Protect a Sensitive USB Device

Adding encryption to a USB drive gives it a security cloak against unwanted guests who may pick them up. If you travel frequently, this can be a great piece of mind.

Making Your USB Drives Tiny Security Vaults

Think of USB drives as tiny vaults. Without a lock, anyone can peek inside. If your USB just sits on your desk, that might be okay. But if you're tucking important secrets inside or if it travels in your bag, you might want to lock it up. That's where encryption comes in – it's like a secret handshake to see what's inside. If ever you want to remove that handshake, you can, too. 

This guide will accomplish the following:

  • Add a Lock to Your USB Drive (Encrypt)
  • Access a Protected USB Drive
  • Remove a Lock from Your USB Drive (Decrypt) 

Procedure Scope: Users

Required Group Membership: N/A

Add a Lock to Your USB Drive (Encrypt)

  1. On your device, open the File Explorer program.
  2. Click This PC from the lefthand side of the file explorer window. In the pane on the right, find the USB drive you want to protect; right-click the drive. 
  3. Click Turn on BitLocker. For Windows 11 devices, click Show More Options first.
  4. On the next screen, click Use Password to Unlock the Drive. Enter the password in the boxes below, followed by clicking Next.

    Note: The password you enter here will be used to unlock the drive whenever you want to access it. 


  5. You'll want a backup plan in case you forget that password. Choose a spot to save this recovery key. An easy way? Select Print the Recovery Key, then save it as a PDF in a hideaway. After hiding it, press Next.
  6. Select Encrypt Entire Drive, followed by Next.
  7. Sit tight! Your USB is being encrytped. Larger drives might need a coffee break.

Accessing a Protected USB Drive

  1. On your device, open the File Explorer program.
  2. Click This PC from the lefthand side of the file explorer window. In the pane on the right, you'll notice that the newly protected drive has a Lock Icon; that's how you know it's protected! Double-click on the drive.
  3. Type in your password. If you trust your computer and want a hassle-free experience, pick Automatically Unlock on This PC.

    Tip: If you forget the password, select Enter Recovery Key to use the backup that you saved when protecting the drive. 

  4. You'll know the drive is ready to be accessed when the Unlocked Icon comes up. You can now access its contents!

Remove a Lock from Your USB Drive (Decrypt)

  1. On your device, open the File Explorer program.
  2. Click This PC from the lefthand side of the file explorer window. In the pane on the right, look for a drive with the Lock Icon. Right-click the drive.
  3. Click Manage BitLocker. For Windows 11 devices, click Show More Options first.
  4. Go to the bottom of the list, and hit Turn Off BitLocker.
  5. A small box will appear; click Turn Off BitLocker.

That's How You Do It!

You've just taught your USB some cool tricks. Remember your password, and keep that backup key in a safe spot. If you face any hiccups, we are an email away, providing security for humans! 👤💻