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I would expect a TrueCrypt volume to be fragile when it suffers from data corruption. This could happen for example because the hard disk, CD or DVD start to deteriorate, or when an USB stick is unplugged while a write is in progress.

On the TrueCrypt FAQ it is mentioned that this problem is limited because the data is encrypted in blocks of 16 bytes. However, I'dd like to know if this really so in practice. Is there anyone who has experienced severe data loss due to only small corruptions?

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interesting question :) fortunately I have not experienced this, but I would imagine that if you are worried about it, the answer would be to make sure you have backups! –  RYFN Sep 9 '09 at 14:13
    
I had a 1TB USB HDD fully encrypted, one day the drive felt while it was connected/mounted from about 60cm. I lost 1 TB of data, as the drive would not appear in Windows anymore, nor was I able to mount it using TrueCrypt like I used to do daily. No repair service could fix it. I don't know if the data would have been saved without TrueCrypt. –  admin Apr 3 at 18:40
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7 Answers 7

up vote 10 down vote accepted

Encrypted backups do have their drawbacks, in case the the backup media becomes corrupted you may lose everything whereas chances are much better to retrieve unencrypted backups (at least partially) from a damaged disk.

In any case, only one set of backups is insufficient. And if applicable, maintain an unencrypted backup in a safe location (e.g. a bank vault). Security comes at a price.

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Very good remark! I am thinking of making backups on 2 HDs: one I keep unencryptedly at home, and one encryptedly at work. –  Dimitri C. Sep 10 '09 at 7:14
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+1 for "unencryptedly" –  trolle3000 Feb 25 '10 at 15:02
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  • For removable devices refer to this question
  • Backups and redundancy (the RAID kind) are important
    • For optical media, move the data to new media every few years
      alternatively, stop using optical media and shift to newer forms of backup
      (yes, that too is your question)
  • If you do hit a corruption later, check the recovery methods for your media
    Look at the next point in TrueCrypt FAQ,
    What do I do when the encrypted filesystem on my TrueCrypt volume is corrupted?

File system within a TrueCrypt volume may become corrupted in the same way as any normal unencrypted file system. When that happens, you can use filesystem repair tools supplied with your operating system to fix it. In Windows, it is the 'chkdsk' tool. TrueCrypt provides an easy way to use this tool on a TrueCrypt volume: Right-click the mounted volume in the main TrueCrypt window (in the drive list) and from the context menu select 'Repair Filesystem'.

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"Repair Filesystem": I have read this note in the FAQ, but I'dd like to know how much worse this kind of corruption is compared to an unencrypted volume. –  Dimitri C. Sep 9 '09 at 14:50
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I've lost 500GB of data that was device encrypted. I tried eveything, chkdsk is usesless when you can't mount the disk.

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Unfortunately, this is why you backup the volume headers, so in case there is corruption that would prevent you from mounting the drive. –  emgee Sep 9 '09 at 20:50
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Annoying that there is not a suggestion to back up header files, and annoying that the instructions are so complex. To make a backup just go to "Tools>Backup Volume Header" and save the backup. Longer instructions and more detail here: truecrypt.org/docs/?s=program-menu –  geneorama Sep 11 '12 at 18:56
    
@geneorama do you have to do that every single time you backup the truecrypt file? –  barlop May 28 '13 at 10:05
    
@barlop Actually, I never do that. I just researched it for some reason that day that I was commenting. I don't use truecrypt that often, and when I do I usually have a backup of the whole volume, so I don't worry too much about the header. –  geneorama May 28 '13 at 14:12
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I've used Truecrypt extensively for the past year or so and have yet to have any data loss. I've not had any drive issues that would necessitate recovery actions on an encrypted volume.

However, regardless of encryption being involved, you need to back up your data if you don't want to lose it. There is always the possibility of corruption of the encryption keys or volume header, making your drive unmountable. I'm pretty sure I read somewhere Truecrypt stores this on the drive twice, in case one gets corrupted. But either way, you should back up your volume header, so you can still mount your data if there is corruption.

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start from v6.0 TC stores two copies of volume headers for each volume .. –  Edwin Yip Aug 18 '10 at 5:52
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I think TrueCrypt is very robust itself, I've been using it for over 4 years and haven't had a problem. But as others commented, you should take care of the backup, I suggest to use file-based volumes because you can easily backup the whole volume as opposed to partition-based volumes.

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I lost 300GB of data due to my volume header becoming corrupted by Windows. I had my entire system encrypted (boot partition and drives) and attempted to use the various repair features and decryption to no avail.

I would recommend only creating a TruCrypted partition and storing data there that you wouldn't mind losing for the benefit of the security it provides.

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I think file-based volumes are easier to be backed up than partition-based volumes. –  Edwin Yip Aug 18 '10 at 5:50
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It's pretty good I have it running on a thumb drive that takes a lot of abuse and keeps on ticking. Of course always back up your data on site and off using something like Amazon S3/Mozy/etc. RAID is nice for hard drive failure but not for back ups.

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"RAID is not for back ups": that's very true! –  Dimitri C. Sep 10 '09 at 7:09
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