Do you have some sensitive information stored on your computer?
Or you want to deliver confidential files to someone.
In the digital era where cyber crimes are at the peak, you can not possibly think sharing files online is a secure option. Therefore, manually delivering the files using a flash drive or USB stick seems like a feasible option. However, what if someone stole it from you?
Here enters device encryption.
Encrypting or password protecting your USB drive can stop a thief from accessing your data. Secondly, using a physical device ensures that no one can snoop it from the internet.
However, it can be challenging for a beginner to use an encryption tool properly. Therefore, we have created this guide to explain how to password-protect a USB flash drive for you.
Talking about protection, we also recommend keeping a portable antivirus in your USB drive. It can save you from malware programs like ransomware that can damage your data and prevent you from accessing it.
Now, without any further ado, let's dive into it.
Install A USB Drive Protection Tool
Encrypting a USB disk on macOS is quick since it doesn't require any third-party tool. You can use the inbuilt tool, i.e., FileVault, to encrypt the drives on your macOS.
Other noteworthy tools for disk encryption available for various platforms are as follows.
- Rohos Mini Drive: It creates a separate encrypted drive inside your USB drive.
- USB Safeguard: This tool lets you add passwords to your confidential files.
- SafeHouse Explorer: This file explorer lets you add passwords to your files and use 256-bit encryption.
You can use the programs mentioned above to protect your flash drive on a Windows computer. However, it can be challenging to access the files on a Mac machine since these tools don't support macOS.
Therefore, to ensure you can access your encrypted USB drive from any operating system, we will go with VeraCrypt. It's an open-source program available for Windows, macOS, and Linux. With that said, VeraCrypt will enable you to use the flash drive on cross platforms.
How To Set A Protection Password On A USB Drive With VeraCrypt
You can download VeraCrypt software from the official website. Once done with the installation process, let's connect your USB drive to your computer and follow the below instructions to quickly encrypt it.
Note: Don't keep any files in the flash drive before encrypting it. The process requires you to format your USB stick, so you will lose all the data. For this reason, you will need to back up your USB flash drive before securing it.
1. Launch the VeraCrypt software. Once opened, click on the Create Volume button.
2. Select the second option, which is: "Encrypt a non-system partition/drive", and then click on the Next button.
3. Choose which type of VeraCrypt volume that you want to create, according to your needs. In this case, we are going with the "Standard" encryption. Hit the Next button after selecting the option you want to use.
4. Choose the USB flash drive that you want to encrypt. Luckily, all connected external devices are presented in a separate list to avoid confusion. Select the one you want to encrypt and hit the Next button.
5. VeraCrypt will ask you to select whether to format the USB flash drive or not. If you choose to keep the existing data, then the whole process will take a much longer time. We would recommend you format the disk since it will save a lot of your time. Make sure you have a backup in place if there are pre-existing files in your flash drive.
6. Select which type of encryption you want to use to encrypt your USB flash drive. The standard AES encryption works fine, so we keep that one only.
7. Create and confirm the password for your USB flash drive. You can take help from this article to create a strong and memorable one.
8. Confirm your removable disk's file size to ensure you are encrypting the correct drive.
9. Format the disk. This step requires you to move your mouse randomly. The algorithm creates an encryption key based on that randomness. Click on the Format button once the randomness factor is strong enough.
10. Wait some time till the process is complete. By the end, you will have an encrypted USB disk for your use.
No one can access the files in the flash drive if they don't have the VeraCrypt program and correct password. Your computer will prompt you to format the pen-drive if you try to open it directly. There is another process that you need to follow to open the disk for use. The following section discusses how to do that.
How To Access Encrypted Files On An USB Disk
To access any encrypted device or file, you have to use VeraCrypt to open the storage path temporarily. Follow the below steps to know how to do that.
1. Click on one of the volume alphabets from the list to create a volume.
2. Then, select the device you want to open from the "Select Device" option.
3. Now, click on the "Mount" button to open a dialogue box asking you to enter the password.
4. Enter the same password you assigned for your USB drive.
5. This will create an accessible volume in the file explorer of your OS. ("My computer" for Windows users)
Now, you can add files in the Volume to store them securely. Click on the "Dismount" button in the VeraCrypt program to lock the drive once again.
You will need to use the program each time you want to access the files. There is much more you can do with VeraCrypt other than encrypting a USB flash drive. Some of those features include creating a hidden volume using a file, decrypting the device entirely, and much more.
How Secure Is VeraCrypt?
VeraCrypt lets you choose from a variety of encryption algorithms to ensure you get what you want. Besides, it's impossible to open the files without having a password. So, we can assume VeraCrypt to be very effective in what it claims to do.
Meanwhile, since it's an open-source project, the bugs and loopholes are often solved with perfection. Therefore, you can expect a high level of security for your files.
The only downside is if someone tries to use the flash drive without knowing the password, it prompts them to format the drive. If done so, you will lose any data that is stored in the disk, which counters the purpose of protecting it in the first place.
Therefore, the best way to use this tool is to deliver sensitive information to someone while having a copy at another secure location. That way, you can be sure to have at least one set of files if someone interferes and steal the flash drive.
The Bottom Line
Encrypting or password-protecting your drive can prevent the loss of sensitive information or getting it into the wrong hands. There are many free tools available for you to choose to secure your removable disk. We would highly recommend VeraCrypt because it's open-source and available for multiple operating systems.