How to Encrypt External Hard Drive on Windows 10 Without BitLocker

Have you ever encountered a situation where you wanted to use BitLocker to encrypt a disk on Windows system, but found that BitLocker was not available? This post tells you about the disadvantages of using BitLocker, and also teaches you how to encrypt external hard drive on Windows 10 without BitLocker.


By Grace / Updated on March 22, 2024

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User case: How to encrypt external hard drive Windows 10 without BitLocker

“I also found that Windows has BitLocker which could encrypt the external hard drive. But I have a Windows 10 Home edition, and apparently, it doesn't come with BitLocker according to this link. How should I encrypt my hard drive then?”


In today's digital age, safeguarding our data is paramount. With the proliferation of USB flash drives and external hard drives as convenient storage solutions, the need for robust security measures has become more pressing than ever. When it comes to password-protecting an external hard drive, most people would recommend the BitLocker utility on Windows computers.

However, not everyone prefers using Windows BitLocker. That’s why so many people on the forums ask how to encrypt external hard drive Windows 10 without BitLocker. The following post will explain the main reasons for not using built-in BitLocker encryption and show you how to encrypt external hard drive without BitLocker.

Why don’t use Windows BitLocker to encrypt external drive?

Although Windows BitLocker secures data security for both internal and external drives, lots of users find it has some limitations to bother the encryption experience. Here, we list four main factors that may bother you:

Accessible on certain Windows editions

BitLocker encryption for external hard drives is exclusively available on specific Windows editions, including Ultimate and Enterprise editions of Windows Vista and Windows 7, Pro and Enterprise editions of Windows 8/8.1/10/11, Education editions of Windows 10/11, as well as Windows Server 2008 and subsequent versions.

A complex password is necessary

When configuring BitLocker for the external hard drive, it's advisable to employ a password containing a mix of uppercase and lowercase letters, numbers, spaces, and symbols. However, such passwords may be challenging to recall.

The process of encryption is time-consuming

Even if you choose to encrypt the utilized space of the disk using BitLocker, it will require a significant amount of time to complete the encryption process. Occasionally, the BitLocker encryption process may become stalled. (Learn more about BitLocker Decryption Stuck.)

The encrypted external hard drive cannot be used once it is locked

If you successfully encrypt the external hard drive using BitLocker, it will automatically unlock when connected to the original computer. However, if you connect it to another Windows computer, it will be locked, preventing you from accessing or storing any data on it.

An easy way to encrypt external hard drive Windows 10 without BitLocker

If you want to break the limitation of Windows inbuilt BitLocker, a robust third-party tool called AOMEI Partition Assistant Professional should be the easiest way to password protect external hard drive without BitLocker.

This software allows users to encrypt their external hard drives or USB drives seamlessly on Windows computers, ensuring the safety of their sensitive data.

Users can swiftly navigate through the encryption process, completing it in just a few minutes. This rapid encryption process minimizes downtime and allows users to secure their data promptly, without unnecessary delays or complications.

One notable advantage of this tool is its compatibility with a broad spectrum of Windows editions and versions. Regardless of the Windows edition you are using, whether it be Windows 10 Home, Pro, or Enterprise, or even older versions like Windows 7 or Windows 8, this tool ensures consistent performance and reliable encryption capabilities.

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Here are the detailed steps:

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


Step 2. The system will show all drives, such as the operating system drives, fixed data drives, and removable drives. Locate the partition you wish to encrypt with BitLocker and select the "Turn on BitLocker" option. (For instance, let's consider drive D: in this case.)


Tip: Currently, it only supports encrypting NTFS partitions. Other partition file systems, for example, FAT or FAT32 cannot be encrypted.

Step 3. Kindly establish and verify a password for encrypting the drive, then proceed by clicking "Next".


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

(1) If you select "Save to a file", please choose a location on your PC to save the recovery key, and ensure to keep this file safe.


Please do not save the recovery key in the encrypted drive path. For example, it is unable to encrypt H: and save the recovery key on the same H: drive.


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 view the recovery key through the file.


(2) 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 process might take time to encrypt the drive. Before the process is finished, please do not terminate the program, remove the drive, or turn off the power. Once the encryption process is finished, please click "Completed". Finally, the drive is BitLocker encrypted.


Following this, the external hard drive becomes encrypted and inaccessible on your computer. Previous data is safeguarded within a secure area, inaccessible until the external hard drive is unlocked using AOMEI.


Please refrain from storing the recovery key in the same location as the encrypted drive. For instance, encrypting the D: drive and saving the recovery key on the D: drive itself is not feasible.

Encrypting only the used disk space only (faster and optimal for new PCs and drives): When configuring BitLocker on a new PC or drive, you simply encrypt the currently utilized portion of the drive. BitLocker will subsequently automatically encrypt any newly added data.


Q: How long does it take to encrypt a 1tb external hard drive?

A: It may take around 20 minutes to 3 hours to encrypt a 1 TB hard drive.

Q: How do I know if my external hard drive is encrypted?

A: In Windows Explorer in the left hand column, click on This PC and on the right hand side you should see a padlock icon on the drives that are encrypted.

Q: Is device encryption necessary?

A: Full disk encryption protects the data on your device in the event it is lost or stolen. Without full disk encryption, if the data drive in the computer is removed, the data can be easily read and accessed.

The Bottom Line

Generally, BitLocker is considered the most reliable and secure encryption method. Only when you use a computer or Windows system that does not support BitLocker, you need to use a professional third-party tool - AOMEI Partition Assistant Professional, which can easily help you securely encrypt external hard drive Windows 10 without BitLocker.

Besides, AOMEI software has more advanced features, such as disk partition, data recovery, app mover and so on, and if you are a windows server user, don’t hesitate to try Server edition.

Grace · Staff Editor
Grace is an Editor of AOMEI Technology. She is good at content creation in disk partition and data storage and she is happy to share her knowledge about computers.