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How to use VeraCrypt to encrypt an USB flash drive

How to use VeraCrypt to encrypt an USB flash drive

Sometimes you have to travel with sensitive data saved on USB flash drive. It is small, which means it can be easily lost or stolen. This means that anything on your USB flash drive needs to have some kind of encryption on it to deter at least the casual thief or snoop. Encryption is a smart idea for protecting data on a USB flash drive, one way to achieve this by making use of a tool like VeraCrypt. It is a free and open source disk encryption utility. In Windows, it can encrypt a USB flash drive or even the entire storage drive with pre-boot authentication.

This step by step guide explains how to encrypt an USB flash drive with VeraCrypt. It is available for Windows, MacOS, and Linux. For this tutorial we will be using the Windows version of VeraCrypt and installing it on a Windows 10 machine. It’s user interface may look slightly different in Linux and MacOS but the important steps should be the same.

Outline of the post:

  • What is VeraCrypt?
  • Encrypting an USB flash drive with VeraCrypt
  • Using an USB flash drive encrypted with VeraCrypt

What is VeraCrypt?

VeraCrypt is derived from TrueCrypt, a well known open source encryption software product that has now been discontinued. But VeraCrypt plugs all known security holes in TrueCrypt and improves upon TrueCrypt’s weak encryption methods. VeraCrypt creates encrypted volumes for securely storing files. It also allows you to encrypt entire system drives or partitions including USB flash drive.

How to create an encrypted USB flash drive with VeraCrypt

Step 1: Download and install VeraCrypt for your operating system. Be sure to accept the default settings during installation.

Download and install VeraCrypt

Step 2: Open Search and type VeraCrypt and select the result.

Type VeraCrypt and select the result 

Step 3: Click on Create Volume to start the VeraCrypt volume creation wizard.

Click on Create Volume to start the VeraCrypt volume creation wizard

Step 4: The VeraCrypt volume creation wizard allows you to create an encrypted file container on the USB flash drive which sits along with other unencrypted files, or you can choose to encrypt the entire USB flash drive. For the moment, we will choose to encrypt the entire USB flash drive. Select Encrypt a non-system partition/drive option and click Next to proceed.

Select encrypt a non-system partition or drive 

Step 5: The next option is whether you want a standard volume or a hidden one. Again, for the sake of simplicity we are going to use Standard VeraCrypt volume.

If you are concerned that you might be forced by someone to reveal your password, you can also choose to create a Hidden VeraCrypt volume. Click Next.

Select standard VeraCrypt volume

Step 6: Click on Select Device where you need to select the USB flash drive you want to encrypt.

Choose Select Device and select the drive letter of the USB flash drive you want to encrypt

In our case we are selecting drive H. Click OK and then once again, click Next.

Select drive H

Step 7: You have now two options under volume creation mode. First option is suitable if your USB flash drive is empty or you want to delete everything it contains. But if you want to keep any existing files, choose the second option. As we mentioned previously, for the simplicity of this article we are selecting first option i.e Create encrypted volume and format it. Click Next.

Select the first option - Create encrypted volume and format it

Step 8: Next up are the encryption options. If you are unsure of which to choose, leave the default settings of AES and the SHA-512 hash algorithm.

Select AES and SHA-512 hash algorithm option

Step 9: Conform the volume size screen and then click Next.

Conform volume size screen, Click Next

Step 10: Now the most important part. The password. Enter and re-enter the password you want to use to encrypt your data.

Enter the password which you want to use to encrypt your data

Step 11: Before you create the actual volume, the creation wizard will ask if you intend to store large files. If you intend to store files larger than 4GB within the volume, tell it so – it will tweak the file system to better suit your needs. For this demonstration we have selected the option No. Click Next.

Select the option No 

Step 12: On the volume format screen, select file system as NTFS. Now you have to generate strong encryption keys. This is done by randomly moving your mouse around the VeraCrypt window. When the green bar gets to the end, click Format button.

Select NTFS as file system and click format button once green bar gets to the end 

Once the format process is complete, it’s then done. Click OK to exit the formatting wizard.

Click OK to exit the formatting wizard

How to use an USB flash drive encrypted with VeraCrypt

When you want to use an encrypted USB flash drive, first insert the drive in the computer and start VeraCrypt. Afterwards, follow the steps as mentioned:

Step 1: Select an unused drive letter (such as z:) and click Auto-Mount Devices.

Click on Auto mount devices

Step 2: Enter your password and click OK.

Enter your password and click OK

Step 3: The mounting process may take few seconds, after which go to My Computer ( + E) and see if your encrypted volume is successfully mounted as a drive(Z).

Encrypted volume is successfully mounted as a drive

Step 4: To access the volume, double click on the drive letter(Z) and then drag and drop your files into it.

Drag and drop your important files to encrypt

When you are done working with the files in your VeraCrypt volume, you need to dismount it. Select the volume you want to dismount in the list of drive letters (Z). Then, click Dismount.

Dismount the drive

Conclusion 

Computers and USB flash drive play an integral part of daily life and any sensitive data stored on them must be secured. So start using VeraCrypt to encrypt your most sensitive data.

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Sunil Pradhan

Sunil is a front-end developer, illustrator and an online entrepreneur. He is the founder of "Hello Sunil" where he shares his love of technology with the world. He loves to write technical how-tos and tutorials. He is open minded and willing to explore beyond his knowledge.

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