Encrypt Your Computer Files

Edited by Witz Taluban, Eng, Lynn, Doug Collins


In this day and age, computers have become like our best buds in whatever we do, be it a crucial work that is to be urgently completed, such as data analysis or data research, or just fancy laid back watching of videos and surfing in the internet. Nevertheless, when doing these day to day activities we tend to store files on our ever so busy computer. These files can be anything. It could be a video of your son's birthday, financial records, past business transactions, collective memorable pictures, significant passwords, and many more to mention, all of which could be very valuable to you or any person. Now, let me cite a situation in which you find your computer compromised whether to a spyware, virus or an individual/spy sabotage who wishes to extract data from your computer. Do you wish to hand out your data in a relatively easy way? Or you would give the suspect a hard time getting access to your computer files and make them give up by using some kind of protection such as encryption. An astonishing imaginary light bulb would light up your head and would probably ask for the term "encryption". Well, to answer your question, encryption means transforming a piece of information or data in a coded structure in which it will keep itself from unauthorized manipulation or usage and can only be in decoded format once the right key/decryption key or code is executed. Even so, back in the old times, encryption had utterly manifested its presence. Let us cite a good example, World war I and II participants, specifically generals and war leaders, made good use of Morse code to communicate with their squadrons. Morse code is an ingenious invention by Samuel Morse which utilizes tones, clicks and even blinks of light to produce coded information. The coded information is in dashes and dots which have corresponding letters and numbers, and can only be read by a highly trained Morse Code reader. Encryption back then was rather tedious. In this day and age, encryption is rather easy and can be achieved with style and speed. Encryption keeps files intact. Furthermore, encryption keeps almost everything secure. Keeping your computer files secure is a crucial part of data organization.

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File Encryption Methods

There are a lot of methods used to encrypt data and files on your computer. They could range from complex to walk-in-the park (easy) methods. You could opt for the easy one or the hard one, but Hi,, why not utilize both? You could have the best of both worlds.

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General Note on Passwords

Passwords are a combination of characters, both text and numbers, used for encryption. They are utilized to unlock and decode an encrypted file. It is rather important to opt for complex passwords which consist of both uppercase and lowercase characters, combined with numbers and symbols. Length should also be considered - the longer the better. The optimal length is 10-12 characters.

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Encryption through 7zip

  1. 1
    First off you need to download 7zip.
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  2. 2
    Choose the file or folder you want to encrypt, then right-click and add this to 7zip.
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  3. 3
    Consequently you will want to tick or check "AES-256" encryption, and then set your password.
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Encryption through File Extension Manipulation

  1. 1
    This may sound really complicated, but all you need to do is right-click/double click on "My Computer".
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  2. 2
    Press on the menu tab "Tools".
    If it does not show up, you could press "Alt" + "T" on the keyboard.
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  3. 3
    Choose "Folder options".
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  4. 4
    Untick/uncheck "Hide extensions" for known file types.
    You will now see file extensions like .exe if its an executable, .txt if its a text file, and .rar if its an archive file.
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  5. 5
    Now, choose the file you want to encrypt, then press "F2" or right-click "Rename" and change it to whatever extension you want.
    This will make the file and its data scrambled and it will only be readable if you revert to its original extension. This isn't limited to files, documents and archives. You can also do this to your folders. Just rename the folder to .exe or whatever file extension you can think of.
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Encryption Via Embedded Microsoft Encryption Software

Fortunately there are additional encryption features embedded on Windows operating systems such as Windows Enterprise or Professional editions. Windows operating systems which do not comprise of "Enterprise and Professional" editions would miss out on the said additional features. You will also need to have "Trusted platform module" enabled if you want to integrate and utilize the thumb drive and USB hard drive encryption.

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  1. 1
    Bit Locker.
    It is a built-in encryption tool that has the capability to secure entire hard drives and thumb drives (USB).  
    1. How to enable Bit Locker. Press the "Windows" button + "R" and type in "control panel". Proceed to press "Security" and choose "Bit locker Drive Encryption" and press "turn on bitlocker". A setup wizard will appear, and of of course administrator rights are required. Enter your password for authentication. Thoroughly follow the instructions on the setup wizard.
    2. Disable/Suspend Bit Locker. Proceed to Control Panel > Security > Bit Locker Encryption Drive. If you want to temporarily disable or suspend the bit locker encryption, press "Suspend Protection" and confirm. If you want to disable and decrypt the entire drive choose the settings "Turn off Bit Locker" and "Decrypt Drive".
    3. Integrate Bit Locker for your Universal Serial Bus(USB) Thumb Drive. Insert your thumb drive to any universal serial bus (USB) port. Wait for the USB prompt. Close the prompt. Proceed to the usual bit locker control panel and on the bottom section choose the "Bit Locker To Go" option and "Yes" to turn it on.
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  2. 2
    Encrypting File System (EFS).
    Encrypting File System is a straight forward encrypting option which could encrypt files and folders separately. It consists of a few easy steps.  
    1. Choose and right-click on any file or folder. Choose the "Properties", then choose "Advanced", which appears on the General tab. Allow the option "Encrypt contents to secure data" selection. The primary advantage of this type of encryption is it makes the encryption in one go. As it manages the encryption with your current administrator password, but the files will only be encrypted on your computer, assuming the files stay on your computer. But as soon as the file is transferred or shared via the internet, you will need a stronger or other mode of encryption.
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Encryption Via Free Tools

  1. 1
    Truecrypt has the capability to encrypt single file, multiple folders and even the whole hard drive. It even promotes file stenography and makes your files hidden from prying eyes. Moreover, it has many modes of encryption and encryption key methods applicable all in a newbie friendly manner.  
    1. How to Create Virtually Encrypted Disks via Truecrypt.  
      1. Download and install truecrypt.
      2. Execute truecrypt application. You will see a bunch of letters on truecrypt's window form. These are virtual disks which you could store confidential information which you would want to protect.
      3. Press "Create Volume" and choose "Create an encrypted file container" then proceed to the next step by pressing the "Next" button.
      4. Keep the standard default option which is "Standard TrueCrypt volume" then proceed to the next step by pressing the "Next" button.
      5. Press "Select File" button and choose a location where you would place the encrypted file container. Name it to whatever you want. Then press save and proceed to the next step by pressing the "Next" button. You would land on another option but choose the default option and press next button again.
      6. You will have the option to choose the size of your container, choose the optimum size which would fit your needs. Proceed to the next step by pressing the "Next" button. Afterwards, choose and password for the following criteria "encryption" and "decryption". Carry on the the next step. Press the "Next" button.
      7. You will come to a fancy option which enables you to change the volume settings you could either modify or leave this as is. From here you would be able to modify the cryptographic strength, Place your mouse and drag randomly at least three(3) to four(4) times possibly to randomize the encryption/decryption key even more. Proceed to press the "Format" button to create the newly encrypted file container.
    2. How to utilize the encrypted file container. You should Mount it as a drive. Choose the drive letter on the truecrypt window form and choose the file container and proceed to mount, by pressing the "Mount" button. Input the right password and press "OK".
    3. How to encrypt your entire hard drive using TrueCrypt. This method would further add an extra layer of security for your system and file security. Obliterating future intrusions on your system which would compromise your crucial files.  
      1. Assuming you already have installed and executed the truecrypt application. Proceed to "Create Volume" --> tick "Encrypt the system partition or entire system drive" option --> of course choose and tick "Encrypt the whole drive".
      2. From here, you would have the option to choose single-boot or multi-boot. Choose one of the two, but assuming you are running on only one Operating system(OS) tick "Single boot". After pressing the "Next" button you will arrive on encryption settings. Leave these settings on default if you aren't an advanced user press "Next" button. Choose a password to your liking remember the tip I gave you earlier about passwords.
      3. Randomize data and key generation. You will arrive at a form in which you need to move your mouse over the truecrypt window form and randomly move your mouse from any direction within the form. More mouse movement equals more random data generation. This would result on stronger encryption. Proceed to next form section and leave this by default and continue.
      4. Creating rescue disks and burn to a Compact disc. You would arrive at a option to create a rescue disk. This step is best describe as crucial and mandatory. Why? If your system fails to boot or may be maligned with certain virus attack, you will always have a the option to decode or decrypt the modified system. Press the "Browse" button and navigate to where you want to save the ISO file preferably on the desktop. Proceed and save as ".ISO". Following the dialog saying "file was created successfully". You could now burn the ISO file into a CD or if you now how to create a bootable USB that would load up the ISO that would be fairly convenient but that would be another story. Moving on, use a software which has the ability to burn or embed the ISO for later use on a compact disc such as nero or a common freeware which is Imgburn. The CD must be blank of course, execute the application and press the "Write image file to disc". Proceed to browse for the ISO file and finally press the "Write" button. Wait for the software to process the CD burn. When it is done leave the newly modified CD on the CD drive as truecrypt would be using it for back up purposes. Press on the "Next" button and truecrypt would verify the disc afterwards.
      5. Test Runs and Boot ups. As in any other area test runs are important on identifying if the something is really working. Just like if you would like to buy a car you will want to test drive it first. Same goes for truecrypt's meticulous yet newbie friendly encryption. The test run is rightfully called "Pretest". From the pretest menu you would be given the option to either "Wipe" files or leave the drive as is. Boot ups pertains to the installation of the boot loader the your hard drive's boot sector.Now, press the "Test" button and let truecrypt pretest everything before the actual encryption. If it prompts you to restart abide by simply clicking the "Yes" button. You would arrive at a boot screen asking for your password. Input the password you created a while ago. You'll know if the pretest is successful if you chance upon "Pretest Completed" window form. And then an Information window would pop out just press the "OK" button.
      6. Encryption phase a dance to the last song. Finally, I would like to congratulate you for reaching this step which utterly mean that you followed the steps thoroughly. You will now be brought to a window form which would enable you to "actually" encrypt your hard drive. I know your itching to press the "Encrypt" button, do as you please. Wait for it to finish its thing. Hard drive encryption would largely depend on the number of files stored and programs installed on your hard drive.
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  2. 2
    This free utility software allows you to encrypt your entire hard drive without the mandatory option to format it.  
    1. How to install and use Diskcryptor.  
      1. Download diskcryptor from the official website. Run the diskcryptor application--> choose the desired partition to encrypt--> Choose and leave the settings as is and proceed to encryption after you input your desired password.
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Article Info

Categories : Application

Recent edits by: Lynn, Eng, Witz Taluban

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