Truecrypt is a practical implementation of paranoia for your PC, and Version 7 has an even bigger stash of goodies to ease your worries, along with better performance. We’ll use that app today to illustrate how to create an encrypted folder that others can’t explore.
Before we begin though, a couple of references. Mark has talked about Truecrypt a couple of versions back, and he also wrote a great article specifically about using Truecrypt on a USB stick. Saikat gave a broader outline on how to hide folders.
What Is It?
So is Truecrypt all about hiding folders? More or less. It’s definitely about making sure that your secrets stay secret, and hiding folders – or entire drives – is the most common way to deal with that.
Truecrypt is also cross-platform, as well as being open source freeware to encrypt folders. It’s secure. It’s also easy. Why wouldn’t you use it?
Why Do I Need It?
Unfortunately we live in a world where people don’t behave the way you might wish they did. Over the last few years, we are also living in a progressively more connected world, which means you are more exposed to those people your mother wouldn’t want you to marry. To add to the mess, we are also, especially right now, beginning to live in a thoroughly wireless, portable, mobile world, where not only can these undesirables get close to your stuff, but you help them out by taking your stuff to them!
Even if you never do anything you would like to keep private, if you have an online life of any sort, your identity and your information are valuable items, and you need to look after them. If you are doing anything that some people might not approve of, all the more reason.
How Do I Get It?
What Can I Do With It?
The idea is to take a container of some sort, and encrypt the contents of that container. Imagine if we went into your living room, took a good look at the bookshelf, and then somehow removed the contents of all the books, shuffled all the words up in some nearly random way, and then put them all back again. You would have exactly the same information that was there earlier, but no way to make use of it.
If, on the other hand, we gave you a key to the shuffling, then with time and patience, you could put everything back the way it started, and get on with reading War and Peace.
This works just the same way. The container, conveniently enough, can be a drive, a folder, a USB stick”? For our example we will just use a folder on your drive. We will shuffle the contents, and then give you a (software) key to let your computer sort things out for you on the fly. Version 7 adds a couple of wrinkles like using hardware acceleration for decryption in some cases, and automatic decryption of USB keys on insertion if you want it to.
How To Create One
Fire up Truecrypt, and you will be presented with the main window.
Click the Create Volume button to build that container we were talking about.
There are a number of different types of containers, but for our first attempt we can just use the default file container.
Along with the various container types, there are advanced options for creating one container inside another. Think of a bookshelf inside a library. But for now, again take the default.
Click Next again.
Because we are using the standard file container, we need to tell it the name of the file to use. Just in case you’re thinking in terms of folders, this can be a little confusing. We are going to create a file, and then eventually it will look like another hard drive on your system, but only when it’s mounted.
So, browse to a folder, and supply a file name. No need for a suffix. When you’re ready, hit the Next button again.
Remember I said there were lots of options? You can choose from a number of encryption types and hash algorithms. Ordinary people like me take the advice of the developers, and go with the defaults.
Yeah. Click Next.
You can create a container of any size up to the available space on your real hard drive. It’s worth considering some limits if you ever want to backup the result to portable media, so perhaps you might want to stick with 4GB or so if you want the file to be backed up to DVD. You get the idea.
In our case, we’re just creating a small container for some tax files. Setting aside 100MB seems about right, but I have created 60GB containers in the past without any trouble.
Click Next, yet again.
Passwords are very important in Truecrypt. Tina talked earlier in the year about how to select a good one. I can’t expand on that. Make a good choice.
This screen is a little unusual. You need to move the mouse around in a random fashion for a while. Go on, you know you want to. A little more. Great.
Just for a change of pace, click Format. Then take a break.
All being well, you’ll get a confirmation when the format is finished.
Go ahead and click OK. It’s not as though you have other options.
And that’s it. Done.
One new Truecrypt volume is quite enough for now, so click Exit, and we can move on to making use of it.
Using The New Volume
Run Truecrypt again.
Select an available drive letter from the list, and then browse to the file you just created. Just to be clear, in this case I’m going to mount the new MUO container as the O: drive.
Click Mount to complete the job. You will be prompted for that password you carefully made up earlier. Don’t forget it. There are no back doors here.
And that’s it. I now have a 100MB O: drive, ready for use.
Click Exit, and take a look in Windows Explorer.
Keeping Things Going
The drive will be dismounted automatically if you log off or shut your PC down, but it’s a good idea to close it yourself, from the same window, when you don’t need it any more. You might have trouble if your PC still thinks you have files from the volume open, so close any applications, files, or Windows Explorer views beforehand.
We could spend a lot more time on this subject, but I’m sure you’d rather make use of your new encrypted drive. Let me know if there are any details I can go into more depth with, any questions, or any good ideas for use.