No matter what your primary way of interacting with the digital world looks like, something that is constantly on everyone’s mind is security. Your private information must be private. You want to protect your sensitive information from malware and the people who will use it to learn about you and your business that you haven’t told them. BitLocker, a security feature introduced with Windows Vista and included with some versions of Windows 10, can help.
Firewalls and internet security suites protect you from the dangers of the web. BitLocker is designed to protect you in a different way. It prevents people who might snatch your computer from being able to use what they’ve received. It should be at the forefront of any security plan for small, medium or large businesses, as it saves you from what could turn into a dangerous security breach. Even casual users who want to keep a close eye on their digital footprints will appreciate what BitLocker has to offer.
What Is BitLocker and Why Is It Important?
BitLocker is one of Microsoft’s latest attempts to keep your data safe. A hard drive encryption scheme, when enabled, makes everything on your drive unreadable to anyone who doesn’t have your encryption key.
When you log in with the correct credentials, the hard drive inside the computer is decrypted and you can use your computer as you normally would. You choose what type of unlock you want to go with. For example, BitLocker allows users to set up a flash drive with the information they need to decrypt the computer. Users with a Microsoft Account can also recover their BitLocker encryption keys online.
Let’s say you’re walking through an airport and have to go through a security checkpoint. In the United States, the Transportation Security Administration requires you to remove all laptops in your bag. Someone might come and take your laptop from the trash before you go through the extra scan. They couldn’t unlock the device anyway because you have the password. BitLocker ensures that they do not remove the hard drive from the laptop, connect it to another PC, and browse through your files, documents, photos and more.
Getting the Right Hardware for the Best BitLocker Experience
Computers after Windows Vista can use BitLocker encryption. In the Windows 10 era, BitLocker became more useful with hardware extras that companies included in their computers to keep the experience as effortless as possible.
The firmware or BIOS on the computer on which you have BitLocker enabled must support USB mass storage. This is because you need to provide a flash drive with the information needed to decrypt your drive without the TPM chip.
This brings us to the hardware you need to look for. For the best experience you’ll want a Windows PC with at least a TPM 1.2 chip. This chip interacts with BitLocker on your behalf so you don’t always have to provide a flash drive or password.
When you begin the BitLocker installation, your computer will let you know if you meet all the requirements. It checks for a TPM chip and the correct partitions on your computer’s hard drive.
If the computer you intend to add encryption to belongs to the company you work for; you should contact the company’s IT department to discuss their policies on encryption.
You’ll also want to make sure you have a spare flash drive with nothing on it so you can keep your recovery key. If you go with the USB option, you will need this recovery key at startup. It’s up to you whether you want the key to be stored in your Microsoft Account or on a flash drive in case something goes wrong. You can also write down the encryption key on a piece of paper for safe keeping.
Getting the Right Software for BitLocker
Microsoft doesn’t have very high hardware requirements for BitLocker, but there are some software requirements that you must meet. This feature has been available since Windows Vista, but only in copies of Windows designed for businesses and organizations. That’s why BitLocker isn’t something you can turn on on the cheapest operating systems without paying an upgrade fee.
BitLocker is included with Windows Vista Ultimate, Windows 7 Ultimate, Windows Vista Enterprise, Windows 7 Enterprise, Windows 8.1 Pro, Windows 8.1 Enterprise, Windows 10 Pro, and Windows 10 Enterprise. If your computer does not have one of these operating systems, you will need to upgrade it to Windows 10 Pro.
To turn on BitLocker, go to Control Panel and look for the BitLocker Drive Encryption panel. If you have it open, look for it below. BitLocker is not yet available via the more touch-friendly Settings app.
If you’ve had your computer for a while, you can expect the encryption process to take some time. Your computer is still usable during this process.
Good luck with protecting your PC with BitLocker.