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This is not a case of a forgotten password or lost recovery key.

I have a Dell Inspiron 5378 laptop with Intel PTT and Windows 10 Home. Bitlocker shouldn't even be available in Home, but the drive was automatically (as in I didn't do it) encrypted with BitLocker, without any prompt to save/print the recovery key. I only discovered this when I tried to boot in safe mode and it asked me for a recovery key...which I don't have!

I replaced the drive and installed Windows 10 from media made directly from Microsoft's Windows 10 Media Creation Tool (so no Dell funny business). This install also started encrypting the drive immediately after I finished the new user setup, and again, no prompt to save/print a recovery key. I was able to disable BL with

manage-bde -off c:

However, I've still got the old drive with data on it that I can't unlock, and no recovery key.

  1. Why is Windows doing this?
  2. Where is it storing the recovery key? In the TPM/PTT? It's not in my Microsoft Account, and this is not a domain joined machine so not in AD either. (I set up the new Windows installation without a network connection, so it couldn't have saved the key to any network location.)
  3. How do I retrieve it from wherever it is stored?

The Dell support forums are full of users with the same problem and no solutions.

Repeat: this is not a case of a forgotten password or lost recovery key.

migrated from security.stackexchange.com Dec 1 '18 at 8:18

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  • Windows 10 Home supports Device Encryption which while similar to BitLocker is NOT BitLocker. – Ramhound Dec 2 '18 at 19:59
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There are a couple of possibilities:

1 Microsoft OneDrive

Unless you work hard at not doing it, Microsoft backs up your recovery key to your OneDrive account. Go to https://onedrive.live.com/recoverykey and log in with the same Microsoft account credentials you use to log into your Windows 10 PC. You should see your recovery key(s). If there is more than one, you'll have to figure out which one is correct.

2 Directly from the PC

Assuming you can boot your drive in a normal fashion (you don't say why you were trying Safe Mode) then from an admin comand screen type:

      manage-bde -protectors C: -get

Assuming a "C" drive. This should spit out a 48 digit recovery key.

If there is no recovery key displayed you may need to create one with:

      manage-bde -protectors -add c: -rp

Then repeat the previous command.

There are some other minor variants, but these are the main two. Also, look to see if you already saved it to a thumbdrive or printed it somewhere when you initialized your system.

Good Luck!

  • Thanks, but I was trying to boot into safe mode because Windows would hang after the Welcome screen. – zencraft Dec 2 '18 at 21:30
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After a lot of Googling and several false starts due to Microsoft's stupid habit of giving different features confusingly similar names, I managed to figure out what was going on and found the recovery key.

  1. BitLocker DRIVE encryption is different from BitLocker DEVICE encryption. The former is a user-initiated feature on Windows 10 Pro and Enterprise, the latter is done automatically on all Windows 10 devices meeting certain criteria as part of the initial setup. This is what I had.

  2. Initially, the device is encrypted with a "clear key" (whatever that is, never managed to find out, but apparently it's the same as BitLocker's suspended state), but as soon as someone logs in with Administrator privileges using a Microsoft account, it generates a recovery key and starts encrypting the drive for real...with no warning whatsoever to the user.

  3. In my case, the recovery key was NOT stored in the laptop owner's MS account but in the MS Azure account of a relative who had logged in with an MS Office Business account. (It was under Azure Active Directory > Devices > [Device Name] link).

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