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Windows 7: The Complete Guide - Encryption

Updated on March 20, 2011

Windows 7 RC1 comes with BitLocker, a feature that was previously reserved only for the more rarefied and expensive versions of Vista. BitLocker is a drive encryption process whereby anyone who manages to get their hands on your computer or even just your hard drive is out of luck: they can't read any data unless they have the password.

Windows 7 introduces new twists to the BitLocker security arsenal. First of all, let's check out BitLocker To Go.

BitLocker To Go encrypts the data on any portable media you can connect to your PC. Since it seems that there are virtually no key fobs left that don't have an attached USB key, most people are blissfully unaware that the little key they've just tossed onto the booth table at McDonald's can easily be ripped off and accessed, revealing everything about you from your bank passwords to those nude photos of you at the Christmas office party.

BitLocker To Go makes it very easy to encrypt the data on any USB key drive. Simply stick the key into any USB port, click the Start button at the lower left, type in BitLocker and then click on Bitlocker Drive Encryption. Now Turn on BitLocker.

Unless your USB key drive is prehistoric and lacks the capacity to be encrypted, BitLocker will now proceed to set it up for encryption of data.

Pick a nice, secure password with a minimum of 8 characters. If you're truly profoundly stupid, use your birthday. The malcreants would never figure that one out! Duh.

Try to use a combination of alphanumerical and weird characters such as g/K#8^t+ and make sure that you don't forget it or your USB key will be trash.

Since you're probably going to forget it anyway and then really get stuck, Windows 7 offers you the option of saving your a recovery key to a file or even printing it out. This recovery key can help you get access to a USB drive that you've lost the password to. Although I'm not really sure what good a recovery key is, as you might as well keep the password and save the recovery key step. Regardless, keep this in a secure place away from your PC as well as any prying eyes.

You're now ready to encrypt the drive to keep all your data safe and secure.

I have three USB drives: 2GB, 4GB, and 8GB. I have never ever put enough data on any of these three drives to max out even the smallest one. I honestly don't know why anyone in their right mind would want to shell out the big bucks to carry around 32GB or more of their data on a USB key drive.

I have a 1TB RAID 1 mirrored drive set for data on my Core i7 920 main system. I have exactly 16.1 GB of data on it. The rest is empty. So where is all my data? That's it! It's all there, except for the actual operating system and application files which reside on my VelociRaptor boot drive, and even that one only has a relatively meagre 47 GB used up on it. I see absolutely no reason why I should carry around next to my car and house keys all 16.1 GB of data. Totally pointless.

I know, I know... there are many computer users out there who have several TB of data on their drives, but since the vast majority of these people are content pirates, I couldn't care less about them.

Having said that, if you have one of the aforesaid humongous USB key drives, the process of encrypting it can take a while. It's going to be much faster with a more reasonable capacity drive.

Keep in mind that if you're plunking your Windows 7 encrypted key into a computer using another operating system it might just see it as an unformatted drive and that could lead to accidental overwriting. The only other OS that recognize the Windows 7 encryption are Windows XP SP3 and Vista SP1.

Once you have the USB key drive in a computer running a compatible operating system you'll see this:

If you've remembered your password, you now have access to all the data on the device.

BitLocker Biometric is a truly futuristic feature built into Windows 7. If you have a fingerprint scanner on your computer (and surprisingly many new notebooks do), you can set up Windows 7 to recognize only your fingertips!

BitLocker Biometric will allow you to select any finger to "enroll" into the protection scheme.

Once you've assigned a fingerprint to your computer, you will be the only one that can access it, and future extensions will also allow you to fingerprint restrict access to individual applications or even features within those applications. That way you won't have to remember weird passwords any longer, you'll just have to be on your guard against data thieves with sharp finger-cutting knives!

Read The Entire Windows 7 Complete Guide!

Windows 7: The Complete Guide
Windows 7: The Complete Guide - Getting Started
Windows 7: The Complete Guide - Backup & Restore
Windows 7: The Complete Guide - Security & Privacy
Windows 7: The Complete Guide - Encryption
Windows 7: The Complete Guide - Aero & Libraries
Windows 7: The Complete Guide - HomeGroup
Windows 7: The Complete Guide - Tips & Tricks
Windows 7: The Complete Guide - Turn Off The Junk & Crank Up The Speed


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    • profile image

      John 6 years ago

      Every body here needs to either grow up or seek counselling for aggression and anger management

    • profile image

      6 years ago

      Really like the review until I got to the slander

    • profile image

      Kent 6 years ago

      My iTunes library is 25GB. I imported over 2,000 CDs that I have collected over the last 30 (or so) years. I also have another 5GB in photos from my 12MP dSLR camera. By your standards, I am a content pirate. Way to keep it classy "Hal Licino"

    • profile image

      Boris 6 years ago

      Getting my first winblowz laptop so figured I'd look at encryption options. The comments in the thread are hilarious. Also, bitlocker is not available for external drives in Win 7 Pro, you need ultimate or enterprise.

      Win7 Pro provides encryption using EFS unfortunately.

    • profile image

      Lena 6 years ago

      Bitlocker is only on versions hihger then windows 7 pro!!

    • profile image

      Anonymous 6 years ago

      lol @ all these comments.

      bitlocker wasn't designed to hide your pirated media, it's specifically designed for hiding legal information from a potential thief. After all, if you're hiding illegal content on a passworded medium, you will most likely get sentenced for prison regardless of whether or not they can actually access your data..

    • profile image

      Rex Robinson 6 years ago

      USB encryption is really not all about the strength of the encryption, it is about the security of the encryption key and the authentication process.

    • Hal Licino profile image

      Hal Licino 7 years ago from Toronto

      Nah. If I got any longer, I couldn't fit it in my pants. :)

    • profile image

      AKA Oil Sands Monkey 7 years ago

      P.S. this is the whole reason individuals got going with computers to start with, to build, to create, to expand the boundaries of what they could do with computers. I'm waiting on the SSD Yotta drives if you can imagine that, I know I can and bigger than that. If you want to continue driving your 1970 Pacer go right ahead.

      Anyways take care continue to grow.

    • profile image

      AKA Oil Sands Monkey 7 years ago

      There are lots of applications for large drives. Were I'm from having a car with lots of horse power is a asset, doesn't mean you use it 24/7, but it is there when you need it.

      Like my cars I like to have the fast and largest capacity system I can afford. Really do you honestly think that once you go big your going to go back? I started watching TV with 13" now I have 50", it is hard to go back. Use what you have and can afford, by the way I just encrypted a 500gig ext drive your looking at 8 hrs or more.

    • profile image

      Crystal Garcia 7 years ago

      In windows 7 there can be multiple profiles. There is a key assigned to each profile. How to find out this key?

    • profile image

      edelic 7 years ago from shenzhen

      Are you using Windows 7, there is a separate hidden account called administrator.

      Windows Password Unlocker from Official site? It supports all windows version, recover windows 7 password, vista/xp/2003/2000/NT etc.

    • save my system profile image

      save my system 7 years ago from United Kingdom - London

      Thanks for mentioning all this. Bitlocker is great facility. Recovery key gives advantage to make password more protective as well as you can secure all your data from data thefts.

    • profile image

      KaoticS 7 years ago

      Notice he said all of HIS music and dvd's - He has every right to make digital copies as backups for himself. So if that's all he has on his computer you just wasted the RIAA and MPAA's time - Gj.

    • Hal Licino profile image

      Hal Licino 7 years ago from Toronto

      pascal: And you obviously don't know that the RIAA and MPAA are about to knock on your door, Mr. IP :)

      MJ Rizzo: Ya, what can I say. I'm a retart. I just can't stop going back for seconds. MORON!

      Cannon: Ya, I'm a moron, right? And of course are you talking about Sonny or Nikkon or Penntax too? IDIOT. Learn to spell. :)

      What is it with you people? Do you have ANY firing brain cells?

    • profile image

      Cannon 7 years ago


      I have 2TB of photos taken over the last 10 years.

      These photos are in native Cannon RAW format.

      Of course you don't have to be a content pirate to have several TB's of data.

    • profile image

      MJ Rizzo 7 years ago

      Hal you are a complete moron. Pascal is trying to put some sense in to you, but once a retart always a retard.

      Good to see Hal is still stuck with his double-digit IQ copying contents from Microsoft and creating articles out of it. What a genius, hahaha

    • profile image

      pascal 7 years ago

      Well, you still are an idiot. I for example copy all my music-CDs and Movie-DVDs to my HD so I don't have to get up, search for and insert the discs every time I want to watch a movie or listen to my music... and when I go visit my girlfriend and we want to have a nice movie night I just copy a few of the movies to my flash drive and take that along instead of taking an extra bag full of DVDs.

      Well, you probably don't have a girlfriend I guess...

    • Hal Licino profile image

      Hal Licino 7 years ago from Toronto

      I don't usually reply to people who have a face that is hairy and split up the middle but in your case I'll make an exception.


      This is a Hub for general purpose computer users, not CAD-CAM designers or Video Editors. So since you've manifestly proven your ignorance, please show me ANY general purpose application, including games, that requires several Terabytes to store.

      Where did you get your IT training, off the side of a Corn Flakes box? You're an insult to the profession. Go try to impress the six year olds with your PC chops, because here you're just making a total donkey appendage out of yourself.

    • profile image

      paul 7 years ago

      Your a moron. With the way that you seem to always find some way to insult your readers it's a wonder anyone ever reads your crap to begin with.

      there are very many reasons why a person would have many gigabytes of data on their computer

      Games, they are pretty big nowadays

      CAD and engineering drawing. Some multilayed drawings can be very large.


      video editing

      Large usb flash drives ar very usefull.

      I have on more than one occasion used them to hold an image of a drive while swapping hard disks in client machines.

      Transferring the afformentioned CAD drawings

      Just because YOU don't utilize the larger capacity drives doesn't mean others that do are, and I quote:

      "there are many computer users out there who have several TB of data on their drives, but since the vast majority of these people are content pirates, I couldn't care less about them"

      You sir are an absolute idiot who seems to judge and access everthing by whether or not it is useful to you, if not than of course those that do are considered morons.

      God you are an ass!!!!!