I’ve often wondered how to go about encrypting a particular file or folder on my computer, but always figured the process to be so daunting as to not bother to ever try. A recent article on the subject in my PC World magazine has shed some light on the matter. I’m going to fill you in on my experience that I’ve gained thus far. Keep in mind that I am not attempting to encrypt the contents of an entire drive, and I am not encrypting data on removable storage devices. I can’t speak to those scenarios in any way at this time.
I reviewed three possibilities for my approach. First, I’m a Mac user and looked into the FileVault encryption that is built into OS X. That solution is very easy, but it wants to encrypt my whole account user folder. In that scenario, logging into the OS decrypts all of the data. I worry that may slow down my computer, and that isn’t what I was going for in the first place.
Second, I researched the popular PGP encryption solutions. Their products all appear to go above and beyond my needs. PGP adds email and instant message encryption to their desktop offering. I don’t need any of that, and PGP’s products are all pretty costly for my taste, ringing in at $99. I’ve heard good things about PGP overall, but I am not looking to spend that kind of money on my project.
Third, and my favorite solution, is a free open-source application called TrueCrypt. TrueCrypt is available for Windows, Mac, and Linux! It’s free and easy to use. You create an encrypted volume that is stored as a single file on your computer. That file can have any file extension you want, or none at all. You can hide it anywhere you like, and the program won’t memorize locations if you ask it not to. Opening the contents of your volume is achieved by mounting the volume, which allows you to use it with a drive letter of its own. Dismounting the volume encrypts all of the data again. I’ve had a wonderful experience using this program. One downside for me is that I wish the program was faster at dismounting my volume, though speed will most certainly vary depending on your system. On my Windows PC, dismounting was nearly instant.
TrueCrypt was definitely the way to go for my needs. The program can also encrypt an entire drive as well. It does exactly what I want it to, with ease. It’s fast, secure, and completely free!