How-To Geek

BitLocker To Go Encrypts Portable Flash Drives in Windows 7

The BitLocker feature was introduced in Windows Vista and allowed you to encrypt the content of your hard drive.  Now in Windows 7 they offer BitLocker To Go which allows you to encrypt portable USB flash drives.

First open up My Computer and Right-click on the flash drive you want to encrypt and select Turn on BitLocker.


After BitLocker initialized the flash drive you will need to enter in a password to unlock the drive.  You can also set up a Smartcard which are usually used in a work environment so talk to you IT staff.

2 pw

Next you will be prompted to store the recovery key which is used in the event you lose your password or smartcard.  If you store it as a file make sure that it is not on the same drive that you’re encrypting.  

3 key

After the key has been saved as a file or printed you will see a confirmation message.

4 save confirm

Finally you will be ready to start encrypting the drive so just click the Start Encrypting button.

5 confirm

While it is encrypting there will be a progress screen displayed.

6 progress

A successful encryption of the USB flash drive. notice that the drive icon will change to show its encrypted with BitLocker.

7 complete 

Notice that the drive icon will change to show its encrypted with BitLocker where the gold lock indicates it is locked up and the gray lock is displayed after you have unlocked it.

 8 iconunlock

Right-click on that icon to bring up options to manage BitLocker encryption.

9 options

The next time you plug in the drive to a Windows 7 machine you will be prompted to enter the password to gain access to the drive.  You can also always have it unlocked on specific machines in the future.


You can also use the encrypted drive in Vista and XP.  Here we will look at how it looks in XP, when you plug it in you will be prompted for the password to launch BitLocker To Go Reader (the utility is installed automatically on the drive by Windows 7).

bitlocker XP

BitLocker To Go Reader is a Windows Explorer type navigation utility for showing the content of the drive.

bitlocker reading

With a BitLocker encrypted drive you will only be able to read and copy files.  If you need to add files or change them you will need to use a Windows 7 machine.


This is a great way to easily make sure sensitive data on your USB flash drive is safe.  Right now anyone who has Windows 7 RC1 Ultimate can use this feature.

Brian Burgess worked in IT for 10 years before pursuing his passion for writing. He's been a tech blogger and journalist for the past seven years, and can be found on his about me page or Google+

  • Published 05/27/09

Comments (15)

  1. Danny

    Wow, looks promisingly simple. What if I work in a mixed OS environment? Is there a bitlocker-to-go installer for XP and Linux?

  2. Chris

    Would find this very useful apart from the fact I wouldn’t be able to add files to it :(

    Means it would be rather pointless for school.

  3. dinesh

    Wonderful tutoral Geek.

  4. Caleb

    It is a really great feature except that at school, they use windows xp

  5. Charles

    BitLocket To Go includes a BitLocket To Go Reader program for earlier version of windows such as Windows XP

  6. studioCJF

    It should be noted that BitLocker and BitLocker To Go are only available in the “Enterprise” and “Ultimate” versions of Windows 7… Way it is not included in the business oriented version “Professional” I have no clue :(

  7. CaryD

    Is there any disadvantage to using Bit Locker on your main hard drives other than forgetting your passphrase which saving the recovery key seems to handle?

    I’m assuming if you need to access the hard drive from another computer on the network you only need the password right?

  8. Jatin

    Fine one and eassy to acess and thanks to google for Pictorial Tutoriale………..

  9. Pankaj

    nice article !!!

  10. paranoid

    Quote : With a BitLocker encrypted drive you will only be able to read and copy files. If you need to add files or change them you will need to use a Windows 7 machine.

    Im sorry but the whole point of enypting data is to hide it from unwanted eyes. If now my ex wife can read and copy files from my encrypted hd with BitLocker To Go Reader makes this whole process useless.

    true enrycpt means no ID or PWD or KEY no access whatsoever, not even browsing is poss. Well thats how i understand it, maybe there are diff. catergories of encryptions, one more sophisticated than bitlocker would be a better option. Is truecrypt here diffrent ?


  11. kenneth

    shoot. this is amazing. its as if you have a deep freeze on a USB :D

    just a question.

    it is mentioned that you can only save or make a change in the drive with windows7. so, you cant make any changes even it is unlocked while you’re not using windows7? does it mean having a windows7 OS is also a key to make changes in the drive?

    thanks. keep it up :)

  12. Kojo

    i can’t find the BitLocker option when i right click on my USB .. can some one help?

  13. wonkz

    but how if we add some files onto bitlocker in XP or Linux ?

  14. A Berney

    When I encrypt the drive on my lap top and then use it after, it works fine. If I hook the drive up to my Home PC it asks me to format the drive before being able to use it.. Even on one I formatted it still asked me to format after I encrypted. How do I use the drive on mulitiple computers?

  15. chap

    @ Danny
    as mentioned in this article, bit locker to go is only available for windows 7 ultimate and enterprise editions. however, if you have already turned this feature on in your flash drive using these editions and plug your flash drive to a machine running xp or vista, it still works. the encryption process ran in windows 7 ultimate and enterprise editions includes an installer that runs the bit locker reader when you plug your flash drive in an xp.

    @ paranoid
    unless you give your ex-wife the password to your encrypted hard drive, then she won’t be able to see all the files in that drive.

    @ Chris & Caleb
    you’re right. but it also prevents malware (virus, trojans, etc.) from infecting your flash drive, which is very common in school and other public computers. if you need a file from school, upload it to your own email account then download it in a safe computer. your email provider (yahoomail, gmail, etc.) automatically scans that file when you download it.

    @ kenneth
    you’re right on all counts. when you’re using an encrypted flash disk in a computer running xp, even if you have the correct password, you’re not actually running the bit locker utility but only the bit locker reader.

    @ Kojo
    what OS are you using? remember, this utility is only available in windows 7 ultimate and enterprise editions.

    @ wonkz
    in xp, you just can’t. i will try plugging my encrypted device in a linux and i’ll get back to you asap.

    @ A Berney
    i duplicated the way you did your thing and it just worked fine. try formatting your flash drive in a windows 7 ultimate or enterprise computer using the fat32 or fat file system then encrypt the drive and see if this works.

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