Encrypt the Hard Drive in Windows 10

If you’ve got sensitive files on your computer, you’ve likely wondered just how safe they are. And perhaps you’ve come across the concept of encryption and are perplexed about how to do it on your Windows 10 PC. Well, you’ve come to the right place, and we’ll begin by defining encryption first.

Encryption is scrambling information such that only authorized parties can understand it. The information is scrambled and turned into incomprehensible ciphertext such that the only way to read the information is if you have the (cryptographic) key to decrypt the ciphertext.

Today, the most widely used encryption method is the Advanced Encryption Standard (AES), the only publicly accessible cipher approved by the National Security Agency (NSA). It is also the one we’ll be focusing on in this article.

We’ll specifically be looking at the BitLocker free encryption software that comes bundled with the Pro, Enterprise, and Education editions of Windows 10. Note that other editions of Windows 10, such as the Home edition, do not have this feature.

Windows 10 Home does instead have a “device encryption,” which works similar to Bitlocker but has fewer management tools.

How to Encrypt your Windows 10 Hard Drive using Bitlocker?

Before enabling BitLocker, your machine ideally needs to have a Trusted Platform Module (TPM), a physical chip that enables your computer to support advanced security features. It is still possible to enable BitLocker without a TPM using software-based encryption.

The main advantage of a TPM (hardware-based), as opposed to software-based encryption, is that it is not susceptible to security flaws that affect the operating system. A flaw in the OS can provide a gateway for hackers to compromise your encryption software.

How to Know Whether Your PC Has a TPM?

  • Click on Start
  • Type Device Manager to begin searching for it. Click on it to open the app.
  • Once open, look through the list of devices till you see “Security devices.” 
  • Collapse it and confirm that the revealed item reads “Trusted Platform Module.” Ensure that the version number indicated is 1.2 or higher – this is needed to support BitLocker.

Steps to Enable Bitlocker on Windows 10

  1. Click on Start
  2. Search for Control Panel and click on it 
  3. Click on System and Security
  4. Next, click on BitLocker Drive Encryption.
  5. Look under the “Operating System Drive” option and click on the “Turn on BitLocker” option.
  6. You’ll now have three options to save the recovery key to your Microsoft account, a file or a printed sheet of paper. Choose one that serves you best.
  7. Click Next and choose whether to encrypt the whole drive or only the space you’ve used.
  8. Next, you’ll be asked to pick an encryption mode. New encryption mode works best for fixed drives, while compatible encryption mode works best for hard drives that will be moved from your machine.
  9. Click Next and tick the checkmark, “Run BitLocker system check.” This will help make sure the encryption goes on error-free.
  10. Click on continue, then Restart Now to begin encryption. Your device will boot back up immediately, allowing you to use the computer as it goes on encrypting.
  11. Once complete, the drive will have a lock icon with a “Bitlocker on” label.

With your files encrypted, you can be sure that even if your information is stolen, the thief will not be able to read the information without the recovery key. BitLocker is a great encryption software though there are other encryption software such as VeraCrypt, which is completely free.

Apart from encryption, you might also want to get a VPN that will provide online protection by hiding your IP address. In today’s world, it’s not just hackers after your data; companies and snoops often spy on people’s online activity to gain sensitive personal information either for profit or malicious use. You can ensure your privacy and download a VPN for Windows PC, which will also work like BitLocker to encrypt your connection so that all traffic to and from your PC is routed through an encryption “tunnel.” This is what hides you since no one but the VPN service knows where the data packets are coming from and going.

Conclusion

Encryption is an excellent way to secure your files. The statistics on cybercrime are alarming – one study estimates that a cyberattack happens every 39 seconds. It is estimated that by 2025, global losses to cyberattacks will reach 10.5 trillion. Everyone must take serious security precautions rather than just installing an antivirus and calling it a day.

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Steve has been living in Saudi Arabia since 2013 and writing about Saudi rules, regulations, guides, and procedures since then.