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 Accept , Continue and Install . Type, therefore, the Mac administration password, click on the Install software button and then press the OK , Open Security & Privacy System Preferences , Allow , Close 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 .