BitLocker and BitLocker To Go in Windows 7

Microsoft introduced BitLocker in Windows Vista and it was one of the most important security features introduced with it. Since Laptop/Notebook theft is increasing day by day, Microsoft introduced this feature which helps you to encrypt the whole hard drive in your computer. So even if a computer or a notebook is being stolen from an organization, they don’t have to worry about their data or any compliance regulations as no one will be able to recover the encrypted data.

Now, the usage of USB drives has increased tremendously. Day by day the size of the USB drives shrinks whereas the capacity expands. The more capacity means you will be storing more data in it, and the smaller in size makes you to lose it more easily. As a data protection solution Microsoft has introduced a new feature called BitLocker To Go in Windows 7. BitLocker To Go helps you to encrypt your USB drives so even if you lose, it will only be the hardware and no one will be able to access your encrypted information. Windows 7 comes with both BitLocker and BitLocker To Go.

Let’s have a look at on how to encrypt your USB drives using BitLocker To Go in Windows 7

Basically, what happens when you enable BitLocker To Go on a USB drive is that it encrypts the drive and assign a password. So every time you plug in the drive you will be prompted to enter the password in order to access (read and write) the drive.

Once you encrypt your USB drive using BitLocker To Go you should be able to access the drive on computers running Windows 7, Windows Vista and Windows XP provided that you enter the password correctly.

How do you do this?

  • Plug in your USB drive and open My Computer (Picture 1)
  • Right click on the USB Drive and select “Turn on BitLocker” (Picture 2)
  • You will get the BitLocker initialization box (Picture 3)
  • Once the initialization is done you will be asked to enter a password or you can use a smart card authentication (we will be using a password here) (Picture 4)
  • You will be prompted to save the key or print the key (for recovery purposes, in case you lose or forget the password) (Picture 5)
  • Save the key (we will be saving the key here) (Picture 6)
  • After you confirm your password and click next you will be prompted to click start encryption (Picture 7)
  • The encrypting process begins (Picture 8)
  • And the completion (Picture 9)
  • Once you click close on the completion window, your My Computer window should show a new icon for your USB Drive (Picture 10)

Now that your USB Drive is encrypted, Lets see on what happens when you plug this on to a Windows 7 machine

When you plug in a USB drive which has BitLocker To Go turned on, instead of the default autorun you will be prompted to enter the password to open the drive. (Picture 11)

When you plug in to a Windows Vista or a Windows 7, it will give you the autorun Window where you will have to choose and run the BitLocker To Go reader. Once you do then you will be able to enter the password and access your drive. (Picture 12, 13 & 14)

When you use the BitLocker reader to access the USB Drive either using Windows XP or Windows Vista you will ONLY be able to read data which is on the USB Drive and copy files and folders form the USB Drives to your computer. You WONT be able to write directly to a USB Drive protected by BitLocker To Go using XP or Vista. For this you will require a Windows 7 (to add and remover files).

Windows 7 Beta and BitLocker To Go

Windows 7 which is going to be the next Microsoft client operating system and the successor of Windows Vista is now in the Beta stage. The Beta 1 of Windows 7 was released earlier this year which is built on top of Windows Vista architecture.

When looking at Windows 7, especially on the performance and reliability aspect comparatively to Windows Vista is really high. The memory usage in Windows 7 is just marvelous.

There are lots of improvements and new features in Windows 7 and one of the features that impressed me was the BitLocker To Go feature introduced in it. BitLocker was introduced in Windows Vista, what BitLocker does is that it encrypts one whole volume so that the data stored in it will not be accessible without proper authentication and validation. When Microsoft released Windows Vista it only supported to encrypt one volume using BitLocker which was a limitation since it only gave us to encrypt the system volume (traditionally the C drive). When Microsoft released the service pack 1 for Windows Vista they enhanced BitLocker to encrypt multiple volumes and the limitation was broken. By having BitLocker enabled and configured in your computers and notebooks the users were in peace of mind even if there notebooks were stolen there were no possible way in decrypting or stealing your data which are precious and of significant value for each and every one of us. BitLocker was introduced in Windows as a component after considering the high laptop theft around the globe. With BitLocker enabled in your notebooks and even if the notebooks falls into the wrong hands what you lose is the hardware and not the data being ending up in the wrong hands which can cause a lot of trouble.

In the last four to five years the usage of USB data storage devices has rose significantly. You can find a USB storage device with anyone who is working on a computer. Let it be an IT pro like you and me or an ordinary office clerk who performs his or her routine day to day task on a computerized environment. All these storage devices have a massive storage space starting from 1GB to 32GB etc. (earlier it was like 32MB to 512MB), due to this most of us have our personal, official and confidential data stored in it as backup or sometimes only in it. These devices have become smaller and becoming smaller every day hence these devices are more towards vulnerability. A smaller storage device can be stolen and misplaced easily. Because of this Microsoft has enhanced the BitLocker feature which they introduced in Windows Vista with the capability in encrypting USB storage devices in Windows 7 (Microsoft rescues again). This particular feature is called BitLocker To Go!!

It’s an easy task to accomplish and even a non IT person can encrypt his or her USB storage devices in a jiffy by performing a couple of clicks. Once you encrypt your storage device using BitLocker To Go, to decrypt it you will need a computer running Windows XP, Windows Vista or a Windows 7 computer. With having BitLocker To Go even though you misplace your storage device, don’t worry about it!!!