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How to protect your files and folders with highly secure encryption software

Inside This Article
1. Protect files and folders with file container
2How to use a file container (volume file) with TrueCrypt

Protect files and folders with file container

Have you ever wondered how you could safely protect a few folders and all files in these folders? You may have tried to zip these folders and files into one single file with password protection - let me tell you, there are better ways to do it. In this article, we'll go through the steps to encrypt your folders and files with free and open source encryption software TrueCrypt.

Here is an overview of how to use TrueCrypt to protect files and/or folders:

  1. Create a password protected volume file.
  2. Mount the volume file to a drive letter on your computer
  3. Open the mounted file and it opens a new disk drive in Windows Explorer
  4. Move or copy & paste your files and/or folders into this new disk. In the background, TrueCrypt encrypts and saves everything in the single volume file.
  5. Dismount the mounted disk and your files and/or folders are now in one single volume file and are securely encrypted.

Point 1 above is covered in this tutorial. Point 2-5 are covered in next tutorial - How to use volume file.

Steps to create a password protected volume file (file container) TrueCrypt can create a storage area called volume. If the volume is used to store files and/or folders, the volume is known as file-hosted volume or file container. Once created, the container behaves as a standard disk device and you can open it in Windows explorer and it works the same way as a normal folder.

Note that, the term volume file and file container can be used interchangeably.

Step #1: Open TrueCrypt to create a new volume.

Open TrueCrypt and click Create Volume button on TrueCrypt's main window. This will open up TrueCrypt Volume Creation Wizard.

Using TrueCrypt to create a new volume

Below is TrueCrypt Volume Creation Wizard window. The first option (Create a file container) is automatically selected and I'm going to use it to create a 600 MB empty file container on my USB thumb drive.

Click button Next to continue to next window in the wizard.

TrueCrypt Volume Creation Wizard

Step #2: Choose the type of volume to create.

There are two types of volumes. Standard volume is the default one and is the one we need. Hidden volume is for advanced users and you can explore its usage after you become familiar with TrueCrypt in general.

Click button Next to continue to next window in the wizard.

Choose the type of TrueCrypt volume to create

Step #3: Create a volume file.

TrueCrypt names this step as Volume Location and you can see a button Select File on this window. This is, in my opinion, a little bit confusing to beginners. What TrueCrypt will do in this step is actually create a single volume file that can be used to hold folders and files. Click the button Select File.

Create a volume file

After clicking the button Select File, the file selection window is opened and you can either create a new volume file or select an existing file to be the volume file. Note that, when you select an existing file, the file will be deleted and a new file with the same name will be created.

As you see below, I selected my USB thumb drive (Removable Disk (F:)) and typed in a file name container.html. This is the file name I want to use for my volume file. You can name your volume file anything you like but TrueCrypt recommends you remove the file extension or use .raw, .iso, .img, .dat, or .rnd instead.

After the volume file is created, it can be mounted by TrueCrypt and can be used like a real folder in Windows - that's why it's called file container. Then you will be able to move your the files (and folders) into it. TrueCrypt will save everything in the single volume file (in my case container.html).

Select the location you want to save the new volume file and then enter a file name. After done, click Save to continue.

Create a volume file

After clicking Save, you are taken back to Volume Location window and the volume file name is displayed. Now, click Next to continue to next window in the wizard.

Volume file is named

Note that, after Next button is clicked, you may see a warning window showing text as below. Click Yes if you are not concerned about it.

We strongly recommend that inexperienced users create a TrueCrypt file container on the selected device/partition, instead of attempting to encrypt the entire device/partition.

When you create a TrueCrypt file container (as opposed to encrypting a device or partition) there is, for example, no risk of destroying a large number of files. Note that a TrueCrypt file container (even though it contains a virtual encrypted disk) is actually just like any normal file. Therefore, it can be, for example, easily renamed, moved, or copied as any normal file.

A device-hosted TrueCrypt volume can be created within a hard disk partition, solid-state drive, USB memory stick, and other storage devices.

WARNING: Note that the partition/device will be formatted and all data currently stored on it will be lost (you can prevent this only if you select the partition/drive where Windows is installed and from which it boots).

Step #4: Choose encryption options.

This step lets you choose what encryption algorithm and hash algorithm you want to use for data encryption in the volume file. For basic use, you don't need to change any options on this window. Click button Next to continue.

Choose encryption options

Step #5: Specify the size of the volume file.

The size of the file container will be determined by how you are going to use the volume file. Here I entered 600 MB. Note that, once the volume file is created, its size can't be changed (decreased or increased) so you may want to create a bigger size container rather than a small one. After entered the size, click button Next to continue.

Specify the size of the volume file

Step #6: Specify password and/or keyfile(s).

The file container can be protected by a single password. Or, if you need extra security, you can specify one or more keyfiles that have to be verified as well before the file container is available for use.

In my example, I entered a password. Then I ticked the checkbox Use keyfiles, and then clicked the button Keyfiles.

Specify password and/or keyfile(s)

After clicking the button Keyfiles, the Keyfile window is opened (see below). Click Add File button and select a file on your computer as the keyfile.

Note that, you should never change any content inside the keyfile but you can change its file name. Read the text shown in this window to understand more about keyfiles.

Specify keyfile(s)

Any file can be a keyfile. In the screenshot below, you can see that I selected two files on my computer as keyfiles - one file is a image fish.gif file and another one is a Adobe PDF file readme.pdf. I have changed the file attributes to be Read-only so I don't have to worry about accidentally changing the file content.

To make a file read-only, in Windows Explorer, right click on the file name, in the pop-up menu, select Properties and then tick Read-only in the Attributes section.

After you have select your keyfile(s), click button OK. You should be taken back to the Volume Password window again. Now click button Next to continue.

Keyfiles are specified

Note that, if your password is too short, TrueCrypt will warn you about it and suggest you to choose a password that is more than 20 characters. If you are not concerned, click Yes to continue to next step in the wizard.

Warning - password is too short

Step #7: Format the volume file.

This is the last step in the wizard. Formatting means that TrueCrypt will fill the volume with random data. For basic use, you can leave all the options on window and just click Format button to continue.

If you move your mouse randomly as suggested by TrueCrypt, cryptographic strength of the encryption keys will increase. The longer you move your mouse, the better is the cryptography.

Depending on the volume size you specified, formatting can taken a few minutes or much longer.

Format the volume file

After the formatting is finished, TrueCrypt displays the following message window. Click OK to continue.

Format the volume file

Now, TrueCrypt displays the last window in the wizard. Click Next will take you back to the first step in the wizard so that you can create another volume if you want.

New volume is created

We have so far demonstrated how to create a TrueCrypt volume. In next tutorial, we are going to use this volume to save some files and folders into it. Click here to go to next tutorial.


Inside This Article
1. Protect files and folders with file container
2How to use a file container (volume file) with TrueCrypt
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