How to Encrypt Your Hard Drive — 5 Tips for 2021

Published on August 4, 2021

Your data is vulnerable. You’d be surprised how easy it is to remove a hard drive and connect it to another machine to read its contents. Even information that is deleted or emptied from the Windows recycle bin can be recovered with the right tools.

However, encrypting your data and all the content stored on a hard drive is one way to protect your information from would-be snoopers.

What Is Encryption?

Encryption refers to a security process called encoding, which locks the digital content behind a secure key. The data is converted from plaintext to ciphertext, which implies you need a cipher to unlock its contents.

This key prevents unauthorized users from accessing the data in question, even if they have it available. If the hard drive is stolen, it cannot be read.

An encryption key can be stored in many ways. It can be a standard password or security phrase, or it can be generated by hardware devices or kept on a secure USB drive. A form of biometrics, such as a fingerprint or iris scan, can also be used.

There are weaker forms of encryption that are possible to crack with the appropriate tools. That’s why it’s important to choose a secure way to encrypt your data.

Levels of Data Encryption

There are two major forms of encryption, both designed to protect data at various levels.

  • Full disk encryption: This protects all content on a drive.
  • File-level encryption: This works at the system level, protecting individual files or directories.

Both forms of encryption can be used interchangeably. However, you should choose full disk encryption when you want to protect the entire hard drive and file-level when you want to focus on specific files, documents, or directories.

Understanding the pros and cons of data encryption is also imperative before you decide what system to employ. For example, it can make collaborative access more difficult, especially for specific files or documents.

5 Encryption Tips for 2021 

Even with encryption in place, there are best practices that should always be followed to secure the resulting data, systems, and technologies.

1. Choose the Right Tool for the Job

Whether you’re using Windows, Linux, or macOS, there are a plethora of tools you can use to encrypt files and drives. What’s available is going to differ based on the platform you’re using.

BitLocker is ideal for Windows, FileVault is good for MacOs, and Ubuntu is best for Linux. Some third-party tools are VeraCrypt, AxCrypt, and Gpg4win.

If you’re storing your data in the cloud or through a service, you will have to get in touch with your data provider. It’s likely they already use encryption, or they can point you in the right direction if they don’t.

2. Always Create a Backup

When an encrypted drive fails, there’s a good chance all the data stored on it will become corrupted and lost. You may not be able to access the content even with the right passcodes. That can be especially damaging for a small business, which is why it’s important always to create a backup or clone of a drive.

There are tools to encrypt backups, as well, which is something you might consider taking advantage of. Cloud backup services will automatically save your data at various intervals.

3. Do Not Lose Your Access Key

You must preserve your password, phrase, or code at all costs. It’s best to use a password management tool to safely secure your key through an app or service. You can also write down the password and store it in a safe. If you choose to write it down, never label the paper in case of theft.

Also, make sure you follow strong password techniques. Don’t use common words or easily referenced dates and names related to your personal life.

4. Consider Multiple Layers of Encryption

You might consider protecting extremely sensitive and valuable data behind multiple layers of encryption. Some tools can do this, even when you’re working with a large database. You would encrypt fields, tables, and the database itself.

5. Limit Access

You can have the strongest encryption and security in the world, but it won’t matter if nearly everyone has access. Choose only mission-critical contacts that understand the passcodes and authentication techniques. 

New contacts should not be provided access without a stringent system of checks and balances. Passwords, passkeys or hardware security keys should never be shared.

Encryption Is a Must

According to the University of Maryland’s Clark School of Engineering, hackers attack every 39 seconds. Moreover, the United States is the most targeted country, and its businesses are at a higher risk of data breaches.

If you’re not using data encryption in 2021, then you’re putting your business, customers, and data at risk.

Devin Partida is a big data and technology writer, as well as the Editor-in-Chief of

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