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As far as I know, if you change a single bit in an encrypted file (or an email, or anything else) the result of the decryption will be totally different.

I want to encrypt my ~ directory, but I'm worried about losing everything because of a single corrupted bit.

Any thoughts?

Note: I'm using Ubuntu 12, which asks me if I want to encrypt home during the installation.

Note 2: To the readers: I accepted an answer, but you must read all the comments to get the whole picture.

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Of course you wouldn't lose everything, because you have a backup...right? ...right? –  rob May 23 '12 at 23:39
    
@rob Of course =p... Sort of. I'm not used to configuring automatic backups yet. I only have the most important things on Ubuntu One. –  HappyDeveloper May 23 '12 at 23:45
    
If you have (good, tested) backups, there's no risk, since the same effect can render unencrypted data corrupt as well. –  user3463 May 24 '12 at 0:25
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@HappyDeveloper CrashPlan is a pretty slick cross-platform backup program. You can either pay to back up online, or for free you can target as many of your own or friends' computers as you want. As far as encrypting your home directory, I've done it before and haven't had any problems. –  rob May 24 '12 at 0:55
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@HappyDeveloper -- When encryption is done on a FULL DISK it's done by "logical sector" (which may be larger or smaller than the physical disk sectors). When encryption is done on INDIVIDUAL FILES it's generally done on the file as a whole. –  Daniel R Hicks May 24 '12 at 12:01
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1 Answer

up vote 1 down vote accepted

I believe that Ubuntu's 'encrypted home' feature actually encrypts the individual files and stores them in another directory (~/.Private), as opposed to creating a single encrypted volume. In that case, losing a single file wouldn't cost you your entire home directory.

FWIW I've been using full-disk encryption (so the whole root partition has to be unlocked before I can access any of it) for several years on multiple computers, running both Ubuntu and Debian without any issues (yet....).

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From the article: "Ubuntu 9.04 extended the Encrypted Private Directory feature to cover entire home directories". –  HappyDeveloper May 24 '12 at 2:11
    
@HappyDeveloper as opposed to just a '~/Private' (different from ~/.Private) directory. In other words, before 9.04 only files the user explicitly placed in ~/Private were encrypted; from 9.04 onwards all files in ~/ are encrypted (when encryption is enabled, of course). –  drewbenn May 24 '12 at 4:49
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