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>USB thumb drives are small, portable, and can be read on any device with a USB port. These features make them perfect vehicles for transporting data between computers. Due to their portability, however, they are also easily lost. Thus sensitive files carried on a USB stick should always be protected.

Unfortunately, you cannot simply password protect your entire USB stick, like you have password protected your Facebook account. Tools that will seriously protect your data all work with encryption. Unless you want to invest in a secure flash drive with hardware encryption, you can use freeware applications to achieve a similar level of protection. This article summarizes some of the easiest ways to password protect files and folders on your USB flash drive.

1. Manually Save Files With a Password

As mentioned above, you can’t safely password protect your entire USB stick without using encryption. However, if you shy away from the time consuming encryption process of entire folders and need a really quick way to only protect a few selected files, maybe you can simply save those with a USB password.

Many programs, including Word and Excel, allow you to save files with a password. For example in Word, while the document is open, go to > Tools > Options and switch to the Security tab. Now enter a Password to open, click OK, re-enter the password when asked, and finally save your document and don’t forget the password.

usb password

2. Create An Encrypted & Password Protected Partition With Rohos Mini Drive

Many tools can encrypt and password protect your data. Most, however, require Administrator rights to run on any given computer. Unfortunately, this is also the case for one of the best encryption tools: TrueCrypt. Tools like these are not a viable solution if you need to securely transfer data to a computer where you do not have Administrator rights.

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Rohos Mini Drive, on the other hand, is a tool that will work whether or not you possess Administrator rights. The free edition can create a hidden, encrypted, and password protected partition of up to 2GB on your USB flash drive. The tool uses automatic on-the-fly encryption with AES 256 bit key length. Thanks to the portable Rohos Disk Browser, which is installed directly on your flash drive, no encryption drivers need to be available on the local system. Subsequently the protected data will be accessible anywhere.

password protect usb drive

Once you have created a password protected and encrypted container on your external drive, you can open it by clicking the Rohos Mini.exe icon from the root folder. After entering the password, your Rohos disk will be mounted and accessible via your Computer, i.e. the directory of all drives and partitions connected to your system. To close your Rohos partition, right-click the Rohos icon in the Windows taskbar notification area and select Disconnect.

password protect usb drive

A more detailed description of Rohos Mini Drive can be read in my PDF guide The Office Worker’s 101 Guide to a USB Thumb Drive The Office Worker’s 101 Guide to a USB Thumb Drive The Office Worker’s 101 Guide to a USB Thumb Drive Flash drives today are not just about storing your important files: you can use them to run programs and even entire operating systems. Read More .

3. Lock Your Flash Drive with USB Safeguard

Like Rohos Mini Drive, USB Safeguard is a portable app that runs directly from your flash drive and thus does not require Administrator rights on the local computer. It uses on-the-fly AES 256 bit encryption. The free version is limited to drive size of 2GB.

Download the usbsafeguard.exe and copy it to your USB flash drive. Run it from your flash drive and enter a password to lock the drive. To unlock it, run the file again and enter the password. The locking procedure must be repeated every time you want the drive to be locked as the tool will remember its last status, i.e. locked or unlocked. This also means that you can change the password every time you use USB Safeguard.

usb password

Additional Material

Looking for ways to protect files and folders locally on your computer? Have a look at these articles:

If you need more guidance on TrueCrypt, try the manual Lockdown: Secure Your Files with TrueCrypt.

We can also show you 5 Ways To Securely Encrypt Your Files In The Cloud 5 Ways To Securely Encrypt Your Files In The Cloud 5 Ways To Securely Encrypt Your Files In The Cloud Your files may be encrypted in transit and on the cloud provider’s servers, but the cloud storage company can decrypt them -- and anyone that gets access to your account can view the files. Client-side... Read More .

How do you safeguard your USB flash drive with a password? Can you recommend any other tools than the ones mentioned above?

Image credit: Data Security via Shutterstock

  1. heena
    June 18, 2016 at 9:59 pm

    thank u so much :)

  2. alsen
    April 12, 2016 at 2:53 am

    GiliSoft USB Encryption is a comprehensive, easy-to-use solution for USB security that supports encrypting portable storage device (external drive) and can divide external drive into two parts after encryption: the secure area and public area. Converts a regular USB flash drive into a secured one in less than a minute, data on the protected area (Secure area) is encrypted by 256-bit AES on-the-fly encryption.

  3. srinu
    December 12, 2014 at 11:44 am

    How to fix the pswd to USB flash drive?????????

  4. Cathy Martin
    February 27, 2013 at 11:07 am

    Did you guys know, that USB Secure can lock and password protect virtually any USB thumb/flash drive as well as HDD Drives. You can carry private data on portable drives without worrying about anyone gaining access to your sensitive files and folders, USB Secure is dynamic in the sense that you can view all your protect files in a virtual drive, meaning your data is automatically password protected in any case. Simply go on Google and search for ‘USB Secure’.

  5. bs saw
    December 30, 2012 at 1:53 pm

    Well this application seems very great to all pc users out there. I am sure mostly all of them are using usb thumb drive to store some critical or personal data. This must be very good application.

  6. Ayan Panja
    November 20, 2012 at 12:03 pm

    Is there any other way to lock Folder in windows 7 without using third party software?
    if usb drive is formatted then what happen will the locking be available after format?

    • Tina
      November 21, 2012 at 12:57 pm

      I don't know of any other ways, Ayan. However, feel free to post a question on MakeUseOf Answers to pick the brains of our geek community.

      If someone manages to format a USB drive that was locked using a software installed on that drive, then the lock will be gone, along with all data. If the data was locked with encryption, it won't be possible to recover it, at least not easily.

  7. Raghav Gupta
    November 5, 2012 at 6:40 am

    I us usb safeguard. its nice

  8. Eath Chantrea
    October 12, 2012 at 3:58 am

    Great usb pretection softwares.

    • kamalgiri
      October 20, 2012 at 5:20 am

      how do to usb pendrive 4gb and a 8 gb password crate??????????plzz send me

  9. Rohit
    October 8, 2012 at 1:59 pm
  10. JEET
    October 1, 2012 at 3:20 pm

    a usb safeguard software is safe ? means it works on all windows version ?

  11. Jim Spencer
    September 20, 2012 at 3:36 am

    I am presently testing the trial versions of Usb software in this article, and am leaning toward USB Safeguard and upgrading to a paid version! They are both simple and easy to set up, so thank you guys for the heads-up on both software as well as a great how-to article!

    • Tina
      September 20, 2012 at 5:37 am

      Thanks for the feedback, Jim!

      Mind sharing why you prefer Safeguard?

  12. Mark
    September 17, 2012 at 4:05 pm

    It never ceases to amaze me how long its taken for usable (i.e. non admin) cross platform options for encrypted USB sticks to appear, particularly given the well publicised losses of personal data that have resulted.

    I personally prefer the hardware encryption option, and recently bought a couple of Kingston DataTraveler Locker+ 16GB drives, which work on Windows + Mac, but not Linux. They're more expensive than vanilla drives, but not too pricey given the 16GB cost me 20 quid at Ebuyer. They have the added advantages of enforcing strong passwords and protecting against "brute force" attacks by wiping themselves after 10 failed attempts - this is persistent and can't be bypassed by replugging. There's also an option to add contact details on the login screen. Read and write speeds are generally pretty good. It's important to note the "+" in the name - earlier versions used a container and didn't encrypt the whole stick. It's good that the free software options here exist, but I prefer the fact the whole stick is encrypted, making it less likely files will mistakenly end up in the wrong (unencrypted) place.

  13. CharlieOS
    September 16, 2012 at 11:44 pm

    Nice and informative article. You covered some USB encryption utilities that I had never even heard of (I love learning new things!). BTW, another great USB encryption tool is SafeHouse Explorer. The free version allows for unlimited GBs of encryption and the utility is quite easy to use.

  14. sonnylim
    September 16, 2012 at 6:57 am

    USB Safeguard would be a great tool to protect my work files.

  15. Victor Hurtado
    September 15, 2012 at 9:47 am

    Great tips Tina, Will try them and repost. Thank you everyone!

  16. Edward Bellair
    September 14, 2012 at 7:40 pm

    I have never tried any of these progs before. Guess its time to start testing....for safety sake.

  17. omar elshal
    September 14, 2012 at 1:01 am

    Many thank :)
    i was wondering if i installed app 2 or 3 on windows, will it work properly at different os like linux..

    • Tina
      September 14, 2012 at 5:16 am

      Probably not. Unfortunately, as mentioned above, I don't run any other operating system, so I cannot test.

  18. Nowunz Home
    September 14, 2012 at 12:14 am

    Will Rohos work on Mac and PC?

    • Tina
      September 14, 2012 at 5:15 am

      They all work on PC. I don't have a Mac and I don't run Linux, so I cannot test those operating systems. Rohos is said to work with Windows only, though.

  19. Allie Friedel
    September 13, 2012 at 4:08 pm

    Great advice. The need to run as Admin can be a showstopper.

    • Rocket Morton
      September 17, 2012 at 1:50 pm

      Truecrypt runs under multiple os's and encrypts whole drives.

      You only need to be an admin to install the drivers, after that it will work as a normal user

  20. ranjith
    September 13, 2012 at 10:19 am

    awsome tip!!!!!! thanks
    i would like to know whether the apps work on linux os too?

    • Tina
      September 14, 2012 at 5:14 am

      Probably not, but unfortunately I cannot test that.

  21. KevinL
    September 12, 2012 at 8:18 pm

    See Mac and Windows solutions, but are there cross-platform ones? I go back and forth between Mac and Windows machines all the time.

    • Tina
      September 13, 2012 at 5:22 am

      Kevin,

      I'm afraid I don't have a Mac, so I have no idea and cannot test. But you could ask for a good cross-platform solution on MakeUseOf Answers.

  22. Anson
    September 12, 2012 at 4:28 pm

    I use winzip to encrypt a bunch of files then save to USB. It's uses 256-bit encryption. So I can have several encrypted zip files rather than just one gigantic encrypted file in case my computer crashes and corrupts the file thus possibly ran seeing it useless and inaccessible.

  23. Peter Connolly
    September 12, 2012 at 4:06 pm

    Encrypt the entire USB device using TrueCrypt. It's free, it's very secure and it performs very well.

    • Tina
      September 13, 2012 at 5:19 am

      Peter,

      The problem with TrueCrypt is that if you want to read the secured USB stick on another computer, you need administrator rights because it's not an independent portable app, it needs to install drivers.

  24. Ellen Odza
    September 12, 2012 at 4:06 pm

    Thanks for this. Why are all the available programs limited to 2GB flash drives (the one I carry around is 8GB). Rohos sounds the most useful for me - I can move those files that are sensitive into a protected part of the drive and have the rest in the unprotected space.

    Several people have mentioned bitlocker in the comments - can you explain what that is or provide a link, please?

    • Tina
      September 13, 2012 at 5:19 am

      Ellen,

      I think you can use Rohos. You just cannot create an encrypted container bigger than 2GB. But this can be on a bigger drive.

  25. Michael
    September 12, 2012 at 3:24 pm

    Good pointers, that are overlooked by way too many people that carry personal information around with them

  26. fatihamzah
    September 12, 2012 at 3:05 pm

    I prefer choose to lock files

  27. Giorgi Asatiani
    September 12, 2012 at 10:42 am

    i did the third one and it is easy and good . thanks

  28. Frederick Doe
    September 12, 2012 at 12:41 am

    Are there any Mac apps that are compatible with #2 and #3?

    • Tina
      September 12, 2012 at 1:15 am

      Frederick,

      Did you try #2 and #3 on a Mac? They should be compatible since these are portable apps. Unfortunately, I don't own a Mac myself, so I cannot test it. Your Mac has to be able to work with NTFS, otherwise format your flash drive in FAT32 first (after backing up any data on it).

      • Slyguy
        September 12, 2012 at 3:54 pm

        Mac's OS X has built-in file encryption capability. At the system level you can encrypt files in Blowfish, CAST5, Triple DES, DES-X, AES 128 or AES 256. You have your choice, and as long as you're using Mac-formatted media, there is no 2Gb limit on file sizes. Encryption works on audio files, video files, or text files... maybe spreadsheet, too, although I haven't tried that one personally. You can throw all the different types into one folder then encrypt the folder. You can even encrypt a folder, then re-encrypt it a second or third time if you're the paranoid type! ;-)

        • Tina Sieber
          September 13, 2012 at 5:16 am

          Can you do this with USB sticks? And will you be able to read the encrypted and password protected USB stick (or encrypted container) on another computer?

  29. Aung Thu Htet
    September 12, 2012 at 12:36 am

    In the past, I used the folder lock to protect my USB stick. And now I am testing the USB Safeguard.

  30. YDMickler
    September 11, 2012 at 9:26 pm

    You can use 7-Zip to lock files one at a time more securely than Word and Excel.
    I use Truecrypt without any problem.

  31. Alexandre
    September 11, 2012 at 6:19 pm

    Sometime I used Bitlocker but on Windows XP I can't add files to USB drive, so I don't use it anymore. Do you guys know some free software that lock only the USB drive?

    Note: You show me many free lockers, but all of those have a restriction of 2 GB.

    Best Regards!

    • Tina
      September 11, 2012 at 6:53 pm

      Alexandre,

      Yes, BitLocker only works fully with Windows 7 and Windows Vista. Under XP you can only read files. It probably doesn't work outside Windows.

      Unfortunately, I don't know of any free tool that can lock an entire drive or more than 2GB. Many tools have paid/premium versions that can do that, though. You could also ask for input on MakeUseOf Answers.

  32. Erlis Dhima
    September 11, 2012 at 6:04 pm

    Thanks a lot TIna! Now I think that, if I want to password-protect some files, I'll be more secure no one break the password! :D

  33. Mihovil Pletikos
    September 11, 2012 at 5:45 pm

    Don't forget bitlocker can do it really simply and efficiently... and it's built into w7 :-)

    • Tina
      September 11, 2012 at 5:48 pm

      Great point, should have totally added BitLocker To go to the list!

      • sutirth
        September 13, 2012 at 12:17 am

        Is there any other way to lock Folder in windows 7 without using third party software. Please Help.???

        • Tina Sieber
          September 13, 2012 at 5:15 am

          None that I know of, but I haven't reserached it. You could ask for ideas on MakeUseOf Answers.

    • Tyler
      January 31, 2015 at 8:45 pm

      You can lock a folder by putting code in a text file and saving it as a batch folder, it will create a folder that only is visible when you run the .bat and it prompts you for your password. =]

    • james
      May 9, 2015 at 1:21 am

      Bitlocker is not available on home editions of windows... I.e., I'll never be able to access the files on a home PC, even with Win 8.1... that's why its not included in the list

  34. IamAshMcLean
    September 11, 2012 at 5:33 pm

    Better than the Cruzer USB Drives softwares to protect the data.

  35. Sebastian Hadinata
    September 11, 2012 at 5:29 pm

    Great software #2 & #3. I hope the free version comes with larger space restriction though :3

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