Encrypting your computer

It is strongly recommended that you have your computer encrypted to keep the contents secure in the event that it is lost or stolen and here we explain what your options are.

27 February 2012 Security  Apple Macs, Security, Windows PCs

Article - Hard Drive Platter and Mechanism

It is strongly recommended that you have your computer encrypted to keep the contents secure in the event that it is lost or stolen.

Before you begin

Whether you have a PC or a Mac there are a few things to be aware of before encrypting your computer including:

  1. The security of the encryption is only as good as the password you use and if you are not using a password or your computer automatically logs on then encryption offers no security.
  2. If your storage drive becomes corrupt or your operating system develops a problem you should assume the contents cannot be retrieved which means you must have a good backup strategy - ideally a cloud backup and a physical backup.
  3. If you forget your password there is no "back door".
  4. Encryption doesn't appreciably slow down your computer unless the computer is very old in which case it would be more cost effective to replace it.
  5. If you computer has any problems, e.g. crashes regularly or stops for no appearent reason before resuming then you should not encrypt it until it has been checked for issues.

Windows PCs

Windows 10

If you have Windows 10 Professional you can make use the built-in Windows BitLocker feature to encrypt your PC to secure your information.  How BitLocker is applied to your PC will depend on whether or not it has a Trusted Protection Module (TPM).  If it does then switching on the encryption is straightforwards and is explained in the following Microsoft article:

If your PC does not have the TPM then BitLocker can still be used but we would probably need to help you get it set up.

Before buying a new Windows 10 PC that you will be using for your work, please check with the supplier or with us on whether or not it has the TPM and that it is also Windows 10 Professional.

Windows 7 and earlier

For Windows PCs the package recommended is either TrueCrypt or Symantec PGP. The former offers a good basic reliable encryption system that has the benefit of being free (although a donation to the producers is strongly recommended) and it encrypts to the same standard as PGP. The latter is approved by the various Government organisations for the storage of RESTRICTED level material.

For a step by step guide on how to encrypt your Windows PC using TrueCrypt, see this article:

For further details about either of these packages see:

Apple Mac

For Apple Mac computers you can use the built-in FileVault system and Apple provide a straightforward guide (link below) on how to set this up.

The Encryption Process

Providing you are careful, you ensure you have a full backup and your computer is working correctly, encrypting your computer is something you can do yourself however be aware that the encryption process can take many hours to complete.

We can also deal with encrypting your computer for you or guide you through the process. If you would like us to encrypt the computer for you please ensure you book the computer in at least a week in advance and that you will not need the computer for 24 hours. We allow 24 hours to ensure we have a full backup of your computer, check it before we begin and to cover the time taken to complete the encryption process.

If your computer is reasonably up to date, then you will not see a noticeable difference in performance after encryption. If it is already very slow or is a Netbook PC then we will need to check the system before encrypting the hard disk.

Please contact us and we will be happy to discuss the different options.

Frequently Asked Questions

The following are the most common questions we get on encryption along with the answers but if you have other questions not covered here, let us know.

Does encryption slow down my computer?

Unless your computer is seriously old, no.

Does encryption take away any space?

No or if it does it will be negligable. You will have the same amount of free space once the encryption is operating.

How long does it take to encrypt a computer?

If it is a shiny new computer with a solid state drive (SSD) then is is often less than an hour.  If your computer already has lots of files on it and is more than 3 years old and traditional hard drive then we would recommend you allow 6-10 hours for the process to complete. 

Note whilst it is encrypting you can continue to use the computer however it does slow down the process and we recommend you don't use it but let it complete the encryption as soon as possible.

What if I forgot my password?

When you encrypt your computer you will also be given a recovery key which you must keep a couple notes of (and keep these in a secure location and separate from the computer).  The recovery key can be used to access the computer computer should the password be forgotten.  You may also need the recovery key if your computer encounters a problem starting up during its day to day working.

The BitLocker option isn't available on my PC - what now?

If you have Windows 10 rather than Windows 10 Professional then the BitLocker option won't be available and your Windows 10 will need to be upgraded - something that you can easily do yourself.  The cost of the upgrade (which is purchased online) is £99 and the upgrade is done "in place" which means all your files, folders, applications and settings remain the same untouched.  The upgrade usually takes a couple of hours to complete and once upgraded, BitLocker will be available to use.

Corrections or suggestions

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