Full Disk Encryption: A Beginner’s Guide

Ask any information technology (IT) professional and he or she will likely agree: Encryption is one of the most effective ways to safeguard data from prying eyes. It doesn’t necessarily prevent hackers or nefarious individuals from accessing data. Rather, encryption prevents these unauthorized users from reading and, therefore, using the data. As a result, dull disk encryption can help small businesses improve the security of their data.

What Is Full Disk Encryption?

Encryption refers to the use of software to encrypt data. When encryption software is executed, it converts the otherwise readable data into unreadable code consisting of uppercase letters, lowercase letters, numbers and special characters.

There are over a half-dozen algorithm standards used to encrypt data, some of which include the following:

  • DES
  • AES
  • RSA
  • SHA 1
  • Blowfish
  • MD5

Full disk encryption, as the name suggests, is an IT process that involves encrypting all the data on a specific disk drive. From large program files to temporary internet files and cookies, all data on the respective drive is encrypted. The only thing that’s not encrypted with full disk encryption is the master boot record (MBR).

Why Should I Use Full Disk Encryption?

Full disk encryption is a simple and effective way to protect your stored data from prying eyes. After running the encryption software, all the data on your specified drive will be converted into human-unreadable code.

If your computer is lost or stolen — or if it’s infiltrated or hijacked by a hacker — you can rest assured knowing that your data is secure. Without the corresponding key, the hacker can’t read your data.

How to Perform Full Disk Encryption

To perform full disk encryption, you’ll need to use encryption software that’s capable of encrypting all the data on a specific drive. If your computer runs Windows 10 Professional, it should come with BitLocker installed, which is Microsoft’s full disk encryption software. BitLocker uses AES encryption to lock down your computer’s data, ensuring that only you — or someone with access to your account — can decipher your computer’s data.

You can find BitLocker by accessing Control Panel > System and Security > Bitlocker Drive Encryption. From here, you can change your preferences, including which drives or drives you’d like the software to encrypt.

Even if your computer uses a different operating system (OS), you can still perform a dull disk encryption. You’ll just have to download and use an external encryption program. For a complete list of encryption programs, check out this Wikipedia article.