How To Encrypt Your Home Folder After Ubuntu Installation [Linux]

Ads by Google

encrypt home folder ubuntuImagine this: it’s a great day, you’re busy working on your computer at some event, and everything seems fine. After a while you get tired and decide to get something to eat and shut down your laptop. Although it’s not supposed to happen, someone steals it while you’re gone.

At this point you freak out because your life information is on that machine, including banking data, emails, and anything else that could be considered sensitive data. Now your wonderful day has turned into a nightmare. Of course you can do things to minimize the damage that results from a stolen laptop, or you can be proactive and encrypt your information for exactly these kinds of situations.

Encrypt During Installation If Possible

If you were smart enough, you could’ve encrypted your home folder (which basically contains all of your personal data, as literally every other main system folder contains system data, not personal data) when you first installed Ubuntu onto your system. But I guess you simply chose not to (or in my case, I somehow had some issues with it). However, it’s never too late to do it now before something happens to it.

Before You Begin

Encrypting your home folder is actually a lot easier than it may sound. It only requires a few steps and a little amount of your time. Before we begin, make sure that you have a backup available of your entire home folder at another location, just in case the encryption process goes haywire for whatever reason.


The first thing you’ll want to do is open your terminal and issue this command:

sudo apt-get install ecryptfs-utils

which will install the necessary files needed to carry out the encryption process.

encrypt home folder ubuntu

In order to avoid any problems with encrypting a user’s home folder while you’re still logged into that user, it’s best to create a new user with administrative rights temporarily, or if you already have a second user account with administrative rights, you can use that instead. You can then log into that new account.

Ads by Google

encrypt ubuntu folders

Next, in order to actually encrypt the home folder, you’ll need to run

sudo ecryptfs-migrate-home –u “username”

where “username” is the username of the user’s home folder that you want to encrypt.

encrypt home folder ubuntu

Once that is done, you’ll need to log back into the original user’s account and complete the encryption process by following the instructions presented to you to add a password to the newly encrypted folder. If that doesn’t appear, you can type into your terminal


to add one yourself. Once that completes, you can delete the temporary account you created, and reboot your system. Your home folder should now be encrypted and safe from anyone who doesn’t know your password!

If you really want to test it out, you can always grab a Live CD and see if you can surf around inside the home folder. Usually you can’t because of file permissions, but it’s always still possible to change the permissions with a Live CD as long as it’s not encrypted. If it’s not possible to do even that, then I’d say that the successful encryption has been confirmed.


Encryption is actually much more important than a lot of people believe. It’s great that such tools exist for Linux, as well as other operating systems with tools such as TrueCrypt. Hopefully they can be adopted by more people as they don’t bring any noticeable performance issues.

What do you think of encryption? Is it necessary or not? How do you do it? Let us know in the comments!

Ads by Google
Comments (14)
  • Kerrick Long

    Worked great! Now, how would I go about reversing the process? I’ve found that things tend to be slower when my home directory is encrypted, plus I’m paranoid that someday I’ll forget my password and never be able to recover the files. :-P

    • Danny Stieben

      There seems to be a lot less information on how to unencrypt your home folder. This may be a complicated way, but I’m pretty sure you’d succeed if you created a new folder/partition, moved over all of your home data to it, and then reconfigure Ubuntu to use the new location as your home folder. Of course that’s a generalized idea, as writing out the entire process would be too large for a comment, but I’d expect that to work. The main issue would be to reconfigure Ubuntu to recognize the new home folder.

      Best of luck!

  • Devon Day

    Thanks! It’s well into 2012 and this still worked great for me on Linux Mint 13. :D

  • Bill

    Nice tutorial but can’t get it to work.
    I created new account WITH administrative priveleges and logged in as that user
    but when I try to run sudo ecryptfs-migrate-home –u bill I get the error:

    “This program must be executed by root.”

    I even logged in as ROOT and got the same error. What now?
    Any suggestion appreciated. I am running Xubuntu 12.04.


    • Tillorgias

      Hey Bill, I had the same error. The character used on the website to display the “-” in front of the “-u” option is no real “-” but a similar char. So copy the command, remove all “-” and type them manually and it will work.

      Hope it works,

    • Tina

      Thanks for the great tip, Till!

    • Bill

      Thank you Tillorgias. It works.


  • Danny Stieben

    It seems that you’re trying to encrypt r9s’s home folder while still being logged in as r9s. Like the article shows (so look at it if you need guidance), you’ll need to set up a new user if you only have one, give that user admin rights (to be able to use sudo), log into that user, and then run the same command to encrypt r9s’s home folder.

  • Danny Stieben

    I seem to have a knack for writing articles whenever people either just did whatever was covered in the article or plan on doing it. ;)

    Thanks for the input!

Load 10 more
Affiliate Disclamer

This review may contain affiliate links, which pays us a small compensation if you do decide to make a purchase based on our recommendation. Our judgement is in no way biased, and our recommendations are always based on the merits of the items.

For more details, please read our disclosure.
Affiliate Disclamer

This review may contain affiliate links, which pays us a small compensation if you do decide to make a purchase based on our recommendation. Our judgement is in no way biased, and our recommendations are always based on the merits of the items.

For more details, please read our disclosure.