Windows 8 Control Panel – System and Security – BitLocker Drive Encryption

Everybody wants to protect their personal data. You might possess digital data – documents, images, videos, etc. – that you don’t want anyone else to access; not even your family members (I won’t ask why!). This wish usually doesn’t become reality if you have a publicly accessible system.

BitLocker to the rescue! It is a technology provided by Microsoft using which, you can encrypt an entire drive – whether internal or removable. Thus, you can place your sensitive data inside such a drive, and encrypt it with BitLocker. Now, only those people who has the password, can access the drive. You data, thus, remain secure.

This applet manages the working of the BitLocker.

How to Launch It

  • Open the traditional Control Panel through the Start Screen or using the Run Windows command “control”.
  • Select “Category” view for Control Panel.
  • Select “System and Security” category. This opens a new page containing the subcategories.
  • Select “BitLocker Drive Encryption”. This will launch the applet on the same control panel page.

The main page of the applet lists all the logical volumes identified by the system. Keep in mind that the list comprises of the logical volumes, not the physical drives. A logical volume may be a part of a physical drive, an entire physical drive, or can span one or more physical drives. The easiest way to know the logical volumes in your system is to identify all the partitions listed by Windows Explorer. Those will be the logical volumes listed by this applet.

The applet provides BitLocker status for each drive – whether it is on or off for the drive. If it is off for a drive, if provides you with a link to turn it on. If it is on for a drive, then it provides following options.

  • Back up the recovery key (in case you lose the password)
  • Change or remove the password
  • Turn on auto-unlock – this will automatically unlock the drive for the existing user on the current system. BitLocker won’t prompt for a password.
  • Turn off BitLocker – Remove the protection of encryption. This will again make the data accessible to all.

To turn BitLocker on for a drive, click “Turn on BitLocker” link located besides that drive. This will launch a wizard that will guide you through the necessary steps.

Create an authentication method

First of all, it will ask you to create a powerful password, preferably a combination of mixed case alphabets, numbers, and special characters. Windows also provides (a cooler) alternative to password – a smart card registration. You need to insert a smart card, the pin of which will be used as an access authentication.

Store recovery key

BitLocker provides you a recovery key in case you forget the password or smart card’s pin. You would want to safely store this key. You can store it to your Microsoft Account (you need to be logged in through a Microsoft Account for this, though), to a flash drive, to a file, or print the key as a hard copy.

What way you want to encrypt your drive

Windows 8 provides two ways in which you can encrypt a drive.

  • Encrypt only those parts of drive where the data resides. This is faster as BitLocker doesn’t waste time in encrypting empty disk space. This is ideal for new drives.
  • Encrypt entire drive. Even though this is slower than the previous option, you might want to choose this for older drives. The unused space in the older drives might still contain shreds of deleted data, which might be recovered through certain data recovery software. So it’s best to encrypt the whole drive.

Final Confirmation

The wizard asks for a final confirmation, after which it begins the encryption.

The encryption process can take time, depending on the size of the drive.

From now on, your drive is protected by BitLocker encryption. Next time when anyone tries to access that drive, Windows will ask for password.

You can remove the protection from the applet at any time you want.

Thus, BitLocker eliminates the usual requirement of a third-party tool for data protection.

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