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2 Ways to Password Protect External Hard Drive on Windows 10

If you have an external hard drive and usually use it to store important and confidential files, you should pay attention to the security of the drive. Due to the removability of external hard drives, an unprotected external drive can be accessed by anyone on any computer. This is a great potential threat to the security of the external drive as well as the data stored on it. So, is there a way to protect an external hard drive with password and prevent it from accessed by unauthorized users? The answer is Yes. Now this page will show you how to password protect an external hard drive on Windows 10. Two methods are available.


Way 1: Password protect external hard drive on Windows 10 using BitLocker

Windows 10 comes with a disk encryption tool named BitLocker Drive Encryption, which enables you to use passwords to protect hard drives connected to your computer, including external and internal hard drives.

Note: BitLocker is only available for Pro and Enterprise editions of Windows 10. If you want to password protect an external hard drive in Windows 10 Home, please go to the second method. See How to View Which Edition of Windows 10 You Are Running.

Step 1: Connect the external hard drive to your computer via a USB slot.

Step 2: Go to This PC, right-click on the external hard drive volume and select Turn on BitLocker option from the context menu.

select Turn on BitLocker

Step 3: Choose the option “Use a password to unlock the drive”, then enter a password and click Next.

use a password to unlock the drive

Step 4: Choose one location to back up your recovery key which can be used instead of your password to unlock your external hard drive. You can choose to save the key to your Microsoft account, a USB flash drive or a local file on this computer. Then click Next.

save recovery key

Step 5: On the next page, Click Next. Then choose Compatible mode as the encryption mode and click Next.

Step 6: Finally click Start Encrypting to start encrypting the external hard drive.

start encrypting

Step 7: Now just wait until the encryption process is fully complete. This takes a few minutes depending on the size of your external drive.

Tips: How to access the password protected external hard drive

When the external hard drive has been encrypted with BitLocker, the password or recovery key is required to access the drive on any device. Note that if you want to access this external drive on a Mac device, you should first turn off its BitLocker protection on a Windows PC or use a BitLocker Reader for Mac to help unlock this drive directly on Mac, because Mac OS does not support BitLocker.

Way 2: Password protect external hard drive on Windows 10 using VeraCrypt

VeraCrypt is the free and powerful third-party encryption software for Windows that can help protect external hard drive with password.

Step 1: Download and install VeraCrypt on your Windows 10 device. When the installation is complete, launch this program and connect your external hard drive to your computer.

Step 2: Click the Create Volume button.

click Create Volume

Step 3: Select the option Encrypt a non-system partition/drive and click Next.

encrypt non-system drive

Step 4: Select Standard VeraCrypt volume and click Next.

Step 5: On the next page, click the Select Device button, then select the partition letter that represents your connected external hard drive and click OK. Then click Next.

select device

Step 6: Now you are asked to choose how you want to encrypt the volume. The first option will delete all data stored on your external hard drive before encrypting, while the second option will encrypt your external drive and all data stored on it, without deleting anything. Select the option you want and click Next.

select encryption mode

Step 7: On the next page, click Next. Then enter a strong password to protect your external hard drive and click Next.

enter password to protect the drive

Step 8: On the next page, move your mouse as randomly as possible. When the progress bar is complete, click Next.

move mouse randomly

Step 9: Click Next > Encrypt. Then just wait until the encryption process is fully complete.

Tips: How to access the password protected external hard drive

When the external hard drive has been encrypted with VeraCrypt, you can access this drive by only using the VeraCrypt software. You need to install the VeraCrypt software on the computer from which you need to access the password protected external hard drive. Here are the simple steps.

1. Launch VeraCrypt and connect the external hard drive to the computer.

2. Select any of the drives from the menu, then click Select Device. In the pop-up window, select the external hard disk partition and click OK.

select drive to decrypt

3. Click on Mount in the lower left corner.

4. In the pop-up dialog, enter the password for the external hard drive and click OK.

enter password for external drive

5. After a short while, the password protected external hard drive is decrypted and mounted on the computer. You can double-click the drive to open it and access all the contents inside it.

Summary

These are two ways to make an external hard drive password protected in Windows 10. By comparison, it’s much easier to encrypt your hard drive using the BitLocker feature that comes with Windows 10. You have to use a third-party encryption tool only if you use the Home edition of Windows 10 to password protect your external hard drive.