I'm trying to adopt some best-practices (or at least less-bad-practices) with my external data storage. I'm looking for a way to quickly provide some minimal level of protection from prying eyes for ~4tb of data (2tb of data mirrored on two external drives).

The kicker here is that I will frequently want to use these with a PS3. If this were PC only, I could run some whole disk encryption and, from what I understand, it could take many hours (or several days) to encrypt 2tb of data. But, I'll need to decrypt it before I can use it with the PS3. I'm looking for a solution that takes less than 10minutes to enable and 10 minutes to disable. Ideally, 1-2 minutes.

Most of the data isn't very confidential - every DVD/CD/PC game I've ever purchased is on there. Lots and lots of mostly boring, high res pictures and boring home videos. My important bank/tax/work documents are encrypted properly on the disks, but I'll be doing a lot of travelling in the near future and I'll want to bring one of these disks with me. I'll also be spending time with roommates/acquaintances (think couch surfing) where I'll have my disks around people I don't have a great deal of trust with.

Could someone suggest something? Is there a way to just encrypt the file system metadata (and not the contents of the file) so that the drive appears unformatted or some other such measure?

  • 4
    softwarerecs.stackexchange would be a better place. This is bordering on "recommend me ..." which is off-topic Dec 17, 2014 at 18:05
  • Anything that would encrypt and decrypt 2TB of data in less than 10 minutes is going to be amazing... Especially over USB... Or else it's just horribly insecure encryption Dec 17, 2014 at 18:07
  • @Raystafarian - My apologies. What is the best way for me to close this - or is it better to let moderators do it?
    – Rob
    Dec 17, 2014 at 18:18
  • @CanadianLuke - Horribly insecure encryption would be perfectly acceptable here. I just don't want someone to be able to plug it in and browse it.
    – Rob
    Dec 17, 2014 at 18:19
  • No matter what, 2 TB of data will take a LONG-ass time to encrypt; plus, you need it decrypted to run on the Playstation. It's not going to be possible, especially over USB. Dec 17, 2014 at 18:21

1 Answer 1


If you really want just a minimal level of protection (i.e. you don't care that the data is still there and accessible in plain text for anyone that knows how to look for it), then you could repartition your drive to hide/expose the "secret" data.

For example, create 2 partitions with known start/end blocks (or cylinders). Keep track of the starting/ending block for each partition.

Partition A:  Start block 1    end block 1024
Parittion B:  Start block 1025 end block 1024000000 

When you want to hide the data, repartition the drive so only partition A exists. Anyone that loads the drive will only see the small dummy partition and won't know that more data exists on the drive. When you want to reveal the data, repartition so that only partition B exists (or both A and B), anyone that loads the drive will then be able to see your "secret" data.

I'm reasonably sure this would work on Linux with a tool like fdisk, but not certain how it would work with other operating systems like Windows that might try to be smarter and end up reformatting your partition. I've used a technique like this to repartition a live drive so I could resize a volume, so I know it can work in theory.

Instead of rewriting the partition table each time, you could just delete the partition table entirely to hide the data, then the drive will appear as an empty, unpartitioned drive, but that made lead the user to think that it's empty and reformat the drive for his own use.

Note that this is a form of "security through obscurity", it uses a simple technique to hide data, it's not at all secure since a determined attacker can easily find the hidden data. It's probably equivalent to hiding the hard drive under your bed -- a casual observer won't find it, but if someone really wants to find it, they can. It's also a bit risky in that if you don't recreate the partition table exactly, you made end up accidentally destroying your data.

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged .