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I've got a complete backup of my main PC on 1.5 TB external hard drive that I carry around with my laptop so I can have access to all of my files while I'm on the move, however it has just dawned on me that if someone nicks my external hard drive they now have access to everything!

Hence I'm looking for a way to encrypt my external hard drive. I'm after something that is:

  • Secure (if I need to carry around a USB dongle to keep the key on so be it)
  • Fast (the performance of the drive should still be reasonable)
  • Cross-platform (I regularly use other peoples computers - Sometimes they are not windows based and might not even have internet access, however I still want to be able to access my files)
  • Cheap (preferably free / open source!)
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up vote 7 down vote accepted

What about Truecrypt? (
Secure: Yes.
Speed: Depends on how you encrypt your drive.
Cross platform: Yes.
Free: Yes, and open-source.

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Down-voted. TrueCrypt may be free as in beer, but it is not free as in speech. It is not FOSS. – sampablokuper Mar 23 '12 at 5:13
@sampablokuper - Still, the best, and easiest option. And I'm not Stallmann. I want a software to work. That's it. =) – Shiki Mar 23 '12 at 20:20
Stallman or not, please don't describe TrueCrypt as free and open-source. Its source code is available, but its preposterous license means it lacks many defined properties of free and open source software (FOSS). Most TrueCrypt users are likely in breach of its license, by the way. (For example: did you consult a lawyer to check whether every term of the license was enforceable in your jurisdiction before you began using TrueCrypt? If not, you've breached the license, because it explicitly requires users to seek legal advice on this matter before using the software.) – sampablokuper Mar 23 '12 at 21:30
NB. If you don't understand what the difference is, have a look at . It's up to you whether you want to use FOSS or not, but the difference is still important, and StackExchange answers should aim to be truthful. – sampablokuper Mar 23 '12 at 21:34
Glad to see, that even Stallman registered on this site. Welcome aboard, man! – Shiki Mar 24 '12 at 9:56

TrueCrypt may be an option, assuming its format is compatible with itself between platforms, if you have sufficient rights to use it at all the locations you need to read the drive ( has some notes and links relevant to portable use and admin priviledges)

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FreeOTFE provides Win32 support for LUKS.

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If you are wanting to view the files on your laptop from the portable hard drive, you may want to also encrypt the laptop hard drive too. This is probably more likely to get stolen as it's worth a lot more (I'm presuming).

And it also depends on the files. If they are just personal files to you, like photos, you may not want to go through the hassle of encrypting them.

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The laptop drive is already encrypted (its a company laptop) – Justin Apr 3 '10 at 18:55
You may want to ask the admin how the laptop hard drive is encrypted then, as they may have a good solution for you to encrypt the portable hard drive too – lavamunky Apr 3 '10 at 19:30

I would: Create a small (say 2GB) partition on the portable drive. Put TrueCrypt on that partition. Use that installation to encrypt the other, valuable partition. I am leery of using keyfiles because I consider any stored content as volatile, no matter what promises are made by Windows. So I would just come up with a bulletproof very long password.

Your question is not technical so much as preferential/experience, but TrueCrypt meets the four criteria you've laid down. This is working for me very well in a slightly different context. As pointed out above, TrueCrypt may not be RMS-open, but it's better than what I had before, and seems not to have let me down yet.

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This answer doesn't seem to add anything over the other answers from more than three years ago. – ChrisInEdmonton Nov 2 '13 at 13:57

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