How to Password-Protect a USB Drive

Tools to secure your flash drive on Windows and Mac

Keeping files stored on a USB drive is generally safer than uploading them to the cloud. For extra security, you should know how to password-protect a flash drive or SD card in case it ever gets stolen or lost.

Instructions in this article apply to Windows and macOS. Chrome OS does not support USB encryption.

Install a USB Drive Password Protection Tool

If you're using macOS, you don't have to use any third-party encryption tools. Starting with Mojave (10.14), USB drive encryption is built into the Finder utility. Before you can password-protect your USB drive on Windows, you'll need to install one of the following tools:

  • Rohos Mini Drive: Rohos creates a separate encrypted drive on a USB drive.
  • USB Safeguard: This app lets you add password protection to your private files.
  • VeraCrypt: This open-source encryption tool is available for Windows, macOS, and Linux.
  • SafeHouse Explorer: This file explorer tool lets you use passwords and 256-bit encryption to secure files on any drive.

While there is no version of Rohos Mini Drive for Chromebooks, you can download the program on Windows and use it to encrypt your Google Chrome profile.

How to Password-Protect a USB Drive on Windows

Many USB encryption tools will encrypt the entire drive so that it's inaccessible without a password. Rohos Mini Drive, however, adds an extra encrypted drive to the USB. That way, you can use the non-encrypted space for regular files and save the password-protected drive for sensitive data only. To encrypt a USB drive using Rohos:

  1. Insert the USB drive into your computer. When the computer detects the USB drive, it'll be mapped as a new drive in Windows Explorer.

    Attaching a USB stick to a computer
  2. Launch Rohos Mini Drive and select Encrypt USB drive.

    Encrypt USB drive on Rohos Mini Drive main screen
  3. Set the password you want to use to encrypt your drive and select Create disk.

    Set the password you want to use to encrypt your drive and select Create disk
  4. You'll see a pop-up window as the software creates the encrypted drive. When the process is completed, you'll see a confirmation message.

    Screenshot of password protecting a USB drive
  5. The new drive will appear in your This PC folder alongside your other drives (not within the USB folder itself). Move the files you wish to protect from the USB drive into the new encrypted drive.

    Transferring files to encrypt them
  6. Remove the flash drive. You will see the original drive and the encrypted drive disappear from your This PC folder.

  7. To access your encrypted files in the future, open the USB drive on any computer and select the Rohos Mini executable file, then enter the password you created.

    Rohos Mini exe file

How to Encrypt a USB Drive on Mac

Password protecting your USB drives on a Mac is even easier since the feature is available in the Finder utility:

  1. To encrypt a USB drive with Finder, the drive needs to be formatted as GUID Partition Map only. If you need to reformat the USB drive, just temporarily copy all of the files to your Mac and use Disk Utility to erase and reformat the drive. In the Scheme pop-up menu, select GUID Partition Map.

  2. Open Finder and right-click the USB drive icon, then select Encrypt [drive name].

    The "Encrypt Drive" command
  3. Enter the password you want to use to encrypt the USB drive and verify the password. You can also add a hint to help remember the password later.

    Password and hint
  4. Select Encrypt Disk to complete the encryption process.

    Encrypt Disk button

How to Password-Protect an SD Card

If you want to password-protect an SD card used for cameras or other devices, the process is essentially the same. If your computer doesn't have an SD slot, you'll need an external USB flash card reader. Once you insert the card into your computer, the computer will mount it as another drive, just like it does when you insert a regular USB stick. You can then use any of the utilities mentioned above to add password protection.

If you add password protection to an SD card, it will no longer work in a digital camera. Encryption is only intended for drives you use to store data.