In this article, you will learn how to password protect your hard drive with BitLocker – a data encryption feature that is available in Windows 10, Windows 11, and Windows Server 2016 and above. It is an excellent way to keep your digital valuables safe from unwanted intrusions, and keeping your system safe and secure. Let’s dive right into the topic.
What are the advantages of password protecting your hard drive?
Privacy is important. So using a password to protect your hard drive can make as much sense as doing it to access email.
- Data is not accessible to anyone who does not have your password.
- It prevents malware from being installed on the computer by cyber criminals.
- It protects files on USB flash drives and external hard drives from being copied without permission.
What is BitLocker?
BitLocker is a data protection tool that works in conjunction with the operating system to safeguard data from being stolen, lost, or accessed from improperly decommissioned devices. Data protection is accomplished by creating an encrypted virtual drive within the physical disk. The data in the encrypted virtual drive can only be accessed when using an authorized password, which should be one that has never been used before.
When a hard drive is encrypted with BitLocker, the data on the drive cannot be accessed without knowledge of the correct password. The hard drive will be inaccessible even if it is removed from the computer and connected to another machine.
BitLocker protects your data with the advanced encryption standard (AES) and 128-bit or 256-bit keys. The AES encryption algorithm is used by the US government to secure top secret and classified information.
BitLocker encryption types
Depending on the operating system you’re using, BitLocker can use either 128-bit or 256-bit encryption. Different levels of encryption provide different levels of security for your data. A lower level, for example, would be adequate for securely protecting information that you do not require. If you are storing classified government information, however, you should use a higher level of encryption.
There are two types of BitLocker Encryption available in Windows 11:
- BitLocker Drive Encryption – All of the data on your hard disk is encrypted using this type of encryption. If you need to safeguard your data from illegal access, this is a smart option.
- BitLocker To Go – Removable media, such as USB flash drives or external hard drives, are encrypted using this method. If you need to safeguard your data while it is being carried, this is a smart option.
What are the BitLocker system requirements?
Your machine must meet the following system requirements in order to use BitLocker:
- Windows 7 Enterprise, Windows 8 Enterprise, Windows 8.1 Pro, Windows 10 Pro, Windows 11 Pro, Education, or Enterprise editions are the operating systems available.
- Hardware: Trusted Platform Module (TPM) version 1.2 for Windows 10, and TPM 2.0 for Windows 11.
- BitLocker requires two or more partitions on your device to work. One is the system partition, which contains the operating system, and the other contains miscellaneous data.
- You must use the Administrator Account to log in.
- The motherboard of the machine should be set to UEFI mode.
How to Use BitLocker to Lock a Hard Drive in Windows 11?
To use BitLocker to secure your hard drive in Windows 11, follow these steps:
- Select System & Security from the Control Panel.
- Scroll to the bottom and select BitLocker Drive Encryption.
- Turn on BitLocker for the drive you want to encrypt by clicking the ‘Turn On BitLocker’ button.
- Create a never-used-before password and then press the ‘Next’ button.
- Select how you want to save your recovery key.
- Next, decide choose how much space you want to encrypt. The Used Disk Space option will only encrypt the space that is currently being used, and will finish quickly. The Entire Drive option will encrypt all the memory on the disk, and will take considerably longer.
- Now, choose the encryption with which to encrypt your drive. The New Encryption Mode is suitable for the fixed memory of a hard drive. The Compatible Mode is preferred for portable storage devices, like USB flash drives.
- Allow BitLocker to complete the encryption of your drive.
- Click Finish, when prompted.
Does Bitlocker ecryption have limitations?
BitLocker is a great feature for password-protecting your hard disk, however it has certain drawbacks:
- BitLocker is only available on Windows 10 and 11, and Windows Server 2016 and above.
- BitLocker is only compatible with TPM versions 1.2 and higher. TPM means Trusted Platform Module.
- Your device must have two or more partitions.
- You must use the Administrator Account to log in.
- BitLocker cannot encrypt drives larger than 2 TB in size.
- Also, BitLocker cannot be used to encrypt system files.
BitLocker encryption is a secure way to protect data in a hard drive from unwanted access and illegal transfers. The main reasons for password protecting a hard drive include blocking unauthorized users from accessing data, stopping malware and viruses from being installed, and preventing data from being copied to USB flash drives and other portable storage devices. Considering the benefits of BitLocker, the limitations of not being available on all Windows versions, and only being compatible with TPM 1.2 or higher, are not discouraging factors. The bottomline is, BitLocker is an excellent tool.