[2024 Guide] How to Encrypt External Hard Drive in Windows 11

Wondering how to encrypt external hard drive Windows 11? This comprehensive tutorial provides you with step-by-step guide to password protecting external hard drive on Windows 11. Windows Home users can resort to a third-party encrypting program to protect their drives.


By Phoebe / Updated on March 26, 2024

Share this: instagram reddit

Can you password protect external hard drive Windows 11?

External hard drives are convenient data storage devices that can be moved between computers to transfer sensitive data and provide users with additional storage capacity for file backup. External hard drives, especially USB drives, have become a necessity for data storage considering their cost-effectiveness and portability compared to other fixed data drives and portable SSDs.

The longer you use your external hard drive, the more data is stored on it, and the more important it is to keep your files safe. In this situation, many users are looking for ways to safeguard their private data. Password is one of the most common options.

So the question is: Can you password protect an external hard drive in Windows 11? The answer is yes! If you want to encrypt external hard drive Windows 11 with password, BitLocker is a free but powerful encryption feature from Microsoft for device encryption Windows 11. You can protect your device by encrypting your entire hard drive using a password or smart card. In this way, your system and files are protected from unauthorized access, such as hacking and malware.

However, BitLocker device encryption is only supported in Windows Pro (except Windows 7 Pro), Enterprise, and Education editions, not available in Windows 11/10 Home editions. So how do you password protect external hard drive without BitLocker?

Don't worry, you can use a third-party encryption tool instead. To encrypt external hard drive on Windows 11 Home, move directly to the Way 2.

How to encrypt external hard drive Windows 11

This section will cover two useful ways for Windows 11 encrypt external hard drives: 1. Using the Windows built-in encryption tool (especially for Windows Pro/Enterprise/Education users); 2. Using third-party encryption software (especially for Windows Home users). Each method includes detailed illustrated steps.

Way 1. Encrypt external hard drive Windows 11 with BitLocker

Password protect external hard drive Windows 11 with BitLocker is a little complex, please follow the steps carefully to turn on BitLocker Windows 11 on your computer. Before proceeding, make sure your PC meets the requirements below:

▶ Your PC is running Windows 11 Pro, Education, or Enterprise.

▶ Your computer has Trusted Platform Module (TPM) 2.0 version or higher.

▶ There must be at least two partitions on your device.

▶ You must log in using an administrator account.

▶ The PC motherboard should be configured in UEFI mode.

Step 1. Connect the external hard drive to your computer. Navigate to Start > Settings > Storage > Advanced storage settings > Disks & volumes.


Step 2. Locate the external drive you want to encrypt. Click Properties > Turn on BitLocker.


Step 3. Under the BitLocker Drive Encryption section, find your drive, and click Turn on BitLocker.


Step 4. Choose a way to unlock this external hard drive: via password or smart card. Here we select password. Enter your password twice and click Next.

Tip: Do not forget your password. It will be asked to authenticate when you use the BitLocker function on your drives.


Step 5. Select a way to back up the Bitlocker recovery key: via Microsoft account, a file, or recovery key. Here we select Microsoft account as an example and click Next.

Tip: If you choose a file or printing recovery key here, please keep the information safe.


Step 6. Choose a way to encrypt your external drive: Encrypt used disk space only or Encrypt entire drive. Here we take Encrypt used disk space as an example. Then click Next.


Step 7. Choose an encryption mode: New encryption mode or Compatible mode. Here we select Compatible mode. Then click Next.


Step 8. After reading the notes. click Start encrypting.


Step 9. Follow the dialog to confirm the download process and encrypt external hard drive Windows 11. When the process is completed, click Close.

Now you have successfully password protected external hard drive in Windows 11. You can go to File Explore to see whether your drive has been locked.

Way 2. Encrypt external hard drive with BitLocker alternative (for Home users)

As previously stated, BitLcoker is not available on Windows Home editions. If you're installing Windows 11/10/8/7 Home edition, use a third-party BitLocker alternative to how to encrypt external hard drive Windows 11.

AOMEI Partition Assistant Professional is a versatile and robust Windows partition manager. It features a sophisticated BitLocker function and is compatible with all versions of Windows 11/10/8/8.1/7, including Home editions.

It not only allows Home users to encrypt USB flash drives, external hard drives, and internal hard drives but it also enables users of Windows higher versions to undertake effective BitLocker management tasks such as backing up recovery keys, unlocking/locking, turning on/off, or changing BitLocker passwords.

To get started, you may download a free demo version.

Free DownloadWin 11/10/8.1/8/7
Secure Download
Tip: Windows Server users who want to encrypt data drives can download the Server Edition.

Step 1. Connect the external hard drive to your computer. Install and start the AOMEI Partition Assistant Professional.

Step 2. Navigate to Tools > BitLocker in the main interface.


Step 3. You can see all drives on the computer, including operating system drives, fixed data drives, and removable drives. Find the external hard drive and click Turn on BitLocker.

Note: You can only encrypt NTFS partitions.


Step 4. In the following window, set and confirm your password. Click Next.


Step 5. Choose a way to back up the recovery key: Save to a file or Print the recovery key.


Step 6. If you want to Save to a file, pick a location to save your recovery key. Then, click Next to start the encryption process.

Tip: Do not save the recovery key in the encrypted drive path or you cannot find the recovery key if you cannot access this encrypted drive.


Tip: Encrypting system drive requires you to restart the computer to enter into the Windows PE environment.

Step 7. When the encryption process is finished, click Completed.


Final words

It is important to encrypt external hard drive Windows 11 for data security. Users running Windows higher versions can enable BitLocker to lock an external hard drive with a password or smart card. Windows Home users can use AOMEI Partition Assistant Professional as the best alternative.

This program also allows you to resize encrypted partitions without losing data, move installed programs to free up space in the C drive, format encrypted hard drives without a password, and clone BitLocker encrypted hard drives for data backup.

FAQs on BitLocker Windows 11

Q1. Can BitLocker encrypt an external hard drive?

Yes, you can use BitLocker to encrypt external hard drives, and the process is rather simple. But BitLocker drive encryption is only available for Windows 10 or 11 Pro, Enterprise, and Education. Windows Home users can pick AOMEI Partition Assistant as an alternative.

Q2. How do I encrypt an external hard drive in Windows 11 Home?

You can use a third-party encryption tool to encrypt an external hard drive in Windows 11 Home as BitLocker is not available for Windows Home editions.

Q3. How do I access my external hard drive with BitLocker?

You can unlock and access your external hard drive with the password in File Explore:

Step 1. Right-click on My Computer or This PC to open File Explorer.

Step 2. Find the encrypted external hard drive.

Step 3. Right-click on the drive, enter your password, and click Unlock.

If you forgot your password, click More options. Enter your recovery key as an alternative.

Phoebe · Staff Editor
Phoebe, an editor at AOMEI Technology, is dedicated to offering optimal solutions for Windows-related concerns, specializing in partition management, disk upgrades, data recovery, and more. During her free time, she enjoys indulging in reading, watching movies, and exploring her passion for cooking.