How to Set a Password for any External Hard Drive.
Your phone and computer are most likely protected by a PIN, password, or biometric authentication, right? It is also recommended to protect your storage device, especially if it contains confidential or personal files. This way, you can prevent unauthorized access to your files even if you lose your drive or get stolen.
All you need to protect your hard drive is your personal computer or laptop. Windows and Mac have built-in encryption tools that let you set a password on storage devices. Proceed to the sections below to learn how to set a password on your computer’s external hard drive.
Encrypt an External Drive on Windows 10
To encrypt an external storage device on a Windows 10 computer, you must manually select an encryption method, encryption mode, back up your recovery key, and create a perfect (read: secure) password. It might sound like a lot of work, but it’s very simple. We will guide you through the entire process from start to finish.
First, you need to enable BitLocker – the built-in Windows encryption tool – on your computer. Connect the hard drive to your computer and follow the instructions below.
Note. You cannot encrypt a drive on a PC running Windows 10 Home edition because the operating system does not support BitLocker. To use BitLocker, upgrade to Windows 10 Pro, Enterprise, or Education.
1. Enable BitLocker
Launch File Explorer, right-click the external drive and select “Turn on BitLocker.”
Do not disconnect or remove the drive from the computer while Windows is launching the BitLocker encryption window.
2. Create a password
Check the box next to “Use a password to unlock the drive” and enter your preferred password. Re-enter your password in the dialog box that appears and click Next to continue.
Your password must meet the criteria listed below, otherwise you will receive an error message:
- Must be at least 8 characters long.
- Please Must contain at least one uppercase letter.
- Must contain at least one lowercase letter.
- Must contain at least one digit, character or space.
3. Save the recovery key
Windows will automatically generate a recovery key for the external drive. The recovery key is a spare key that will unlock your encrypted drive if you ever forget your password.
The option “Print recovery key” will open a new window in which you can print the recovery key on paper. If you choose the “Save to file” option, Windows encodes the recovery key into a text file. Save the file to your preferred folder / location on your PC and select â€œSaveâ€.
When you receive a success message “Your recovery key has been saved” or “Your recovery key has been printed”, click Next to continue.
4. Select an encryption method
BitLocker has two encryption methods: used disk space encryption and full disk encryption.
Select “Encrypt used disk space only” if your external drive is new and has never been used on another computer. BitLocker will encrypt a sector on the drive so that new data copied to the drive in the future is automatically encrypted. However, if you encrypt a previously used drive using this method (even if it’s empty), someone might be able to access the deleted or moved data.
This is because the BitLocker encryption engine does not recognize sectors containing deleted data as used disk space. Hence, it will not encrypt such sectors.
If you want to set a password for an external drive that is already in use, select “Encrypt entire drive”. This will prompt BitLocker to encrypt all sectors and data on the drive – even the files you deleted.
Note that encrypting used disk space is usually faster; it takes a couple of seconds or minutes, depending on the amount of data on the disk. On the other hand, full disk encryption may have worked for several hours to complete.
5. Select the encryption mode
Select “New Encryption Mode” if you only intend to use the external drive on your computer or on devices running Windows 10 (version 1511 or later).
If you are unsure or think you may need to access the drive on devices running older versions of Windows, select Compatible Mode and continue.
6. Start encryption
BitLocker will start encrypting the drive when you click the Start Encryption button.
As mentioned earlier, the operation can take minutes or hours, depending on the size of the disk and the data that is stored on it.
Do not remove the drive from your computer without pausing encryption. This could damage the drive. If you urgently need to use the drive during the encryption process, select Pause and disconnect the drive.
Please note that your files and drive are not secure until encryption is performed. Wait until you get a successful encryption message like the one below.
When you eject an encrypted drive on your PC, or try to access it on another PC, a BitLocker window appears on the screen prompting you to enter the drive password.
Encrypt an External Drive on macOS
Setting a password to an external drive in macOS is the easiest thing you can ever need. Connect the drive to your Mac and follow these steps:
1. Right-click the drive (check the Location section) and select Encrypt or Encrypt .
Note. If the external drive does not appear on your Mac, or the Encryption option is missing, you may need to format the drive to a file system supported by macOS. Check out this external hard drive troubleshooting guide to find out more.
2. Enter your password, re-enter your password, and enter a password hint.
Pro Tip: Click the key icon next to the Encryption Password dialog box to launch the Encryption Password Assistant. The tool will suggest random passwords or help you create a strong personalized password.
3. Select “Encrypt Disk”.
The macOS encryption engine will start encryption on the disk. This operation may take a couple of seconds or minutes, depending on the contents and size of the disc.
When encryption is complete, eject and re-insert the encrypted drive, or connect it to another Mac. A password entry window will appear on the screen; enter your password and select â€œUnblockâ€ to gain access.
What Happens When You Forget The Encryption Password
Strong passwords are quite strong, but they are often easy to forget. If you cannot remember the password for the encrypted drive, you can still access the contents. We’ll show you how to do this on Windows and macOS.
On Windows: use the recovery key
Remember the recovery key you printed out or saved to your computer when you encrypted the drive? That’s all you need to access the drive in case you forget your encryption password.
Navigate to the location where you saved the recovery file, double-click the text file to access its contents, and copy the numbers in the Recovery Key section.
Connect the drive to your computer and wait until the BitLocker password prompt appears on the screen. Select “Advanced options” and click “Enter recovery key”.
Finally, paste the recovery key into the dialog box and select Unlock. If you printed the recovery key, get a print, enter the recovery key and select â€œUnlockâ€.
You should now have access to the drive in File Explorer. If you still cannot remember your password, you will have to create a new one. Right-click the drive and select Manage BitLocker.
Find the external drive under Removable Data Drives and select Disable BitLocker.
After that, encrypt the drive from scratch and use the new password.
On Mac: Disable FileVault
Unlike Windows, you cannot access an encrypted drive on macOS using a recovery key. The only workaround is to disable FileVault, macOS’s encryption mechanism. Go to System Preferences> Security & Privacy> FileVault and select Disable FileVault.
This temporarily disables encryption on all internal and external drives. Launch Finder and you can access the drive without entering a password. But you cannot decrypt or create a new encryption password without the old password. Re-enabling FileVault will automatically re-encrypt the drive using the forgotten password.
Third-Party Software and Hardware Alternatives
If you are having difficulty using these built-in tools, turn to trusted third-party solutions like VeraCrypt. Alternatively, you can buy hardware-encrypted storage devices or external drives with fingerprint scanners. These drives offer an equally secure form of biometric encryption without a password that is easier to use and configure.
How to Set a Password for any External Hard Drive
How to Set a Password for any External Hard Drive
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