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Windows by default doesn't come with a password protect folder option (other that Win7 ultimate), so I used to swear by Truecrypt which was great. But I've read in a couple of places that Mac OS X by default has a way of protecting folders using the Default Disk Utility.

So my question is which is better, using TrueCrypt on the Mac or just sticking with the default Disk Utils app? Can somebody let me know the advantages of one over the other?

A summary from the very helpful answers below:

  • if you're looking for cross-platform usage Truecrypt is the obvious tool of choice
  • if you're looking for convenience, and intend to stick only to the Mac platform, use the default Disk Utils app.
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closed as primarily opinion-based by Simon Sheehan, MariusMatutiae, Kevin Panko, random Jul 6 at 1:49

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3 Answers

up vote 5 down vote accepted

As usual "better" depends.

If you need to access the encrypted data only on a Mac you're very well set up with DiskUtility DMG Images, or Sparsebundles with AES 256 encryption. (I generally recommend not to use SparseImages anymore.)

You can make the use of encrypted DMG or SparseBundles extremely comfortable and transparent by using a shareware product called Espionage.

If you want/need to go cross platform, TrueCrypt is the tool of choice. It also offers more choice regarding the encryption algorithm and allows for plausible denyability by use of hidden partitions. (Meaning denying that there is encrypted data at all.)

You may even go totally paranoid by combining and cascading both techniques. DiskUtilities SparseBundles are in general more robust against damage than SparseImages or TrueCrypt's monolithic image files. This may, or may not affect your choice.

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I have been working with Truecrypt for some years and have been very happy with it. Also I like the fact, that I can without problems access encrypted partitions/drives from all my operating systems.

I am not sure how/if the Mac encryption supports such a thing as I have never worked with it. Personally I prefer Truecrypt because there I really know what the ecryption tool is doing, where it is doing it, and how I can salvage data if things go wrong.

Keep in mind that a screw-up of your encryption tool might blow all your data to nirvana.

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Apple's disk utility will allow you to create encrypted disk images. ie. a file that can be mounted like another filesystem. This works in the same way as truecrypt, except under macos you can set the image to automount and auto open without a password dialog by using the inbuilt keychain password manager. (if you don't mind the risks associated with that).

Encryption algorithms are more limited on disk images ie. AES256 rather than the selection you have with truecrypt, if that matters to you.

As a side note if you use truecrypt to encrypt a whole hard drive, Macos will be annoying every time you boot an ask if you want to initialise the drive. Don't do it, you'll only lose everything.

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