Free Laptop Encryption Software, a Bitlocker AlternativeAug. 30, 2022 / My Data Removal Staff
We have all heard of encryption, but do we really understand what it means? Some devices we use come encrypted and others do not. This guide will help you understand encryption and offer steps to help encrypt your Windows or Mac computer.
Encryption is the process that scrambles things like text, software, or files on your computer, into something incomprehensible. This means that only the person with the encryption key (or password) can read it. An encrypted Excel document containing your budget and banking details will essentially looks like a jumbled mess to anyone without the encryption key. When you encrypt your computer, you make it so that the contents of your computer are useless without the encryption key.
Encryption protects your files. It makes them private. No one can open or read them without the encryption key.
Encryption is a great fit for sensitive files. Is there anything on your computer or phone that you would not want anyone else to see, such as tax documents, private photos, health records, journal entries, banking information? You should consider encrypting those files and making sure the device is encrypted too.
Full disk encryption vs encrypting specific files
There are two primary ways you can use encryption with the files on your computer. You can either encrypt your entire disk or encrypt only specific files.
Encrypting your entire disk makes everything on your drive unreadable. This is great option since it protects your entire device all at once. If someone were to steal your computer they would not be able to access any of your files unless they had your encryption key.
The other option would be to encrypt specific files. In this instance, you would only encrypt some files, but not all of them. This can make sense for sensitive files. No one could view them (including you), unless they had the encryption key.
In addition, both of these methods can be used together. You could both encrypt your entire drive and encrypt specific files on that drive. Those files would be doubly encrypted. You would need both keys to access those files.
Ransomware will encrypt your files without giving you the key
Encryption can be used against you. One common type of ransomware is one that will encrypt your files without your knowledge and will only give you the encryption key once you pay up. They hackers will often download a copy of your files and often threaten to release them if you don’t pay. The problem is there is no way of knowing if they will actually give you the encryption key and if they will try to get you to pay again if they later threaten to release your data. It is a lose-lose situation and a really good reason why you should encrypt your data.
How to encrypt your computer
VeraCrypt is free and open source software, making it the option we recommend. In addition, Mac users can use FileVault and Windows users can use Bitlocker. FileVault is free and Bitlocker comes with the professional versions of Windows. However, Bitlocker is not open source which can make it less secure. As you consider which encryption software to go with, remember that any of the listed options are significantly better than nothing.
We will explain how to encrypt your computer or a part of your computer with VeraCrypt.
A Step-by-step guide to encrypt your computer with VeraCrypt
1. Download and install VeraCrypt
2. Click “Create Volume”.
3. Decide the type of encryption you want: full disk encryption or only part of a drive.
Part of a drive would be the first option: Create an encrypted file container. It means you create a folder and everything inside of it is encrypted. The second option, Encrypt a non-system partition/drive would let you encrypt a flash drive or a drive that doesn’t have your operating system on it. The last option would be full disk encryption, which would encrypt all your files, including your operating system.
4. Select normal. Hidden might be best for a removable drive.
5. If you are creating a container and not encrypting an entire drive you will need to decide where to put the container and what to call it.
6. You then need to select the encryption algorithm. You can use the default or select one of the options. If you don’t go with the default, just remember what you selected. Then click next.
7. If you are creating a container you need to select the size.
8. You then need to create the volume password. This is the encryption key. Make a long, but memorable encryption key. A random word generator can be helpful.
9. You are then supposed to move your mouse around for a while to generate some randomness to strengthen your encryption. When you are done, click format.
10. When it completes, the drive or part of the drive has been encrypted. For full disk encryption you will need to type in your password before the computer will start up.
If you selected anything besides full disk encryption you will need to open VeraCrypt to access the drive. In VeraCrypt select the file or drive that is encrypted, assign it a drive letter, and click “Mount”. Type in your password and hit enter. VeraCrypt will then decrypt it. You will then be able to access or change your encrypted files. The encrypted files will appear on a separate drive, even if they are in a container on your main drive.
Rest easy knowing your files are encrypted!
Once your files have been encrypted, you can sleep well knowing that they are safe even if someone gets access to or steals your computer.