How To Password Protect Your USB Sticks: 3 Easy Ways

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Password Protect USB   How To Password Protect Your USB Sticks: 3 Easy WaysUSB thumb drives are small, portable, and can be read on any device with a USB port. These features make them perfect vehicles for transportingĀ data between computers. Due to their portability, however, they are also easily lost. Thus sensitive files carriedĀ 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.

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Password to Open File   How To Password Protect Your USB Sticks: 3 Easy Ways

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.

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.

Rohos Mini Drive   How To Password Protect Your USB Sticks: 3 Easy Ways

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.

Rohos Disk Encryption   How To Password Protect Your USB Sticks: 3 Easy Ways

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.

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 Safeguard   How To Password Protect Your USB Sticks: 3 Easy Ways

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.

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

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50 Comments - Write a Comment

Reply

Sebastian Hadinata

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

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IamAshMcLean

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

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Mihovil Pletikos

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

Tina

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

sutirth

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

Tina Sieber

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

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Erlis Dhima

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

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Alexandre

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

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.

Reply

YDMickler

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

Reply

Aung Thu Htet

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

Reply

Frederick Doe

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

Tina

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

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

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?

Reply

Giorgi Asatiani

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

Reply

fatihamzah

I prefer choose to lock files

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Michael

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

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Ellen Odza

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

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.

Reply

Peter Connolly

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

Tina

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.

Reply

Anson

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.

Reply

KevinL

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

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.

Reply

ranjith

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

Tina

Probably not, but unfortunately I cannot test that.

Reply

Allie Friedel

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

Rocket Morton

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

Reply

Nowunz Home

Will Rohos work on Mac and PC?

Tina

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.

Reply

omar elshal

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

Tina

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

Reply

Edward Bellair

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

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Victor Hurtado

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

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sonnylim

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

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CharlieOS

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.

Reply

Mark

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.

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Jim Spencer

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

Thanks for the feedback, Jim!

Mind sharing why you prefer Safeguard?

Reply

JEET

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

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Rohit

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Eath Chantrea

Great usb pretection softwares.

kamalgiri

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

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Raghav Gupta

I us usb safeguard. its nice

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Ayan Panja

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

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.

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bs saw

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.

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Cathy Martin

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 ā€˜USB Secureā€™.

Reply

srinu

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

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