Bitlocker is built into Windows 10 Professional, Enterprise and Education editions. The Windows 10 Home edition does not support Bitlocker. However, there are third-party tools that function exactly like Bitlocker and can be used on any version and edition of Windows 10.
Bitlocker is a software-based encryption tool that encrypts and protects user data on the hard drive, as well as any USB flash drives you wish to encrypt. The storage can only be unlocked using alpha-numeric code initially created by the user themselves.
The algorithm also creates a unique Bitlocker Recovery Key file which can be saved in a secure location, such as on the cloud (using Microsoft account), a different USB drive, or simply a different volume on the same device. The Recovery Key can be used in case the user forgets their password, or the user gets locked out of their device after several incorrect attempts.
There is a long list of device encryption software. Some of them include the following:
- Symantec Endpoint Encryption
- Sophos SafeGuard Encryption
- Dell Data Protection
- ESET Endpoint Encryption
- ServiceNow Now Platform
In this article, we will discuss only the ones that function very similar to Bitlocker and can be categorized as true alternatives to Bitlocker.
M3 Bitlocker for Windows
The M3 Bitlocker Loader is a device encryption tool that can be used both for the hard drives as well as the USB drives, similar to the original Bitlocker.
Once downloaded, execute the package and follow through with the installation guide. When installed, you can use the encryption tool for free for the first 7 days and encrypt volumes of only up to 16 GB, after which a license would need to be purchased.
Select the drive(s) that you wish to encrypt by clicking Encrypt next to it.
Then enter your desired password to encrypt the selected volume, and press Next. Ensure that other software or windows are not using anything from the drive that needs to be encrypted.
It will then ask you to save the Backup Recovery Key to a file, or to print it out. Select one of the options you desire, and the encryption process will begin.
This process will encrypt your device and ask for authentication each time you restart your computer. In the case of a USB, authentication will be required each time it is plugged in.
Reboot the computer if required.
Hasleo Bitlocker Anywhere for Windows
Hasleo Bitlocker Anywhere is another third-party tool that can be used as an alternative for the official Bitlocker by Microsoft.
This is a trial version valid for 15 days, after which a license will need to be purchased.
Once downloaded, execute the package and follow through with the instructions for a successful installation.
When installed, open Hasleo Bitlocker and right-click on the volume you wish to encrypt. Then click Turn on Bitlocker.
Enter your desired password. Under Advanced Settings, check Encrypt used disk space only so that only the data within the volume is encrypted, and the empty space is left as-is.
Check Compatible Mode so that any drives that are encrypted can be used on other computers that are running older versions of Windows 10 (older than Version 1511). Check Use 256-bit encryption to ensure added security with deeper encryption algorithm, as opposed to regular 128-bit encryption. Click Next.
The tool will then ask you to save the Recovery Key to a file or print it out. Choose one of the desired options and click Next to start the encryption process. A reboot will be required.
When the computer is rebooting, you would see a screen similar to the one below:
Click Finish to complete the encryption process, and the device will automatically reboot once more.
To check if the encryption is complete, open up the Windows Explorer and you will find the icon of the encrypted volume similar to the one below:
The Lock symbol over the drive means that the volume is encrypted. Upon trying to enter the volume, a popup would occur asking for a password, which you had previously set to encrypt the volume. Enter the password and click Unlock to access the encrypted data.
VeraCrypt for Windows
VeraCrypt is a free-to-use software encryption tool that has the same functionality as the Microsoft Bitlocker itself. However, although the encryption algorithms and the logic are the same, the layout may be a little different than the ones mentioned above. Lets see how the VeraCrypt works.
The latest version of VeraCrypt can be downloaded from here.
Once the download is complete, click the installation executable file and follow through the installation wizard with the default settings. Click on Finish when the installation is completed.
Once the installation is complete, it is recommended to restart the computer, although not mandatory. Run the VeraCrypt application, click on System at the top, and then click Encrypt System Partition/ Drive.
On the next screen, select Normal and then click Next.
When selecting the Area to Encrypt, choose Encrypt the Windows System Partition if you only wish to encrypt the volume with the Operating System installed. Select Encrypt the Whole Drive if you wish to encrypt the whole hard drive, with all partitions included.
On the next screen, select an option depending upon the number of Operating Systems on the computer that you are about to encrypt. Select Single-boot if the computer only has one OS installed. Select Multi-boot if there are more than one operating systems on the computer.
On the next screen where it asks for Encryption Options, proceed with the default settings.
Set a secure password and then click Next.
On the next screen, you can ignore the collection of random data and move ahead by clicking on Next. Here, the installation wizard will ask you to disable Windows Fast Startup if it is already enabled on your computer.
Windows Fast Startup is enabled by default on all Windows 10 devices. By this, the computer goes into Hibernation Mode instead of a complete shutdown. This enables it to boot up quickly. Having this feature enabled might cause problems with the VeraCrypt. Therefore, it is recommended to disable it when using VeraCrypt.
On the next screen, the installation wizard will ask you to select a location to store the Rescue Disk. A Rescue Disk is used as an alternative for the Recovery Key, and can be used to decipher the device when moved from one device to another, or recover data in case it gets damaged. This will require to burn the ISO image onto a CD or DVD. However, this step can be skipped by checking the Skip Rescue Disk Verification.
When selecting Wipe Mode, continue to click Next with the default settings. On the next screen, click Test to check the settings for device encryption. The computer will need to be restarted at this point.
When the computer is booting after the restart, it will prompt you for the Encryption Password that you had previously set. Press Enter after entering the correct password. It will then ask you for a PIM number. Enter the PIM if you had set one, or leave it blank and press enter if you had previously not selected the respective option upon setup.
Once the computer boots up, the VeraCrypt setup will automatically popup. Click on Encrypt to complete the encryption.
The encryption will start. The time it takes to encrypt the drive will depend upon the size of the volume.
Such software and tools are present on the internet that will mimic the functionalities of the Bitlocker and make your devices more secure.
So which of these tools would you be using? Are you willing to pay for such services?