Encrypting Your Mac: What Is It and How To Do It?

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Protecting your files and folders on your Mac from snoopers and prying eyes is a top-most priority. Here’s everything you need to know about encrypting your Mac and how to do it.

What is Encryption?

Encryption is a way to conceal information by scrambling the data so only authorized individuals can access it. Encryption uses cryptographic keys, and users must remember the passcode to access the encrypted data.

On a Mac, there are in-built encryption tools that help keep your data safe. You’ll learn about them below.

How to Encrypt Your Mac?

On your Mac, you can encrypt external drives, individual files, and the entire storage drive. Here’s how to do it.

  • Use FileVault to encrypt your entire Mac system

FileVault is an in-built macOS tool, but many users go on using their system without knowing what this tool is used for. Others wonder what is FileVault disk encryption Mac.

In simple words, this is an encryption tool that protects your data on the startup disk. FileVault full-disk encryption or FileVault 2 offers full-disk XTS-AES-128 encryption with a 256-bit key.

To encrypt your entire Mac system using FileVault, navigate to System Preferences > Security & Privacy > select the FileVault tab > click Turn On FileVault. Here, you may have to click the padlock icon and enter your password to change the tool’s settings.

Then, begin the encryption process by entering the system password. The tool will provide you with a recovery key to use in case you forget your system administrator password. Then, press Continue.

Your Mac will be encrypted in the background. Depending on how much data is saved on your system, it may take a few minutes to a few days. During the process, you can use your Mac as usual.

When the tool has finished encrypting your system, you will see a FileVault is turned on message. You may have to restart your system to finish the process.

You can decrypt your Mac by turning off FileVault and entering your system password.

  • Encrypt a file

You can encrypt separate files on your Mac using the Disk Utility application by creating an encrypted disk image (DMG) file.

Go to Applications > Utilities > open Disk Utility > click the pulldown menu and highlight New Image > choose Blank Image > enter a Save As name for the DMG file and a Name for the disk image when it is opened > select the DMG file’s size > choose Mac OS Extended (Journaled) as the format > choose 128-bit/256-bit AES for the encryption.

Then, you must ensure Partitions is set to Single Partition – GUID Map, and Image Format is set to read or write disk images. The next step is to click Save > create and verify a password for the DMG if prompted.

On your Mac’s desktop, the mounted DMG file will appear as a separate drive. Encrypt the files by dragging and dropping them or copying and pasting them into the mounted DMG file. The files inside the mounted disk image will be automatically protected.

  • Encrypt the external drives

You can encrypt external drives by ensuring the drive’s been formatted as Mac OS Extended (Journaled). You can do this using Disk Utility.

Then, plug the external drive into your system. The external drive’s icon will appear on the desktop. Right-click on the external drive you want to encrypt and then choose Encrypt from the menu. Choose and verify a password, and also type a password hint.

Click Encrypt Disk after you have entered the required information. It might take a few moments to complete the process.

If you want to decrypt the external drives, follow the steps mentioned above and then click Decrypt in the menu. Enter the password chosen for encryption.

Why Encrypt Your Mac?

Are you concerned about the privacy and security of your files on your Mac? If yes, you have found your reason to consider encrypting your Mac. But there are a few things to consider before beginning the encryption process.

The potential drawbacks and risks must be taken into consideration before attempting encryption.

  • Encryption will not slow down your system’s performance, but it will reduce the read/write speed because it will need to encrypt and decrypt data on the fly. This may result in files taking longer to save or open.
  • You may lose access to your essential data if something goes wrong. Therefore, remember to back up your Mac before starting the encryption process. So, if anything does go wrong, you can restore your data from the backups.

The Bottom Line

Now you know how to encrypt and protect your Mac from prying eyes. Hopefully, you and your data will stay safe. But when you start the encryption process, you must remember the password and back up your data so you can restore your data if anything goes wrong.


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