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I'm getting a new external HDD and am considering using TrueCrypt to secure it, as I work on many commercial projects and like to have the peace of mind when I travel.

It's a 2TB HDD and I have two options.

  1. Create a TrueCrypt volume that nearly fills the drive.
  2. Encrypt the entire drive partition.

What are the pros/cons of each? Keep in mind that this is more than a backup drive, it will be used as an extension of existing HD space on my laptop.

Is one method more resilient to corruption than the other? Especially partition encryption, is it likely that the partition could be altered by a computer that didn't have TrueCrypt and didn't "understand" it (if it was inadvertently connected to a different computer)?

How resilient is it to a system crash while writing? NTFS, being a journaling system has fairly good integrity by itself, but how does TrueCrypt's encryption factor in?

Data safety is more important than raw security, but encryption is a must.

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If "Data safety is more important", then I would create multiple TC volumes on top of the 2 TB NTFS file system and then only mount what you need when you need it. If one of these files somehow gets corrupted, then you have minimized the damage compared to encrypting the whole drive or creating one large TC file. Plus, it will be easier to make backups.

I have used this method for years for remote backups with both large & small TC volume sizes. I have never experienced any form of file system corruption when using TC.

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In your position I would probably go for encrypting the whole partition. Check out my response to Does an external hard drive need to have partitions?

When you plug in a drive that does not contain a reconcilable file system to a new system there is the slim chance that it could be overwritten.. but then again a large encrypted file on the drive could also be deleted.

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True, but the chances of an overzealous OS deleting a file randomly, and the chance of the partition table being corrupted are not exactly equal. – Unsigned Oct 6 '11 at 16:20
NTFS self healing can delete a corrupt file and you will not know it happened util you look for that file, chances are rare, but few know about this enhancement in Windows 7 and… – Moab Oct 6 '11 at 16:35
To me, the partition approach appears to be more secure, less risk that the TC file get deleted by accident or a virus, also you can have multiple partitions and have some unencrypted for non sensitive files. – jhcaiced Oct 6 '11 at 18:25
@jhcaiced: What about the partition table itself becoming corrupted because the OS thinks it's blank or doesn't understand the partition? – Unsigned Oct 6 '11 at 21:21
AFAIK, neither Windows or Linux will "format" an unknown partition without your intervention, so it seems unlikely that the partition table gets corrupted. – jhcaiced Oct 6 '11 at 23:37

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