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If you have very confidential information stored on your hard drive, maybe on an external USB drive, well, the best way to protect that and keep it secure is to encrypt it. Well there is a feature built into Windows 8.1 that will allow you to encrypt your drives. It's called Bit Locker. It's been around in previous versions of Windows. Still available here. We're going to take a look at it now. Let's type in, right from our start screen, Bitlocker. Notice manage Bitlocker shows up here at the top.
Clicking that will take us to our old desktop environment, and open up Bitlocker Drive Encryption. Notice our options here, you'll see your own operating system drive. And by default, BitLocker turned off. As an administrator, that's what the icon means, next to turn on BitLocker you can turn it on for that fixed data drive. And if you have other drives, they'll be listed here as well. If you're like me and you've plugged in a USB drive, you'll see it down below under removable data drives. So instead of working with our hard drive, our hard disc.
Let's work with a removable data drive. If you have one plug it in. And you'll see it on the list. Now we'll click the expansion arrow to see a representation of that drive and a link to turn on BitLocker. Lets give it a click. Now it's going to analyze your drive and initialize it. Get it ready for BitLocker. There are a number of steps to go through. Don't remove the drive while this is happening. Alright. A couple of options now for how you want to unlock the drive eventually. You can use a password, or if you have a smart card system plugged in and set up, you'll need to insert the smartcard and provide a pin and you'll be able to unlock the drive that way.
We're going to use a password. The most popular option. And, you'll need to enter a password twice. A password you won't want to forget. Use your tab key to get to the next field to re-enter it. Since we don't see what we're typing, we need to enter it correctly twice. Notice you should use a strong password, something with upper and lower case letters, numbers, even symbols. Let's click Next. And now we have to choose where we're going to store something called the recovery key. If for some reason you do forget your password.
There is a last chance option and that is to use the recovery key to access your drive. You can save it to your Microsoft account. You could save it to a file, maybe offsite, or even print it out. I'm going to choose Save to file and maybe save it to my SkyDrive for example. That's my default location. Notice it's called a BitLocker recovery key, and click Save. So it's been saved. I can move on to the next step by clicking Next. And choose how much of the drive I want to encrypt.
So I'll encrypt used disk space only, that's selected by default, or the entire drive. It's a little slower, but it's best for PCs and drives that already being used. I'm going to choose used disk space only to speed things up and click Next. Alright, are you ready to start encrypting the drive? You'll be able to unlock it using that password you just set up. Encryption could take a while depending on the size of your drive, keep that in mind. And until it's complete your files are not protected. And if it's an external drive you don't want to be removing it while this is happening.
So I'll click Start Encrypting. There's that warning not to remove your drive until it's finished. And check it out, it's almost started, and 0.5% completed at this point. Down below, in the background, while it's encrypting you can see what's happening. I have some options here for backing up my recovery key, changing or removing the password, changing to a smart card if I wanted to. I could also turn on something called auto-unlock, so if it knows it's me, it's automatically unlocked.
And I can turn off BitLocker from here as well. But going forward once this is encrypted. As soon as I want to access that drive I'll be prompted for my password and if I don't have it, I won't be able to get in. It's a great security feature. Think about if for some reason you were to lose your laptop, or maybe someone breaks in and steals your computer or hard drive and there's vital information on that hard drive. If it's encrypted. They won't be able to get at it without your password. So BitLocker Drive Encryption still available here in Windows 8.1.
A very handy feature for securing data on any drive.
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