How To Encrypt Data on an External Hard Drive

Because external hard drives are incredibly easy to lose or get stolen without you noticing, protecting the data on them is vital; this is especially true if the data is of a sensitive nature. Encryption is a good way to protect your data from falling into the wrong hands, and to prevent data recovery being undertaken by cybercriminals. 

Data on a USB flash drive or external hard drive is unlikely to be the only copy, so the main concern will be the security of the contents. You’ll need software to encrypt your data, and it needs to be portable, so it can run on any machine without needing to be installed. There are a number of solutions that can work with virtually any storage media, not just external hard drives and USB flash drives but also internal HDDs and SSDs.

A good place to start would be a free data encryption software solution, and there are a number of programs out there. We recommend VeraCrypt, as it’s a great  free, open-source piece of software. VeraCrypt allows you to create a  vault/volume on a drive that only you can access, or to encrypt an entire drive – as long as it isn’t crucial, like the C drive. When installing VeraCrypt, remember to select the ‘extract’ option, which will extract the program’s files to your external hard drive/USB flash drive, which means the software can run on any PC without the need to install it. 

That’s the software option – but there is also an out-of-the-box hardware option. There are thousands of different external hard drive/USB flash drive models out there, and many now have encryption built into the hardware. The method for these drives vary, with most featuring a built-in keypad where the user can enter a PIN code. There are also biometric devices that utilise finger prints, such as the Imation IronKey, which has multi-factor authentication. Remember, if you're using an encryption key to keep it safe, as data recovery without it can be next to impossible. 

Data Recovery