How to Get BitLocker Encryption in Windows 10 & What It Is

It doesn’t matter what your primary way of interacting with the digital world looks like, one thing that’s consistently on everyone’s mind is security. Your private information should be private. You want to keep your sensitive information safe from malware and people who would use that would use that it to learn things about you and your business that you haven’t told them. BitLocker, a security feature that debuted with Windows Vista and is included with some versions of Windows 10, can help you.

Firewalls and internet security suites keep you safe from the dangers of the web. BitLocker is designed to keep you protected in a different way. It keeps people who might snatch your computer from being able to use what they’ve taken. Because it saves you from what could turn into a dangerous security breach, it should be at the forefront of any security scheme for a small, medium or large business. Even casual users that want to keep a close eye on their digital footprint will appreciate what BitLocker has to offer.

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What BitLocker Is & Why It’s Important

BitLocker is one of Microsoft’s latest attempts to keep your data safe. A hard drive encryption scheme, when activated, everything on your drive becomes unreadable to anyone that doesn’t have your encryption key.

When you log in with the right credentials, the hard drive inside the PC is decrypted and you can use your PC as you normally would. You choose what type of unlocking you want to go with. For example, BitLocker lets users setup a flash drive with the information the PC needs for decrypting. Users that have a Microsoft Account can recover their BitLocker encryption key online too.

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Say you’re walking through an airport and need to step through a security checkpoint. In the United States, the Transportation Security Administration requires you to remove any laptops from your bag. Someone might be able to walk up and take your laptop from a bin before you get through extra screening. They already couldn’t unlock the device because you have a password on it. BitLocker ensures that they can’t remove the hard drive from the laptop, connect it to another PC and browse your files, documents, photos and more.

Getting the Right Hardware for the Best BitLocker Experience

PCs since Windows Vista can use BitLocker encryption. In the Windows 10 era, BitLocker has gotten more convenient through hardware extras that companies include inside their PCs to keep the experience as effortless as possible.

The firmware or BIOS on the PC that you’re activating BitLocker on needs to support USB mass storage. This is because without a TPM chip, you’ll need to provide a flash drive with the information needed to decrypt your drive.

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The Lenovo ThinkPad X1 Tablet and ThinkPad line of notebooks include TPM Modules for extra security.

That brings us to the hardware that you should be looking for. For the best experience, you’ll want a Windows PC that has a TPM 1.2 chip at least. This chip interacts with BitLocker on your behalf so that you don’t have to always provide the flash drive or a password.

When you begin the BitLocker setup, your computer will let you know if you meet all the requirements. It checks for a TPM chip and the right partitions on your computer’s hard drive.

Note that if the PC you’re thinking about adding encryption to is owned by 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 that you have a spare flash drive with nothing on it so that you can store your recovery key. You’ll need that recovery key during start up if you go with the USB option. It’s up to you whether you want the key stored on your Microsoft Account or a flash drive in case something goes wrong. You can also write the encryption key down on a sheet of paper for safe keeping.

Getting the Right Software for BitLocker

Microsoft doesn’t have very steep hardware requirements for BitLocker, but it does have some software requirements you have to meet. The feature has been available since Windows Vista, but it’s only included in copies of Windows meant for businesses and enterprises. Because of this, BitLocker isn’t something you can turn on in its cheapest operating systems without paying for an upgrade.

BitLocker comes on 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 PC doesn’t have one of those operating systems, you’ll need to upgrade it to Windows 10 Pro.

Read: How to Upgrade Windows 10 Home to Windows 10 Pro

To turn on BitLocker, go to the Control Panel and look for the BitLocker Drive Encryption panel. If you have Category View turned on, look for it under System and Security. BitLocker isn’t yet available through the more touch-friendly Settings app yet.

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If you’ve had your PC for a while, you can expect the encryption process to take some time. Your computer is still usable during this process.

Good luck securing your PC with BitLocker.