How to Fix BitLocker Will Not Encrypt USB Drives on Windows Computer

BitLocker will not encrypt USB drives? It’s a common error that prompts on Windows computers. If you also confront this issue on your device, you can read this post to try to fix the problem with some skills.


By Lucas / Updated on February 2, 2024

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In the realm of data security, BitLocker stands as a stalwart guardian, ensuring the confidentiality of your information. However, users occasionally encounter an enigma where BitLocker refuses to encrypt USB drives on Windows computers. This article delves into the causes behind this issue and provides step-by-step solutions to help you protect your privacy on your external drive.

Why BitLocker will not encrypt USB drives?

Normally, to BitLocker encrypt a USB drive, users can use BitLocker To Go. We all know BitLocker is a complete volume encryption capability. Well, BitLocker to go is a feature in Windows 10 Pro and Enterprise that allows you to effortlessly secure and protect your own portable devices, including USB flash drives, external hard drives, SD cards, etc. The gadget is unavailable without the encryption key.

Although BitLocker to Go can encrypt removable drives, just like other tools in Windows, it may also appear errors time to time. One of the issues is that after users turn it on BitLocker does not show for the USB drive. How does this happen?

Here, we find some possible causes that may trigger the BitLocker encrypted USB drive not accessible working recognized problem.

1. Incompatible File System
BitLocker relies on specific file systems for encryption. It can encrypt partitions formatted with the following file systems: FAT, FAT32, exFAT, NTFS. And BitLocker To Go pluses one more: FAT16. If your USB drive sports an incompatible file system, BitLocker will not initiate the encryption process.

2. Incorrect Group Policy Configuration
BitLocker encryption can be thwarted if the Group Policy settings are not configured correctly. Group Policy settings define how BitLocker behaves, and any misconfigurations can lead to it not showing for USB drives.

3. Disabled BitLocker Drive Encryption Service
The BitLocker Drive Encryption service must be running for BitLocker to function correctly. If this service is disabled, it can impede the encryption process.

4. Insufficient Drive Space
BitLocker demands sufficient free space for the encryption process. If your USB drive lacks the requisite space, the encryption will halt. Users must ascertain the available space on their drives before initiating the encryption process.

In addition, some cases also show that active partitions on USB may lead BitLocker encryption failure.

3 ways to solve [Can't encrypt USB drive BitLocker]

Now that we've unraveled the reasons behind BitLocker not showing USB flash drive. No matter what reason that makes your USB drive can’t encrypt BitLocker, the point is to get the USB drive encrypted successfully.

So, in this part, we’ll show you some solutions to fix BitLocker encryption on USB drive or external hard drive by changing some Windows settings.

Way 1. Enable the BitLocker Encryption in Service

If the BitLocker Drive Encryption service is deactivated, the BitLocker encryption may fail. In this situation, activating the previously stated BitLocker service may resolve the issue.

Step 1. Press the Windows key and type in the Windows search: Services. Now, right-click on the result of services, and in the mini-menu, choose Run as Administrator.

Step 2. Right-click on the BitLocker Drive Encryption service and select Start or Restart. Or choose “Properties” to set it to “Automatic” and “Start”.

Start BitLocker Service

Way 2. Edit Group Policy to correct the configuration

If the Group Policy is incorrectly configured to prevent the system from using BitLocker on external devices, you will have the BitLocker not appearing for external hard drive issues.

Step 1. Press Win + R to open the Run dialog. Type gpedit.msc and press Enter to open the Local Group Policy Editor.

Step2. In the Local Group Policy Editor, navigate to Computer Configuration -> Administrative Templates -> Windows Components。

Step3. In the Windows Components folder, expand the BitLocker Drive Encryption folder from the right panel and double-click the Removable Data Drives folder to open it.

Step 4. Select Edit from the context menu when you right-click the Control usage of Bitlocker on removable disks file.

Step 5. In the new window, select the radio button of Enabled, and in the Options section, checkmark both options: ‘Allow Users to Apply BitLocker Protection On Removeable Data Drives’ and ‘Allow Users to Suspend and Decrypt BitLocker Protection On Data Drives’.

BitLocker Group Policy

Now apply your changes and reboot your PC to check if the BitLocker issue is resolved

Way 3. Inactive partitions on USB

Many forum users stated that the BitLocker not detecting external hard drive issue may be resolved by marking the partition on the disk as inactive. If this circumstance describes you, this strategy is worth a go.

Step 1. Type diskpart.exe in the Run box and press Enter.

Step 2. In the pop-up window, type the following commands in order and press Enter after each one to inactive the partition on the USB/external hard drive.

list disk
select disk * (replace * with the disk number of the USB or external hard drive)
list partition
select partition * (replace * with the number of the active partition)

Inactive USB partitions

These three solutions are based on normal causes of BitLocker encryption errors. However, if you can’t fix BitLocker not showing for USB via solving those triggers, then how can we encrypt portable drives?

Alternative Windows Bitlocker management tool to easily encrypt USB drive

Generally, if the above three ways can’t save your USB drives, some others might suggest you reformatting USB drive or do a system restore. But what you need is to protect those data on the target USB drive, cleaning them is not a good choice.

Windows BitLocker tool is not the only tool that can enable BitLocker encryption on your devices. If you need it, you can try third-party utilities, some may unlock more limitations in the system's built-in tool.

Here, we recommend AOMEI Partition Assistant Standard, a versatile Windows devices management tool for Windows 11/10/8/7. This tool carries “BitLocker” function for any users who want to encrypt their privacy. Besides all BitLocker encryption settings in Windows built-in BitLocker, this tool additionally offers a recovery key backup service to prevent password loss. And, what the best is that this tool allows Windows 10/11 Home users and all Windows 7 users to encrypt their drives.

AOMEI Partition Assistant

The Best Windows Disk Partition Manager and PC Optimizer


If your system is Windows Home version or previous versions, you need to upgrade to the Professional edition or other advanced editions you use of this tool to encrypt and manage BitLocker on the target drives.

To ensure the BitLocker encryption is compatible, this tool prepares different modes for you: If this is a removable drive to be used on an earlier version of Windows, you can select Compatible mode during the process, while if this is a fixed drive, or if this drive will only be used on devices running at least Windows 10 (version 1511) or later, select the new encryption mode.

You can flexibly manage drive encryption via personalized settings.

Step 1. Install and launch AOMEI Partition Assistant. Click the "Tools" main tab and select "BitLocker".

Or, right-click the partition you want to encrypt and click the "BitLocker"->"Turn on BitLocker" option in Context Menu.

BitLocker Tool

Step 2. All drives on the system will be displayed, including operating system drives, fixed data drives, and removable drives. Please find the partition you would like to encrypt BitLocker and click the "Turn on BitLocker" option. (Here, we take the drive D: as an example.)

Turn on BitLocker

Step 3. Please set and confirm a password to encrypt the drive and click "Next".

Enter password

Tips: It requires a password combination of 8-256 digits, letters, and symbols, which can be a purely numeric/alphabetic combination (needs to be case-sensitive).
📃 Knowledge base:

• Encrypt used disk space only (faster and best for new PCs and Drives): Checked by default. If you are setting up BitLocker on a new PC or a new drive, you only need to encrypt the part of the drive that is currently being used. And, BitLocker will automatically encrypt the newly-added data.

• Disk encryption compatible mode (suitable for removable data drives):  Checked by default. Windows 10 (version 1511) introduces a new disk encryption mode (XTS-AES). This mode provides heavy integrity support but is not compatible with earlier versions of Windows.

256-bit encryption: Unchecked by default. After checking, depending on whether to select the compatible mode encryption, use AES_256_DIFFUSER, AES_256_NO_DIFFUSER, or AES_XTS_256 mode for encryption.

Step 4. Select a way to back up your recovery key. You can either select "Save to a file" or "Print the recovery key".

Backup  key

💡 Notes:

1. If you select "Save to a file", please choose a location on your PC to save the recovery key.

2. It will generate a TXT file with the name: Bitlocker Recovery Key + 45-bit Key. The recovery file will be saved in the TXT file. You can open the file to view the recovery key. Please keep the file.

3. If you select "Print the recovery key", it will enable the print function on your PC to print the recovery key.

Then, please click the "Next" button to start the encryption process.

Step 5. The encryption procedure may take some time to complete. Please do not close the program, remove the drive, or switch off the power until the operation is complete. Please click "Completed" after the encryption procedure is complete. Finally, the USB device is secured using BitLocker.

To sum up

If you find that BitLocker will not encrypt USB drives, and you can't encrypt USB drives, hope this post inspires you with some ideas to fix this problem. You can try to fix the errors that cause BitLocker encryption to fail in the 3 ways above. If they can’t help you, you can try AOMEI Partition Assistant.

In addition, this handy tool also has many other helpful functions for you to easily and securely manage your devices. If you need to clone the current disk to a larger disk, move large apps to another location without reinstalling, clean junk files and so on disk management, AOMEI Partition Assistant will be your best partner.

Lucas · Staff Editor
I prefer peaceful and quiet life during vacation,but sometimes I watch football match if my favorite club performs brilliantly in that season. And I love reading, painting and calligraphy, thus I send my friends festival handwriting cards every year.