How to protect your external hard drive from intruders

One of the biggest fears that are linked to the use of external hard drives has to do with protecting that external hard drive and its contents from access by people who should not have it. It does not matter if it is due to theft or carelessness, but the truth is that, even being one of the best external hard drives, in the hands of others it is a considerable privacy and security risk.

Luckily, the physical size of hard drives is somewhat larger than that of pen drives, which often remain forgotten connected to the PC until we realize it, but it is also true that when we have our minds on other matters, we can forget this album without noticing it. So as always, prevention is the best tool.

Tools to protect your external hard drive

Currently, there are many applications that we have on the market to encrypt the content of our external hard drives and prevent unwanted access to our data. These applications shield the content using different technologies, so that only the person who has the corresponding key to access it can see its content. Let’s see what programs we have available to achieve that protection.


If you don’t want to have to resort to external programs, starting with Windows 7 and Vista, the BitLocker application is included. A simple tool with which to encrypt the content of any Windows-based device. This encryption can be executed on any unit, easily protecting the content from unwanted access both by means of a password and by using the PC’s own configuration.

This system allows you to unlock the external hard drive by simply connecting it to the computer and without having to do anything else. However, it is true that the encryption is somewhat weaker than expected, since the 128-bit AES encryption system that it includes is not exactly one of the most powerful.

Although to store data that is not excessively dangerous, it may be enough. In any case, you can also resort to other applications outside of Windows, more powerful in their approach and just as easy to use.


Among these applications we have VeraCrypt. An app that is compatible with Windows, Mac OS or Linux, requiring no more than 10 minutes to proceed with the secure encryption of our files. Specifically, we just have to connect the external hard drive to the PC or laptop and start the application. It is key that this disk is empty, as it will be formatted during the process. Next, we will need to select create volume and encrypt the partition.

To do this, we must choose both the volume password and the encryption standard that we want to use, although it is recommended to leave the configuration that is included by default. Once the process is complete, we will only have to upload the files to the device so that they are encrypted correctly. Do not forget that you must have the application installed on those computers where you want to use the device.


Alternatively, we can turn to DiskCryptor. This application offers us the possibility of encrypting all kinds of units, both by means of a password and with additional protection in the form of key files or keys. These files can be in the form of folders or files and, if they are not available, it will not be possible to access the content.

Among its improvements, this program does not decrypt the entire disk to access the files, but rather these can be viewed and modified while the unit is being mounted. It also has a short time to gain access, also quickly unmounting and leaving data unusable until the drive is remounted and authorized.

A process that is also executed automatically in the event of a device restart, so that it will be necessary to decrypt the device again according to the usual procedure to access the data. Furthermore, creating encrypted drives is as easy as selecting the drive in your manager and pressing the encryption button. Once the corresponding options have been chosen, as mentioned, we will already have the unit safe and ready for transfer.

We could continue talking about many more applications, although with these three we consider that the needs of the different profiles and needs that you may have are covered. In case you want to look for another alternative, don’t forget to opt for applications that are easy to use and that offer you an adequate level of encryption for what you need, higher the more sensitive or dangerous the data stored on the hard drive is..

Additional precautions

We have already discussed the security measures with which we can prevent unauthorized access to the content of an external hard drive. But we do not want to close this article without talking about the risks that these tools can have in case we forget the passwords or format the computer, for example.

And it is that as we have commented before, the protection system of these hard drives means that only the person who has created the encryption can decrypt it. Sometimes a password is enough for this, but in some cases the tool may leave a file on the computer or require a key file. And if we lose that key file, it is very possible that we will not be able to recover the contents. So both the password and that key file must be stored with maximum security, in order to avoid losing access to the contents of that hard drive.

Precisely for this reason, it is also highly recommended to always resort to systems that offer us the use of a password or other elements, such as a fingerprint or a physical card to access that external hard drive. These options are always more convenient than those based on the equipment, because when the equipment fails, many times we find ourselves with a hard drive turned into a brick, since we do not have the option to access its content.

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