How to Encrypt a Flash Drive

Flash drives are portable memory modules that are used as sources for file sharing and for backing up important pieces of data. However, their portability comes at a price: they can be easily misplaced, or stolen by a thief. The data can be at the mercy of whoever has your flash drive, and there's no protection on it. However, encrypting a flash drive is the solution, and a free program like TrueCrypt can get the job done.

USB flash drive about to connect to laptop, close-up
credit: Jeffrey Hamilton/Digital Vision/Getty Images

Step

Open the TrueCrypt program and click on "Create Volume" to bring up the creation wizard. Select the "Create an encrypted file container" option, then click "Next" to proceed to the "Volume Type" dialogue box.

Step

Choose "Standard TrueCrypt volume," then proceed to the "Volume Location" window. Press on "Select File" and navigate to your flash drive through the file selector window. Once you are within your flash drive, type in a file name for your encrypted container, then click on "Save" to return to the "Volume Location" window. Click on "Next" to proceed.

Step

Select your encryption algorithms under "Encryption Options." If you are uncertain which options to choose, simply leave them at their default settings, then click "Next."

Step

Specify the volume size for your encryption in the "Volume Size" dialogue box. Type in the numerical amount in the blank box, which can be no greater than the amount of free space listed in the "Volume Size" window. Next click on one of the buttons (KB, MB, or GB) to match the volume size you want for your drive. When you are finished, click "Next."

Step

Give a volume password for your encryption. Avoid selecting passwords that are single words found in the dictionary or are too easy to guess. Use a mix of upper and lower case letters, numbers, and unique characters. The maximum allowable password length is 64 characters. Click "Next" to go through the final process of your encryption.

Step

Under the "Volume Format" window, leave the "Filesystem" and "Cluster" at their default settings, while you move your mouse randomly inside the window for about 30 seconds. This will create encryption keys to strengthen the cryptography of your flash drive. Once you are satisfied, click on the "Format" button to complete this process.