Encrypt a USB drive or external hard drive with BitLocker

  1. Insert the USB drive or attach the hard drive that you want to encrypt.
  2. In the Windows search bar, type Bitlocker, and then click Manage BitLocker.
    search for bitlocker and click manage bitlocker
  3. Under Removable data drives – BitLocker To Go, locate and select the removable drive that you want to encrypt.
    locate and select the removable drive you want to encrypt
  4. Click Turn on BitLocker.
    click turn on bitlocker
  5. BitLocker will initiate the drive and this might take several minutes.
  6. Select the Use a password to unlock the drive checkbox, then enter and reenter your password, and then click Next.
    select use a password to unlock the drive enter password and click next
    IMPORTANT: Create a password, with or without capitals, and ensure that it is something that you will recall. This is very important when trying to unlock the external drive, at a later time, as it is case sensitive.
  7. Click Print the recovery key.
    select print the recovery key and click next
  8. Under Select Printer, choose Adobe PDF, in order to save your recovery key as a pdf. You will be prompted to choose a location for this file.
    select the printer and click print

    IMPORTANT: Store the BitLocker Drive Encryption recovery key print out in a secure location in the event that the password does not work, or if you have forgotten it. You can use the recovery key to unlock the drive.
  9. There are a couple of options in the BitLocker Drive Encryption window, make your selection accordingly, and then click Next.
    • Encrypt used disk space only is the best choice when it is a new USB drive or a new hard drive and it does not contain any documents or files yet.
    • Encrypt entire drive is the best choice for a USB drive or hard drive that already contains files and folders.

    select the option that meets your needs and click next

  10. Click Start encrypting.
    click start encrypting
  11. Click Close when the encryption is complete.
    encryption is complete click close
  12. IMPORTANT: Once the encryption process is complete for each USB drive or hard drive you encrypt, the next time you plug it into a Windows computer, File Explorer will have a lock icon on that drive, to indicate that it is encrypted. To access the drive’s content you must enter your password that you set up in step seven.

Unlock a removable drive encrypted with BitLocker

  1. Plug in your removable drive in to your computer.
  2. NOTE: Each time that you plug in the encrypted removable drive into a Windows 10 computer, a notification window will appear stating that Location is not available and that Access is denied. This means that BitLocker is protecting your drive. Click OK, and then follow the directions below.
  3. Open File Explorer.
  4. Click This PC and a list of your folders, devices, and drives will be displayed, and then double click the removable drive you want to unlock.
    file explorer this pc and the drive

  5. Enter the password associated with this encrypted removable drive, and then click Unlock.
    enter bitlocker password for this drive and click unlock

    IMPORTANT: Your password is case sensitive, so ensure that you enter it as created, with or without capital letters.

Decrypt a BitLocker encrypted drive

  1. Insert the USB drive or attach the hard drive that you want to decrypt.
  2. In the Windows search bar, type Bitlocker, and then click Manage BitLocker.
    search for bitlocker and click manage bitlocker
  3. Under Removable data drives – BitLocker To Go, locate and select the removable drive that you want to decrypt, and then click Turn off BitLocker.
    click turn off bitlocker
  4. On the BitLocker Drive Encryption window, click Turn off BitLocker. The decryption process will start immediately and might take a few minutes to complete.
    on the bitlocker drive encryption window click turn off bitlocker
  5. On the BitLocker Drive Encryption window click Close.
    click close on the bitlocker drive encryption window
NOTE: The decryption process is the same for operating system drives and removable drives. To completely turn off BitLocker, you will need to decrypt all drives using the decryption process above.

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