How to Password Protect a Flash Drive

An attacker can copy large amounts of sensitive information from the USB flash drive of an unsuspecting victim in just a few minutes; encrypt the drive to prevent this from happening to you. Windows 8.1 Pro and Enterprise have a built-in encryption system that you can use to password-protect your flash drive, even if the drive already contains data. BitLocker uses 128-bit keys and the Advanced Encryption Standard encryption algorithm to protect your data. Be aware, however, that you may lose everything on the flash drive if you can't remember the password and don't have a recovery file.

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Unlocking a flash drive encrypted by BitLocker to Go.
credit: Image courtesy of Microsoft

Step

Press "Windows-X" to expand the Windows 8.1 Power User menu and select "File Explorer" to launch the utility. Alternatively, right-click the Windows button to display the Power User menu.

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The Power User menu and the File Explorer option.
credit: Image courtesy of Microsoft
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The context menu and the Turn On BitLocker option.
credit: Image courtesy of Microsoft

Step

Right-click the USB flash drive in the left pane and select "Turn on BitLocker." Don't remove the drive from the computer while BitLocker initializes it.

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The password fields and the Next button.
credit: Image courtesy of Microsoft

Step

Check the "Use a password to unlock the drive" box and then type the password into the "Enter your password" and "Reenter your password" fields. Click "Next."

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The Save to a File option.
credit: Image courtesy of Microsoft

Step

Select the "Save to a file" option to back up the recovery key in a text document on your hard drive. To print the key, select "Print the recovery key" and follow the instructions. If you click "Save to your Microsoft account," Windows stores the key in a document in your OneDrive account.

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The Save BitLocker Recovery Key As window.
credit: Image courtesy of Microsoft

Step

Type a name for the key into the "File Name" field, select a folder from the left pane and then click "Save" to save the key. Click "Next."

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The Encrypt options and the Next button.
credit: Image courtesy of Microsoft

Step

Select the "Encrypt used disk space only" option if your drive doesn't contain any data. New data is encrypted as you add it to the drive. If the drive already contains data, select the "Encrypt entire drive" option. Click "Next."

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The Start Encrypting button.
credit: Image courtesy of Microsoft

Step

Click "Start encrypting" to encrypt the flash drive. Don't disconnect the drive from the computer while Windows encrypts it; you may lose valuable data if you disconnect it. Your files are not protected until the encryption is complete.

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The context menu and the Unlock Drive option.
credit: Image courtesy of Microsoft

Step

Unlock the drive by right-clicking it in File Explorer and selecting "Unlock Drive."

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The Password field and the Unlock button.
credit: Image courtesy of Microsoft

Step

Type the password into the field and click "Unlock" to unlock the drive. All your data is available as soon as you unlock the drive, so you can rename, copy, move, add or delete files.