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Windows 8.1 Automatically Encrypts Hard Drive Data

Windows 8.1 Automatically Encrypts Hard Drive Data
Windows 8.1 is the latest version of Microsoft’s operating system and comes with some new features. One of these is the fact that your hard drive is now automatically encrypted by the system, helping protect your data.

Previous modern Windows operating systems included BitLocker in the Professional and Enterprise editions. Windows RT and Windows Phone also had a tool called Device Encryption. However, now inbuilt encryption is available to everyone and it’s enabled by default.

Encrypting your drive ensures that the data on your system is better protected. It puts up a strong security layer should a malicious user be attempting to access your data, whether on the same system or installing the drive elsewhere. Encryption protects the operating system drive and any fixed data using AES 128-bit. All of this will be run in the background and you won’t have to do anything differently to how you did before. There shouldn’t be any noticeable change in performance either.

Windows 8.1’s drive encryption will only be automatically enabled providing a few conditions are true. Firstly, the system must support “connected standby and meet the Windows Hardware Certification Kit for TPM and SecureBoot”. If you have an old Windows system then this feature will be incompatible. If you’ve got a modern system, perhaps one that came with Windows 8 preinstalled, then this will already be enabled.

Secondly, the user of the computer must login with a Microsoft account that has administrator privileges or join the computer to a domain. A recovery key will be stored on Microsoft’s services for the former, while the latter will have a key backed up to the Active Directory Domain Services. As such, logging in with a local user account won’t enable encryption.

If you’re using an old computer that has been upgraded to Windows 8.1 then you might find that encryption is not supported. On the other hand, even if it is supported, it will be turned off by default and you’ll need to enable it.

To enable drive encryption you will need to navigate to ‘PC info’. To do so, open up your PC settings by swiping in from the right or pressing Windows Key + C. From here, click ‘Settings’ and then ‘Change PC settings’. Next, click ‘PC & devices’ and then ‘PC info’. You will see that the ‘Device Encryption’ section is at the bottom of this page. From here, simply select ‘Turn On’.

It is possible to turn off drive encryption, but this isn’t really advisable unless you wish to use a different encryption program. To turn it off, simply follow the above steps but select ‘Turn Off’ at the end. However, encryption cannot be turned off on Windows RT systems.

This is a great new feature from Microsoft and will hopefully mean that the average user is now better protected, even if they don’t realise it. Data security is a constant issue and having encryption turned on by default will surely stop a lot of potential trouble occurring down the line.

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