Securing your business’s sensitive data is hugely important in this age where desktop and laptop theft is sadly commonplace, and certain versions of Windows offer a free way to do this.

It’s called BitLocker, and it encrypts entire drives so that if your PC is stolen, the thieves can’t access your files. Encryption is a method of encoding data in such a way that it cannot be read without the proper decode key.

To make use of BitLocker, you will need Windows 7 Ultimate/8.1 Pro/ 8.1 Enterprise/Windows 10 Pro/Enterprise.

Step 1

BitLocker How To Step 1

Press the Windows Key on your keyboard and type “bitlocker”. Press Enter. This begins the BitLocker setup procedure.

Step 2

BitLocker How To Step 2

Choose the drive you would like to encrypt from the list generated by Windows by clicking “Turn on BitLocker” next to the appropriate drive letter.

Step 3

BitLocker How To Step 3

Choose whether to unlock the drive with a password or Smart Card and enter the appropriate information. Always remember to make passwords long and difficult to guess to minimise the chances of hackers compromising them.

Step 4

BitLocker How To Step 4

Choose how to store your recovery key; the options are to print it out, or save it to a text file. This step is highly recommended, as without a recovery key you will forever be locked out of your encrypted drive should you forget its BitLocker password. Should you choose to print it out, make sure to keep it in a safe place. Like a safe.

Step 5

BitLocker How To Step 5

Click Start Encryption. The time taken to encrypt depends on the size of the drive being encrypted. Our test drive, a 4GB memory stick, took around 40 minutes to encrypt on a PC that didn’t have a TPM – a Trusted Platform Module, also known as a cryptoprocessor, which would have sped the process up.

Note: A TPM is not necessary to use BitLocker, but having one (as most business laptops do) does speed the encoding and decoding process up.

Step 6

BitLocker How To Step 6

Once encryption has completed, you’ll need to enter the password/PIN number you chose or swipe your Smart Card every time you want to access your BitLocker-encrypted drive.

And you’re done

This simple technique is enough to provide some much-needed peace of mind and an affordable way to secure your sensitive data for free using a feature built right into Windows.

Deon got his first taste of PC gaming at the tender age of 11 when his father bought an 8088 XT, ostensibly to "help him with his homework". Instead, it introduced him to Leisure Suit Larry, King Graham, Sonny Bonds and many more, and Deon has been a PC gamer and hardware enthusiast ever since. He landed his first professional writing gig in 2006 at a prestigious local PC magazine, a very happy happenstance as he got to write for a living about things he loves - tech, PCs, gaming, and everything in between. He's been writing about it all ever since, and loves every minute of it.