How to Encrypt your Mac

Encryption adds an extra layer of protection to your data, and is easy to set up on your Mac, using Apple’s built-in tool, FileVault.

Whether you’re a home user or a business, you want your data to be as safe as possible, and this is where encryption comes in. Encryption takes your data, scrambles it, and renders it unreadable without a unique decryption key. Anything can be encrypted, from while volumes to individual files and folders. Encryption is different from simple having a password-protected user account; this doesn’t protect your data, and anyone with basic technological abilities will still be able to access it. If you’re a business, encryption is vital; home users might not require such a sophisticated level of protection, but it’s worth looking into regardless. Windows users typically use a program called BitLocker, and on Macs, FileVault is the go-to encryption software.

While BitLocker is only available on some versions of Windows, FileVault comes as standard on all Macs, and has been since Mac OS X Panther back in 2003. From Mac OS X Lion in 2011, FileVault has been rebranded as FileVault 2, and uses XTS-AES-128 encryption, with a 256-bit key. Encrypting the data on your Mac with FileVault is simple. Open System Preferences, then Security and Privacy, and select the FileVault Tab. Next, press “Turn on FileVault. You will then be asked which users should be allowed to decrypt the disk if you have more than one user account. You can choose your type of recovery key. You can use your iCloud username and password to unlock your disk and reset your password, or alternatively, create a local recovery key. If you opt for the latter option, remember to keep the recovery key in a safe place; if you forget it, it will be impossible for you to access your data.

Once it has been set up, encryption occurs in the background while you’re using your Mac. If you want to check the progress at any time, you can open the FileVault tab in Security and Preferences.

Mac Encryption