USB flash drives have become a hugely popular way of carrying data around. Unfortunately, they are pretty easy to misplace and it could bite you in the ass if a drive with sensitive data was lost or stolen. Some flash drives come with software to password protect the drive but most don’t. With Windows' 7’s ‘BitLocker to Go’ feature, it’s now become very easy to encrypt and secure your flash drives with the click of a button. The feature is not perfect as there are some compatibility issues with older OS such as XP but all in all, it’s a pretty handy feature to have.
The process is fairly straightforward and simple. On a Windows 7 system with BitLocker, all you need to do is to right click your flash drive on My Computer (Or is it just ‘Computer’ now) and hit ‘Turn on BitLocker’. A series of dialog boxes that pop up will guide you through the process which includes setting up a password. Once you encrypt a drive using BitLocker, you will be prompted for the password to unlock the drive every time you plug it in.
BitLocker To Go would work pretty well between Windows 7 systems but if you plug an encrypted drive into a Windows XP/Vista system, things could become quite painful. On these Operating Systems, the drive would work on a read-only mode; you’ll be able to copy files off it but you won’t be able to write to the disk even if you do provide the password and unlock the drive. Additionally, you won’t be able to launch files by double clicking them – they will first need to be copied to the hard disk and then run.
But as long as you use the flash drive between Windows 7 machines, none of the above annoyances will bother you. If you are planning to use your pen drives on machines running XP/Vista, ‘BitLocker To Go’ may not be an ideal solution. But if you primarily work with Windows 7 based PCs, it could prove to be a pretty decent encryption tool which will enhance your data security.