It’s an endless concern for modern system administrators, security directors, and business owners – with the plethora of removable storage devices nowadays, and the low, low price of thumb drives and flash drives, how do you ensure that your employees are keeping your company data safe?

Well, fortunately, Windows Vista, Windows 7, and Windows 8 have a built-in utility to do so – BitLocker.

BitLocker is included in the Enterprise and Ultimate versions of Windows Vista and Windows 7, and in the Pro and Enterprise versions of Windows 8 and 8.1, as well as Server 2008 R2 and Server 2012. It’s right in the Control Panel, labeled “BitLocker Drive Encryption”.

This is used primarily for encrypting your business laptop or desktop’s internal hard drives, thus protecting your business information in case of loss or theft – but did you know that it can be used to encrypt removable media such as thumb drives and flash drives as well?

1.)  Simply insert a USB flash drive or portable hard drive in your computer, then open Start > Control Panel > BitLocker Drive Encryption. You will be presented with an option as such, with your removable devices listed under BitLocker To Go.

BitLocker Capture1

2.)  Click Turn On BitLocker next to the drive you want to encrypt, then wait while the program scans and initializes the disk. You’ll then be presented with the option to use a password to unlock the drive, a smart card to unlock the drive, or both. Make your choices and click Next.

BitLocker Capture2

3.)  Next you’ll be presented with the option to either save the recovery key to a file, or to print the key. It is very important to pick one of these options; if the recovery key is lost, so is ALL THE DATA on your removable media. That is, after all, the point – to protect the data on the drive.

BitLocker Capture3

4.)  And then you’ll be presented with a summary of your choices and asked if you’re ready to encrypt the drive. Click Start Encrypting, and that’s it!

BitLocker Capture4

The best part about this is that the data is protected, yet the drive can be opened on just about any version of Windows by entering the password (or using the smart card, depending on which option you picked), including Windows XP (although for OS versions older than Vista, you will need to download Microsoft’s BitLocker To Go Reader utility).

It’s essential data protection that’s easy to use and simple to implement.

Got any other suggestions? Leave them in the comments below!

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