and you become a victim of identity theft.
If you have any questions or would like to know how to password protect your USB Flash Drive, please let us know in the comments section below.
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