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How to encrypt a USB stick

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How to encrypt a USB stick: Do you have a habit of keeping all your work files on a USB stick and do you always fear that someone will peek at its contents without permission? Would you like to encrypt the contents of the device but, at the same time, don’t you want to install security programs that are too complicated to use? If you answered these questions in the affirmative, there is no doubt: you have come to the right place at the right time!

In the next paragraphs, in fact, I will have the opportunity to explain how to encrypt a USB stick using applications that are really intuitive and affordable for everyone, as they are free. Whether you want to act from a Windows PC or a Mac, it doesn’t matter: for both platforms there are software that can easily encrypt pendrives. I am sure that, following my advice, you will have no problem using them.

Since I already hear you “pawing”, I would say to ban the talk and take action. Courage: make yourself comfortable, take all the time you need to concentrate on reading this guide and, more importantly, follow carefully and scrupulously the “tips” that I will give you. There is nothing left for me to do, except to wish you happy reading and have fun!

Encrypt a free USB stick

If you want to  encrypt a USB stick using a free solution , I suggest you use  VeraCrypt : it is a very famous free and open source application that is available for Windows, macOS and Linux, thanks to which it is possible to easily create encrypted volumes .

To download VeraCrypt on your computer, connected to  this page , press the link corresponding to the operating system used (eg. VeraCrypt Setup xx.exe if you are operating from a Windows PC or  VeraCrypt_xx.dmg if you are operating from a Mac). On MacOS, in addition, to use veracrypt requires installation of FUSE for MacOS : To download this component, linked to this Web page and click the link  FUSE for MacOS xxx  placed on the right.

When the download is complete, if you use a Windows PC , open the .exe file  you obtained, press the Yes button  , affix the check mark on the  I accept the license terms box  and complete the installation by first pressing the Next button  twice to followed and then on the Install , OK , Finish and No buttons  .

If you use a Mac , as mentioned above, before installing VeraCrypt you must install FUSE. To do that, open the file  pkg you downloaded in previous step and, in the window that opens, click first on the button  Continue for three times in a row and then the buttons  AcceptContinue  and  Install . Type, therefore, the Mac administration password, click on the Install software button   and then press the OKOpen Security & Privacy System PreferencesAllowClose  and Move buttons  .

After installing FUSE, you can finally install VeraCrypt. To do that, open the file  .dmg you’ve downloaded from the official website of the program, double-click the  VeraCrypt_lnstaller.pkg contained in it and in the window that opens, first presses the button  Continue for two times in a row and then on the Accept  and  Install buttons  . Then complete the setup by first pressing the Install software button  and then the Close  and  Move buttons  .

Well: now you can finally encrypt the pendrive with VeraCrypt. Therefore, connect the USB stick that you want to protect with a password and start the program (if an error message appears that tells you that the pen is illegible, ignore it).

If you use the Windows version of VeraCrypt, go to the Settings> Language menu , select the Italian item from the window that opens and press the OK button  , if the interface was in English at the first start (the version for macOS is available only in English).

After inserting the USB stick into one of the free ports of your computer, press the button  Create a volume of VeraCrypt, affix the check mark on the Encode a partition / non-system disk box  and press the Next and Yes buttons .

Now, put the check mark next to the item Volume VeraCrypt standard  and press first on the Next button  and then on the Select drive button to select the device you want to encrypt: your USB stick, in fact.

After doing this, press the Next button  and decide whether to create and format the encrypted volume  (then delete its contents first and then move on to its encryption) or whether to encode the partition on the spot  (in this second case, the files will be kept and then encrypted, but the process may take several hours).

Now the time has come to choose a coding algorithm and a confusion algorithm among those available (if you don’t know exactly which option to choose, leave the AES and SHA-512 settings as well ), press the Next button  , make sure that the size of the key detected by the software are correct and click the Next button again  .

In the next screen, choose a secure password  to encrypt the pendrive, write it in the Password and Confirm fields and continue pressing again on  Next . Choose, therefore, whether or not to keep  large files on the stick by selecting the Yes and No option  , press the Next  button  and use the File system drop-down menu to select the file system to be used (I recommend you opt for  FAT if you do not intend to save files larger than 4GB or exFAT, if, on the other hand, you intend to keep files larger than 4GB and if you want the key to be readable on all platforms, including macOS and Linux).

Then choose whether to  quickly format the stick by putting the check mark on the appropriate item, move the mouse cursor on the completion bar located at the bottom, so as to color it in green, and start formatting the USB stick by pressing the  Format and Yep . Once the procedure is complete, press the OK and Exit buttons  .

Now that you have encrypted the key, you can finally copy the files you want to protect on it with the previously set password. Start, then, VeraCrypt, presses the Select drive button  located at the bottom right and select your pendrive from the window that opens.

Then choose a drive letter to associate with the encrypted volume, press the Mount button  if you want to mount it one time or the Automatic assembly button if you want it to be mounted automatically every time you connect it to the PC, type the  password that protects the volume and press it on the OK button .

Now, you just have to open the Windows File Explorer or  macOS Finder and access the contents of the stick. When you are finished using the unit, remember to “unmount” it by starting VeraCrypt again, selecting the drive letter corresponding to the key and pressing the Unmount button   located at the bottom left.

Encrypt a USB stick on Mac

If you want to encrypt a USB stick on Mac , you can use an application included “standard” in macOS . I’m talking about  Disk Utility , the utility that allows you to manage disks, partitions and virtual volumes. Among its many functions, there is also the one that allows you to create, open and edit encrypted image file , which can be saved to USB flash drives and can therefore be used for storing files you want to keep away from prying eyes.

If you don’t know, an encrypted image file is like a “standard” .dmg file, the content of which can be modified and which can be accessed with a password. As you may have already guessed, only the files found inside the encrypted .dmg file will be password protected. Furthermore, the encrypted files, since they are in .dmg format, can only be opened on a Mac (to open them on Windows you need to use software, usually for a fee, such as the ones I told you about in  this guide ).

To create an encrypted image file on your USB stick, connect the pendrive to the Mac and choose whether to format it or not (if you decide to format it, remember that to make the stick compatible also with Windows you have to choose the FAT or exFAT file system and a partition system MBR ).

Now, start the application  Disk Utility (calling it from the folder Others present in Launchpad or by searching via  Spotlight or Siri ), open the menu File (top left in the menu bar of MacOS) and select the items New Image> Empty image …  from the latter.

In the window that appears, make sure that the Image read / write disk item is selected in the  Image format menu , select the type of encoding you prefer between  128-bit AES encoding (recommended) and 256-bit AES encoding (more secure, but more slow) and, in the window that opens, fill in the Password and Verify fields with the secure password you want to use to protect the image file to be created on the unit.

In the Size text field   in the Disk Utility window, then indicate the maximum size that the image file must have, choose the file system you prefer to use from the Format drop-down menu (use  FAT  or  exFAT if you intend to use the drive on the Windows systems), select the USB stick from the Located in menu and start creating the encrypted image file by clicking on the Save button  .

Now that you have finally created the image file in which to insert the data you want to protect on the USB flash drive, access the latter by double clicking on its icon located on the desktop , open the encrypted .dmg file and type the password you previously set.

Now, all you have to do is copy the files into the image file (as if it were a “normal” folder) and you’re done.

When finished, remember to “disassemble” it by right clicking on its icon on the desktop and selecting the Eject [image file name] item from the context menu or, alternatively, by dragging the same icon to the  Trash .