How to Password Protect and Encrypt a Flash Drive: 5 Easy Methods
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An encrypted USB flash drive is the safest way to carry sensitive files.

Unfortunately, you cannot password protect your entire USB flash drive, like you can password protect your PC or phone. Secure tools all work with encryption. Unless you want to invest in an encrypted flash drive with hardware encryption, you can use freeware applications to achieve a similar level of USB protection.

This article summarizes the easiest ways to password protect or encrypt files and folders on a USB flash drive.

1. Rohos Mini Drive: Create an Encrypted Partition

Many tools can encrypt and password protect your data. Most, however, require Administrator rights to run on any given computer. Rohos Mini Drive, however, works whether or not you possess Administrator rights on the target computer.

The free edition can create a hidden, encrypted, and password-protected partition of up to 8GB 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 you install directly to your flash drive, you won’t need encryption drivers on the local system. Subsequently, you can access the protected data anywhere.

Rohos Mini Drive Start Screen

Click Encrypt USB drive from the Rohos Mini Drive start screen, select the drive, specify a new password, and click Create disk. This will create a password-protected and encrypted container on your external drive.

Rohos Mini Drive Encrypt USB Drive

You can open the protected container by clicking the Rohos Mini.exe icon from the root folder of your USB thumb drive. After entering the password, the Rohos disk will mount as a separate drive and you can access it via File Explorer.

To close your Rohos partition, right-click the Rohos icon in the Windows Taskbar notification area and select Disconnect.

Rohos Mini Drive Disconnect Drive

Download: Rohos Mini Drive

2. VeraCrypt: Encrypt Your Entire Flash Drive

VeraCrypt is the successor of TrueCrypt. It comes as a portable app that runs directly from your flash drive. VeryCrypt does require Administrator rights to operate. It uses on-the-fly AES 256-bit encryption. The free version is limited to drive sizes of 2 GB.

VeraCrypt features on-the-fly encryption How Does Encryption Work, and Is It Really Safe? How Does Encryption Work, and Is It Really Safe? Read More using multiple different encryption algorithms, including 256-bit AES, Serpent, and TwoFish, as well as combinations of these. Like Rohos Mini Drive, it can create a virtual encrypted disk that mounts like a real disk, but you can also encrypt entire partitions or storage devices.

Download VeryCrypt Portable and install it on your USB drive. When you launch the portable app, it will show you all available drive letters. Choose one and click Create Volume. This will launch the VeraCrypt Volume Creation Wizard.

VeraCrypt Mount Drive

To encrypt your entire USB flash drive, select Encrypt a non-system partition/drive and click Next.

VeraCrypt Encrypt Partition or Drive

In the next step, you can choose from a Standard or a Hidden VeraCrypt volume. Using a hidden volume reduces the risk that someone forces you to reveal your password. Note that you’ll have to format the entire USB drive How to Format a USB Drive & Why You Would Need To How to Format a USB Drive & Why You Would Need To Formatting a USB drive is no different than formatting any other drive. But how often have you actually formatted a drive and did you ever wonder what the various options mean? Read More if you want to create a Hidden VeraCrypt volume.

We’ll proceed with the Standard VeraCrypt volume. In the next window, click Select Device, choose your removable disk, confirm with OK, and click Next.

VeraCrypt Volume Creation Wizard

To encrypt the entire USB drive, select Encrypt partition in place and click Next. VeryCrypt will warn that you should have a backup of the data, in case something goes wrong during encryption.

Now select the Encryption and Hash Algorithm; you can go with the default settings. Now you get to set your Volume Password. In the next step, your random mouse movements will determine the cryptographic strength of the encryption.

VeraCrypt Encryption Collecting Random Data

Now choose your Wipe Mode; the more wipes, the safer. In the final window, click Encrypt to start the encryption.

VeraCrypt Launch Encryption

Download: VeraCrypt Portable

Note: An alternative to VeraCrypt Portable is Toucan, a portable app that lets you sync, backup, and secure your files. If you’re using Windows 10 Professional, Business, or Enterprise, you can also use BitLocker to encrypt your drives.

3. SecurStick: Create a Safe Zone on Your USB Drive

This tool is a product of the German computer magazine c’t. It does not require installation and will work with Windows, Linux, and Mac without admin rights. To set it up, however, you have to run an EXE file from the flash drive you wish to encrypt.

To set up SecurStick, download and unpack the ZIP archive, then copy the EXE file onto your USB stick. Running the EXE file will launch a command prompt and browser window. Enter a password and click Create to install the Safe Zone.

create an encrypted and password protected safe zone on your flash drive

Next time you launch the SecurStick EXE file, you’ll hit a login window. Logging in mounts the Safe Zone. Any files you copy into the SafeZone are automatically encrypted. Note that closing the command prompt window will close your Safe Zone session.

The easiest way to completely remove SecurStick from your flash drive is to format the drive.

Download: SecurStick

Note: Don’t be put off by the German download page! The tool’s interface was fully ported to English, as shown above.

4. How to Encrypt Your Flash Drive on a Mac

If you’re using a Mac, you don’t need a third-party tool to encrypt your USB flash drive.

First, you need to format the flash drive with Apple’s HFS+ file system. Note that this will delete all files stored on it, meaning you should back them up. From the Disk Utility app, pick your flash drive and click Erase. In the popup window, specify the file format, Mac OS Extended (Journaled), and click Erase in the bottom right to format the drive.

How to erase a flash drive from Disk Utility on a Mac

Now you’re ready to create an encrypted flash drive. Simply right-click the drive in Finder, select Encrypt, and add a password. The process starts instantly and can take a few minutes, depending on the size of your USB stick. Shortly, you’ll have an encrypted and password protected USB drive.

5. Cryptsetup: Encrypt Your USB Drive on Linux

Cryptsetup is a free function to set up cryptographic volumes using AES 256-bit encryption. It’s available from the standard Linux repository.

Note: You should not use this tool if you intend on using the encrypted files outside of Linux. Moreover, accessing your encrypted flash drive requires a Cryptsetup installation.

To encrypt your USB stick on Linux, you need to install both the Gnome disk utility and Cryptsetup from sudo apt-get. If you’re using Ubuntu, it should already be installed. Next, launch Disks from the desktop, look for your flash drive, and select to format the drive or a single partition with the encryption option.

At this point, you’ll also choose a password. Note that you have to overwrite all existing files.

Reference: Cryptsetup

If you use Ubuntu Linux, please refer to our complete file and folder encryption guide How to Encrypt Files and Folders in Ubuntu How to Encrypt Files and Folders in Ubuntu Did you know that you can protect your personal files on Linux by encrypting your files and folders? Here's how to do that using Ubuntu and GnuPG. Read More .

How to Save Individual 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 for entire folders and need a really quick way to only protect a few selected files, 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 File > Info, expand the Protect Document menu, and select Encrypt with Password.

Microsoft Word Encrypt File With Password

Now enter your password and confirm it to protect your document.

Microsoft Office Encrypt Document

Finally, save your document and don’t forget the password.

Microsoft Office Protect Document

To password protect PDF files on your USB flash drive, you can use PDFTK Builder, which also comes as a portable app.

How to Create a Password-protected File Archive

Archive tools like 7-Zip can also encrypt and password protect your files with AES-256.

Install and run 7-Zip, right-click the file or folder on your USB drive, and select 7-Zip > Add to Archive. In the Add to Archive window, choose the Archive format and add a password. Click OK to start the archiving and encryption process.

7Zip Created Password Protected Archive

Download: 7-Zip

Your Personal Files, Protected and Encrypted

Now you know how to password protect and encrypt your USB drive on Windows, Mac, and Linux. You can also protect Windows folders. And have you encrypted your smartphone data yet? If you have a few spare USB sticks 5 Uses for a USB Stick You Didn't Know About 5 Uses for a USB Stick You Didn't Know About We’ve all used USB sticks to transport files between computers and back up our files, but there are other cool things you can do with a USB stick. Read More , you could do something useful with them!

Explore more about: Encryption, Password, USB, USB Drive.

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  1. Jeff
    September 13, 2017 at 5:13 pm

    In the new millenium writing about personal computing issues and the stories' credibility mandates addressing pc v mac v linux compatibilities. The comments were more complete than the original text.

    • Tina Sieber
      September 13, 2017 at 6:20 pm

      Jeff, do you have recommendations for password-protecting USB flash drives on Mac and Linux?

      • Jeff
        September 14, 2017 at 8:28 pm

        Nope. I'm quite novice at the matter and sought advice on this site--to minimal avail.

  2. Carl
    September 2, 2017 at 5:41 pm

    Just taken a look at the Rohos option and they now offer 8 GB for free.

    • Tina Sieber
      September 2, 2017 at 6:35 pm

      Excellent! Thanks for sharing, Carl.

  3. Ed
    September 1, 2017 at 1:10 am

    Definitely need a way to protect some files on my USB drive and it cannot require me to be an Admin. I wish there were better ways than the one's you mentioned.

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

    thank u so much :)

  5. 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.

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

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

  7. 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’.

  8. 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.

  9. 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.

      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.

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

    I us usb safeguard. its nice

  11. 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

  12. Rohit
    October 8, 2012 at 1:59 pm
  13. JEET
    October 1, 2012 at 3:20 pm

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

  14. 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?

  15. 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.

  16. 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.

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

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

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

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

  19. 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.

  20. 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.

  21. 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.

  22. 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

  23. 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.

  24. 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.

  25. 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.

  26. 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.

  27. 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.

  28. 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

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

    I prefer choose to lock files

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

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

  31. 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?

  32. 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.

  33. 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.

  34. 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.

  35. Erlis D.
    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

  36. 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

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

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

  38. 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