What to do with your USB flash drive: Encrypt it

USB flash drives are easy to lose if you don't keep track of them. We'll show you how to encrypt your USB flash drive so that if it gets lost or stolen, its contents will be safe and sound.

USB flash drives are easy to lose if you don't keep track of them. In part three of our "What to do with your USB flash drive" series, we'll show you how to encrypt your USB flash drive so that if it gets lost or stolen, its contents will be safe and sound:

Encrypt it
Step 1: Download and install TrueCrypt.

Step 2: After you've inserted an empty USB flash drive into your computer, launch TrueCrypt and click on the Create Volume button.

TrueCrypt create volume
Screenshot by Ed Rhee

Step 3: At the TrueCrypt Volume Creation Wizard screen, select Encrypt a non-system partition/drive, then click Next.

Step 4: At the Volume Type screen, select Standard TrueCrypt volume, then click Next.

Step 5: In the Volume Location screen, click the Select Device button to select your USB flash drive, then click Next.

TrueCrypt volume location
Screenshot by Ed Rhee

Step 6: At the Volume Creation Mode screen, select Create encrypted volume and format it, then click Next.

Step 7: At the Encryption Options screen, leave the defaults unless you specifically want to change the algorithms. Click Next to continue.

Step 8: At the Volume Size screen, all the selections should be grayed out and will display the total size of your USB flash drive. Click Next to continue.

Step 9: At the Volume Password screen, type in your password twice. TrueCrypt recommends a password consisting of 20 characters or more. Click Next to continue.

Step 10: At the Large Files screen, select No, then click Next.

Step 11: At the Volume Format screen, move your mouse randomly on the screen. The longer you move the mouse around, the stronger the encryption will be. When you're done, click on the Format button. When the confirmation dialog comes up, read it for accuracy and click the Yes button.

TrueCrypt volume format
Screenshot by Ed Rhee
Once the formatting has completed, exit the TrueCrypt Volume Creation Wizard.

Decrypt it
In order to decrypt the USB flash drive, you have to mount the encrypted partition--in our case, the entire USB flash drive--to a virtual drive letter.

Step 1: Launch TrueCrypt and click the drive letter you want to mount your USB flash drive to.

Step 2: Click the Select device button and choose your USB flash drive.

Step 3: Click the Mount button, type in your password, then click the OK button.

TrueCrypt enter password to mount
Screenshot by Ed Rhee

You should now see the drive letter you chose in Windows Explorer. This is your encrypted drive. Store anything you'd like in this drive to keep it encrypted. Note that you must use the mounted drive letter, not the drive letter that shows up when you insert the USB flash drive.

There you go. Now you if you lose your USB flash drive, you can feel safe knowing that nobody will be able to access the files on it.

About the author

Ed Rhee, a freelance writer based in the San Francisco Bay Area, is an IT veteran turned stay-at-home-dad of two girls. He focuses on Android devices and applications while maintaining a review blog at techdadreview.com.


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