Nowadays, USB drives are capable of storing huge amount of data, even up to 1TB! With access to such capacity, we prefer to keep all our important data on USB sticks to keep it with us all the time. However, such portability of important data also raises protection concern. USB drives are portable and very small in size and manufacturers are aiming for making them even smaller with each evolution, which means you can easily lose huge amounts of data in an instant.
If access to your information is not protected, anyone can easily use it for the wrong purpose. So password-protecting your USB drive or at least the sensitive data is of extreme importance. Encrypting your USB drive with a password is the best way to go when you need a protection that is extremely hard to break.
However, encrypting a whole drive is not always the answer to protecting your data on a USB drive. May be you just have a single document that you need to protect, or a few MBs worth of files, why go through the whole-disk encryption process?
In this tutorial, we are going to list simple to complex methods to password-protect a USB drive, you can select the one that fits your needs best.
Method #1: Password Protect Individual Data on a USB drive
If you don’t have extremely sensitive data to protect and just want to make sure no average person could access your data, then there is no need for encrypting the whole drive. You can just password-protect the data using the built-in feature (if present), or a third-party tool.
Many programs come with built-in password protection feature, such as Adobe’s PDF or Microsoft Office. We can show you how to password protect a PDF file, and Microsoft has instructions on how to do the same with an Office document.
You can also use third-party tools to password protect Folders and files in Windows. For this purpose, Folder Lock does a great job. It comes as a portable version (can be run on any computer, without installing) that you can carry around in your USB drive, and it will let you encrypt and password-protect specific files and folders. If you want to use Folder Lock for password protecting your USB data, then this handy guide may help.
Method #2: Encrypt a Part of the USB
If you have very sensitive data and simple password protection is not enough, you can also encrypt a separate partition in a USB drive and add all important data in that partition. This way, you can easily access all your unprotected data without any need of a password, and access the important data just enter the password.
For this purpose, Rohos Mini drive does a remarkable job. It comes with both free and paid versions and free version offers encrypted partition up to 8GB. 8GB space is more than enough for many people, but you will have to opt for the paid version if you need more space.
Download and install Rohos and launch the program, in the main menu, click on “Encrypt USB Drive”.
A dialog will open up with all the properties of the new partition that will be created. To change the properties, click on “change” at the end of the properties and you will see the customization options in another window.
Here you can specify, drive letter, space, and encryption type. It is better to not to change these options except for the partition size and disk letter. You can specify the partition size in MBs i.e. 1GB = 1000MB. With the free version you can also specify up to 8 GB space and you are only allowed to create partitions of half the space on the USB drive. So you need at least a 16GB USB drive to take full advantage of 8GB limit.
When you are done changing the properties, you will see two blank fields where you can enter a password to encrypt. Make sure you add a strong password (with numbers, characters in both capitals, special characters and of 15-20 characters minimum – more advice from Google) to ensure your sensitive data is safe. When you are done, click on Create disk and the process will start. It can take 10-20 minutes for a 500Mb partition, for larger partitions it could even take hours.
When done, all you need to do is plug in the USB in any computer and the Rohos program will be shown in the taskbar. To show the new partition, right click on the Rohos icon and select “Connect disk”. You will be asked to provide the password, and when entered, the drive will be loaded in My Computer along with other drives.
To disconnect it, you can either safely remove the USB drive, or right-click on Rohos icon in the taskbar and select “Disconnect”.
Note: Rohos Mini Drive is portable and doesn’t require any special program to run, all you need to do is plug-in the USB and connect the disk.
Method #3: Encrypt the Whole Drive
If you would like to encrypt the whole drive, then it can be done easily. For this purpose, we are going to use the tool DiskCryptor. It is a free to use open source tool that has a really simple interface.
You can also use Microsoft’s BitLocker to encrypt your USB drive, but it is quite complex and only supports Ultimate and Enterprise versions of Windows 7 and above. We selected DiskCryptor due to its easy use and compatibility with Windows 2000 and above.
Download DiskCryptor and install the program. When launched, you will see not very attractive interface, but it will be simple. To start encrypting, click on the USB drive from the interface and then click on “Encrypt”.
A window will open up where you can select Encryption type. It is better to not change anything in this Window, click on “Next”, unless you have something special in mind.
On the next page, enter and confirm the password (make sure it is strong – see above) and after that, click on “OK” to start the encryption process. It may take quite some time to encrypt the whole drive depending on how big the USB drive is, even hours for a bigger USB drive.
Once the USB drive is encrypted, Windows will not be able to recognize it and will ask you to format it. Just ignore Windows’ request and open the “DiskCryptor” interface.
Here, click on the USB drive and then click on “Mount”. You will be asked to provide the password and when provided the disk will be available for use. You can also unmount the disk with the same process or just safely remove the USB to unmount.
Note: People might not be able to access your USB drive, but they are still able to format it. So make sure, you have a backup of the important data somewhere else to ensure it is safe.
If you have any questions or Would like to share any further information, let us know in the comments.
Filed in Security.. Read more about