Security: How to Encrypt a USB Drive

Encrypt a Portable Drive

Portable USB drives that contain College data require extra protection.  Protect USB drive data from loss, theft, or cyber criminals by using encryption.

Click your computer's operating system below to view instructions on enabling encryption on a USB device:

  1. Insert the USB flash drive into the computer, click Start, and then click Computer “This PC”.
    Best Practice: backup all data on the drive prior to encrypting.
  2. Select the USB drive. Once selected, right-click the USB drive, and then click Turn On BitLocker.

  3. On the Choose how you want to unlock this drive window, choose Use a password to unlock the drive.

  4. On the How Do You Want To Store Your Recovery Key window, click Save The Recovery Key To A File.

    A recovery key allows you to regain access to your encrypted USB drive in the event you forget your password. In the event you misplace the recover key and/or password, IT will be unable to recover your files.

    1. In the Save BitLocker Recovery Key As dialog box, choose a save location, such as your secure CSCC network folder then click Save.

      IT Security warns against printing recovery key information. However, if a user chooses to do so, the printed Recovery Key must not be stored together with the USB drive. (For example, if both the USB drive and recovery key are in the same bag during travel it would be very easy for access to be gained to the USB drive by an authorized user.)


  5. On the Are You Ready To Encrypt This Drive window, click Start Encrypting.
    1. Do not remove the USB drive until the encryption process is complete.
    2. How long the encryption takes depends on the size of the drive. USB drive encryption take approximately 6 to 10 minutes per gigabyte to complete. The encryption process performs the following:
      1. Creates a virtual volume with the full contents for the drive in the remaining drive space.
      2. Encrypts the drive with latest encryption algorithms.

  1. Once the encryption process competes you will be notified by a window.

  2. When you insert the encrypted drive into a USB port on a computer running Windows and above dialog box will display. When you are prompted, enter the password you created. Optionally, check Automatically Unlock On This Computer From Now On for ease of use.

  3. Finally, click Unlock.
  1. Insert a BLANK USB device into the Mac.

This process WILL erase all content on a USB, please make sure all files are moved off the USB before encrypting it, or there is not data on the USB.

  1. Open Disk Utility - On the desktop select Go menu, then select Utilities.

  1. In the Utilities folder, open Disk Utility.
    This might be easiest to find while viewing in List format.

  2. Change Show Only Volumes to Show All Devices.

  3. On the right side, select the USB drive and then on the Erase tab.

  4. Change the Scheme to GUID Partition Map.

  5. Under Format, choose APFS (Case-Sensitive, Encrypted).

  6. A pop-up message will appear to confirm that the drive should be encrypted. Enter in a password for the USB drive.

  7. Select Erase.

Progress bar will appear.  When the encryption is complete, the formatting window will re-appear but grayed out.

  • Once the USB drive is encrypted, data can be copied back on to the drive or just start usage.
  • The USB drive can be safely ejected at this time.
  • The next time the UBS drive is plugged into a MAC, it will prompt for a password to be entered.


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Article ID: 609
Thu 8/12/21 11:11 AM
Mon 9/12/22 2:46 PM