Encrypt your USB flash drive

Darren Yates shows you how to protect your important data on the go.

Ever since I grabbed my first USB flash drive – an 8MB (yep, you read that right!) IBM DiskOnKey – I haven’t travelled without one since. There’s just no easier way to take your files to and from work. And unfortunately for many, there’s also no easier to lose them too. These little critters are always escaping from shirt and trouser pockets and falling into the hands of anyone who picks them up – along with all of your personal files.

As a solution, there are special security-grade flash drives that have password protection and data encryption but they also tend to cost a bomb. However, there’s an easier way that works with any existing USB flash drive and it’s an app called TrueCrypt (www.truecrypt.org). It runs on Windows, Linux and Mac OS X and can make pretty short work of providing your data with some pretty decent security.

How it works

TrueCrypt has a number of modes but the simplest for Windows users, is the default option – creating an encrypted file container, something akin to an ISO image but adds in password protection and data encryption. This allows you to choose how much of the drive you want for encryption, allowing you to use the rest as normal. You can also copy the TrueCrypt app files to this normal portion – you’ll need them to access your files on any other PC. Relax though – the bad guys will still need to know your password to get at your files.

Follow the steps below and you won’t need to worry again about losing a flash drive.

STEP-BY-STEP: Creating an encrypted volume on a USB flash drive


Step 1

STEP 1: Install TrueCrypt but use the “extract” option. This will create a portable version to copy onto the USB drive and take with you.







Step 2

STEP 2: Next, plug in your USB flash drive and format (remember to copy any important files first). Then launch TrueCrypt (truecrypt.exe), click the Create Volume button. Make sure you select “Create an encrypted file container” on the Wizard screen. Click Next.





Step 3

STEP 3: When you get to the Volume Location window, click Select File and choose a name and location (your USB flash drive) for the file container (don’t make it an obvious name like “encrypted”). Click Next.






Step 4

STEP 4: At the Volume Size screen, choose the MB radio button and type in the encrypted volume size you want (hint: it must be less than the drive capacity). Click Next when you’re done.






Step 5

STEP 5: Select a password on the Volume Password window – the longer the better. When you hit the Volume Format window, click Format and let it go to work. Click Exit when it’s done.






Step 6

STEP 6: To mount the container as a drive in Windows Explorer, launch TrueCrypt again, press Select File, locate the file on your flash drive and press Mount. Your encrypted volume should appear in Windows Explorer. Before removing the drive, be sure to press the Dismount button first.

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