Encrypting USB Drives with Mac or Windows

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Updated: May 6, 2022
By: RSH Web Editorial Staff

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Encrypting USB Drives

Information Security and Privacy

This is crucial if your USB or Flash drive stores sensitive or personal information. Thumb drives have become increasingly important when we need to store data. If these devices happen to be stolen, you can make sure the person with the right encryption key can access the information.

The best way to protect the data on your storage devices is to use encryption software.

Whichever encryption program you choose, you will eventually need to decrypt it to have access to your files. If you only use your USB on one device, then it is much easier because that device or PC that you encrypted the USB drive from - will have the same software on it, so you can access the encrypted data. However, if you use your USB on more than one device and if you want to be able to connect it to any computer, then you are going to face a problem of software compatibility. The best solution is to store the encryption software onto the USB stick.

This guide will demonstrate how to securely encrypt a USB flash drive with Windows or Mac so that the data stored on it cannot be read nor accessed without entering a secure password.

Encrypt USB drives on MacBook

macOS has built in USB encryption features, which lets you encrypt and decrypt USB drives and other storage media.

Use "Finder" to encrypt USB drives on MacBook. With macOS Mojave, you can easily encrypt and decrypt generic mass storage devices using Finder.

Note: Using Finder to encrypt will restrict the usage to macOS only. You will not be able to access the data with Windows or Linux.

  • • Plug your thumb drive or generic mass storage medium into your Mac
  • • Open "Finder"
  • • Right-click on the thumb drive in the left sidebar. Under Locations
  • • Click on Encrypt > Storage Drive Name. If this option is not present, see "Note" below
  • • Enter a password and a hint. This will be used to open the thumb drive
  • • Click "Encrypt Disk"
  • • Finder will encrypt the thumb drive

To access the thumb drive, you only need to input the password that you created earlier
Keep in mind, there is no way to reset this password
Note: If you do not see the Encrypt option when you right-click the thumb drive. This means that the USB storage device is not in the proper format to use the baked-in macOS encryption. You may need to access your data from a Windows PC or a Linux machine. If so, you will want to opt for a third-party encryption solution. A couple of high-quality options are Disk Cryptor and VeraCrypt.

Encrypt USB drives on Windows


BitLocker is a full volume encryption feature included with Microsoft Windows (Pro and Enterprise only) versions starting with Windows Vista. If you do not have Bitlocker you can download it here
Using BitLocker: (Windows 7-10)
1) Connect your USB drive
2) Open the File Explorer and find your USB drive
3) Right-click on the USB dive and click "Turn on BitLocker"
4) BitLocker will start and ask: "Choose how you want to unlock this drive," click the checkbox "Use a password to unlock the drive"
5) Enter a good password - twice
6) You will be asked, "How do you want to back up your recovery key?" Either save it to a file or print it, or both
7) Choose "Encrypt used disk space only" (if you already have files on it), or choose "Encrypt entire drive" (if the drive is blank)
8) Click "Compatible Mode" so you have the maximum compatibility with other devices and computers
9) Select "Start encrypting". Do not remove your USB drive until you see the message stating encryption is finished
When you connect your flash drive again, you will be prompted to enter the password you selected. Note: You will not be able to use this drive on a computer that does not have BitLocker installed.

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Partition the USB stick

The "Executable" for decryption cannot be hidden behind the encryption software. To make sure this does not happen, you will need to partition the USB drive. This will store the encryption software on the unencrypted partition. In this way, no matter which computer or device you go to with your USB drive, you will be able to run the encryption program from that drive
Note: You will be restricted to having access to that particular software from computers running the same Operating Systems with which the encryption software is compatible.
Most all USB stick encryption programs will perform the partition process for you. If you want your data to be truly portable and accessible from all operating systems. Then the only way you can ensure complete compatibility is to partition the USB and create several copies of your data. Making each partition encrypted in a format that is compatible with each operating system. Example would be a copy for Windows, a copy for macOS, a copy for Linux, for Google Android OS, Red Hat Enterprise Linux OS, Darwin OS, FreeBSD OS, Oracle Solaris OS, SunOS, UNIX OS. As you can see, the list could get very long.

USB Encryption Software

It is possible to use an encryption manager that will only encrypt your data, but not a partition and not the entire USB drive. This can be a more efficient way of managing your sensitive information because you may have other files that do not need encrypted. There are applications to encrypt your files on the way to a cloud based backup, but they will not encrypt your flash drive. Software that manages the entire USB drive, creating a partition and installing itself on the unencrypted section can greatly simplify the process.

Below is a list of USB encryption software, which includes free and paid programs. You can load the software on your USB drive along with the encrypted data, avoiding most all software restrictions on the devices that you connect to.


You do not have to install VeraCrypt on your device. You can download it directly to your USB drive. But VeraCrypt does require the presence of the Windows, mac OS X, or Linux operating system in order to run. VeraCrypt creates two levels of security. You can have a hidden vault for your real data, which will be protected by one password, and then a visible vault that will be protected by a different password. This visible vault is called the “outer volume.” Its purpose is to protect your hidden data should someone try to force the password out of you. When you connect the USB stick to your computer, it will show up in Windows Explorer, but you can only see the VeraCrypt program and the decoy vault.


AxCrypt is a free, open source and GNU GPL-licensed encryption tool that is simple, intuitive, and efficient. The best part of this tool is its integration with the Windows shell. One can easily encrypt a USB drive by right-clicking and selecting the option “AxCrypt.” Another interesting feature of this tool is the "Timed Execution". You can encrypt the file for a set period of time and set it to un-encrypt automatically. It also has a feature to resist brute force attacks. AxCrypt also has decryption apps for Android and iOS so that you can open encrypted files on your smartphone as well.


SecurStick will encrypt your USB drive for computers running Windows, macOS, and Linux. This multi-platform support makes SecurStick almost unique in the world of USB memory device encryption. The program creates a “Safe Zone”. This is the encrypted vault. And it does not need to occupy the entire storage space of the drive. Once you have set up the Safe Zone, you just copy files into it through your device. The Safe Zone will also expand as files are added. Encryption is performed with the AES cipher using a 256-bit key. The flexibility to connect to Windows, macOS, or Linux means that SecurStick’s usability is another great encryption system.

USB Flash Security

USB Flash Security is a product of Japanese developer Kashu System Design Inc. This software is available in both paid and free versions. You can use the program for free for personal use. The free version has a data limit, so you can only protect up to 4 gb of data. The utility has four prices, each with a higher data storage limit and allowing use on multiple memory sticks. The most expensive version has a data limit of 2000 gb and a device allowance of three USB memory sticks. The program encrypts the entire USB stick, except for a small space that stores the unlocking program. Once this program is active, you will only see the executable file for the program, all other files are hidden. You can only use with Windows computers.


Rohos Mini Drive

Disk Encryption is an easy-to-use software that is intended to secure your private data on HDD or USB flash drive. Rohos disk uses NIST approved AES encryption algorithm, 256-bit encryption key length.


DiskCryptor is an open encryption solution that offers encryption of all disk partitions, including the system partition. We have updated DiskCryptor for use with Windows 10, adding a UEFI/GPT bootloader, as well as other minor fixes to improve Windows 10 compatibility. We aim at further improving and maintaining Win 10 compatibility.

USB Safeguard

USB Safeguard is a portable software that allows you to protect your private files with a password on your removable drive using the secure AES 256 bits key. It protects data by creating a password-protected virtual drive on your portable storage device (USB flash drive, HDD hard drive, SSD, memory card). Once set, no one will be able to access your private files without the correct password.

Cryptainer LE

Free Encryption Software to protect your confidential data on Any Windows PC, Desktop, Laptop, Hard Disk or Removable Drive such as USB Flash Drive, Memory Stick. Secure your data and ensure absolute privacy with Cypherix's, Cryptainer LE. It's powerful 448 bit encryption, creates multiple 100 MB encrypted drives (vaults) on your hard disk.

Kakasoft USB Security

Kakasoft USB Security is a type of professional and powerful USB encryption software designed exclusively for USB security problems. If you wish to encrypt a USB flash drive with USB Security, download the software here. Detailed steps about how to encrypt USB flash drive for Windows 7/ Windows 8 and Windows XP.


Ensuring good USB drive security should not be overlooked. Any information on your drive will be safe from misuse or theft when the proper degree of encryption is used. Today, USB drives have become a common option for storage space. Whether it be for general backups or for sensitive and personal information. The security of your USB Drives is paramount.

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