How to unlock a BitLocker encrypted flash drive in Windows

Protecting the data on your flash drive or USB memory stick with BitLocker drive encryption is a smart move to ensure that your information is not available to anyone who gets their hands on your drive. While it does take a while to encrypt the data, after the initial setup, you will have no trouble using the encrypted drive. All you have to do to access the data on your USB memory stick is to enter the password you configured. Here’s how:

NOTE: BitLocker is available in the Enterprise and Ultimate editions of Windows 7, and also in the Pro and Enterprise editions of Windows 8.1 and Windows 10. This guide covers all modern version of Windows. All you have to do is scroll to the section that is appropriate to the Windows version that you are using.

How to unlock a flash drive that is encrypted with BitLocker, in Windows 10 and Windows 8.1

The procedure involved in Windows 10 and Windows 8.1 for decrypting a USB memory stick that is encrypted with BitLocker To Go is the same with very few and minor visual differences. To keep this guide shorter, we use screenshots taken in Windows 10.

First of all, plug the encrypted USB memory stick into your Windows 10 or Windows 8.1 computer or device. If AutoPlay is enabled, you receive a notification saying that this drive is BitLocker-protected. Click or tap on it.

If you don’t see this notification, open File Explorer, go to This PC and double-click or double-tap on the USB drive that you have connected.

You are shown a prompt and asked to enter the password to unlock the drive. Type the password that you have set when encrypting the drive with BitLocker To Go. Click or tap Unlock and you are done.

You can now use your drive just like any other memory stick.

How to unlock an encrypted flash drive in Windows 7

In Windows 7, things are a bit different. After you plug in the encrypted USB memory stick, if AutoPlay is enabled, you receive a notification saying that this drive is protected by BitLocker Drive Encryption. You are also asked to enter the password for unlocking the drive. Type the password and press Unlock.

If you don’t see the notification above, open Windows Explorer, go to Computer and double click on the encrypted removable drive.

Now you see the previous notification, and you can unlock the drive.

How to automatically unlock a BitLocker encrypted flash drive in Windows 10 and Windows 8.1

If you use your encrypted memory stick mostly on the same computer, it might be annoying to enter the password each time. For convenience, BitLocker offers you the option to unlock your encrypted drive, just on your PC, automatically. When you enable this feature, you will have to enter the password only when you connect the encrypted flash drive on another computer. Here’s how it is done, both in Windows 10 and Windows 8.1:

When you see the prompt to enter the unlock password, click or tap More options. Then you see a checkbox which says “Automatically unlock on this PC.” Type the unlock password, check “Automatically unlock on this PC” and press Unlock.

Another way is to unlock the BitLocker encrypted flash drive and then open the Control Panel. Go to System and Security and then to BitLocker Drive Encryption. You see a list with all the drives in your Windows computer and their BitLocker encryption status.

Go to your encrypted drive and see the options that you have available. One of them says: “Turn on auto-unlock.” Click or tap on it to enable this feature.

NOTE: If you don’t see the auto-unlock options, it means that you have not unlocked the encrypted memory stick. Unlock it and try again.

How to automatically unlock a BitLocker encrypted flash drive in Windows 7

If you use your encrypted flash drive mostly on the same computer, it is annoying to enter the password each time you need to use it. For convenience, BitLocker offers you the option to unlock your encrypted drive, just on your PC, automatically. When you enable this feature, you will have to enter the password only when you connect the encrypted flash drive on another computer. Here’s how it is done in Windows 7:

When you see the prompt to enter the unlock password, type the password and then check the option which says: “Automatically unlock on this computer from now on.” Then, press Unlock.

You can also enable this feature from the Control Panel, by going to System and Security and then to BitLocker Drive Encryption. Look for your encrypted USB memory stick and click Manage BitLocker.

A window opens with several options. Choose: “Automatically unlock this drive on this computer.”

That’s it!

Do you use BitLocker To Go to protect your removable flash drives?

People and companies who work with sensitive or private data should consider using BitLocker to encrypt the USB memory sticks or flash drives that they use to transfer data between computers and devices. BitLocker not only makes it easy to encrypt any USB memory stick but also makes it easy to unlock it if you know the encryption password. Apply our instructions and see how well they work for you. Also, before you close this tutorial, let us know whether you use BitLocker To Go and what your experience is in working with encrypted removable drives.