Windows 8 provides an easy way to encrypt your hard disks and other portable disk drives (like USB keys) with inbuilt BitLocker encryption system. BitLocker is drive encryption system that is able to encrypt the contents of your disk drives so that only you can access them. The encrypted contents of a disk drive are accessible only after you enter a password or unlock it using a smart card. Here is how you can encrypt the disk drives in Windows 8 using BitLocker :
- Open Windows Explorer using the hotkey Win + E. Select Computer and then right-click on the disk drive that you want to encrypt using BitLocker. From the right-click context menu, select Turn on Bitlocker.
- After initializing process is over, BitLocker would present you with two protection options – password or smart card. The password option is easier to use of the two. The smart card requires you to have a computer with the ability to use the smart card. Most users do not have a smart card. We are going to use password which is simpler to go with.
- Now it would give you an option to save your recovery key. A recovery key is a special key to be used in case you forget your password. If you forget your password, then this recovery key can be used to decrypt the contents of the protected disk drive. You have three ways to save the recovery key – save it to your Microsoft account, save it to a file on your computer or print it out using your printer.
- After you have saved the recovery key, you are given two ways to encrypt the selected disk drive – encrypt only the used portion or encrypt all the drive. If the disk drive is already in use, then you should encrypt complete disk. If the target disk is brand new and has never been used, then you should choose to encrypt only the used space.
- Finally, click on the Start encrypting button to proceed the actual encryption. This would take a while depending on the contents of the disk drive. A progress bar would be displayed showing how the encryption process is going.
- After the encryption is complete, you would see a lock icon on the disk drive, showing that it is encrypted with BitLocker. If you want to unlock it, then just right-click on it and select Unlock. You would be asked the password or smart card PIN, entering upon which you would be able to access the protected disk drive like a regular disk.
After your disk is protected with BitLocker, all the new files that you add to it would be automatically encrypted. You do not have to go through this process all over again. BitLocker uses AES (previously known as Rijndael) which is very strong encryption cipher. You can use it to encrypt your disks that contain personal or private data, so that nobody else can view, access or steal it.