BitLocker To Go Tutorial: Using the Auto-Unlock Feature for USB Drive Encryption

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For BitLocker To Go encryption to be effective, you need to choose a complex password. For users who frequently move data between computers, the extra effort of entering the BitLocker password argues for the use of a simple, easy-to-enter password. Thus, the convenience factor often degrades the strength of encryption.

Microsoft evidently considered users’ convenience and integrated an auto-unlock option that allows the drive to unlock automatically when inserted into designated computers, eliminating the need for a password. This means you are free to choose a highly secure password without being burdened by its complexity.

The added benefit is you needn’t worry about forgetting the password. This best-of-all-worlds scenario optimizes convenience while ensuring maximum security for your data during transit.

There are two ways to configure the auto-unlock feature in Windows 8 Pro and Enterprise. The first is simply an option you select during the authentication process. If you overlooked this option, you can enable auto-unlock via the BitLocker manager. In either case, you need to repeat the procedure on each computer on which you want to unlock the USB drive automatically.

Enabling Auto-Unlock During Authentication

Insert the USB drive and double-click the encrypted drive in File Explorer to open the authentication dialog. Enter your password, but don’t click Unlock yet.

Click More Options to view additional options, including selecting Auto-Unlock and using a recovery key.

Check Automatically Unlock on This PC.

Click Unlock to unlock the drive. The next time you insert the USB flash drive, you won’t need to enter its password.

Enabling Auto-Unlock with BitLocker’s Manager

Insert the encrypted USB flash drive and unlock it.

Open the Control Panel (press Win-X and click Control Panel), click System and Security and select BitLocker Drive Encryption to open the manager.

Click the USB drive listed in the Removable Data Drives – BitLocker To Go section to expand the options list.

Click Turn on Auto-Unlock to enable the feature. You don’t need to enter a password, because you previously authenticated the drive. Once enabled, this option turns into Turn off Auto-Unlock. Selecting this option disables auto-unlock for your current computer.