How do I lock a drive in Windows 7 without BitLocker?

There are a few different ways to lock or encrypt a drive in Windows 7 if you don’t have access to BitLocker. While BitLocker is the built-in full disk encryption tool in Windows, there are free third-party options that can also get the job done.

Using EFS to Encrypt Files and Folders

One method is to use the Encrypting File System (EFS) to encrypt files and folders on your drive. Here’s how it works:

  1. Open File Explorer and navigate to the file or folder you want to encrypt.
  2. Right-click on the file/folder and select Properties.
  3. On the General tab, click Advanced.
  4. Check the box next to “Encrypt contents to secure data.”
  5. Click OK and confirm again.

This will encrypt the selected file or folder using your user account credentials. Only your user account will be able to decrypt and access the encrypted data.

The advantage of using EFS is that it’s simple and built into Windows. The downside is that it only encrypts files and folders individually, not the entire drive.

Using Third-Party Disk Encryption Software

To encrypt an entire drive, you’ll need third-party disk encryption software. Here are some good free options:


VeraCrypt is an open source disk encryption tool based on TrueCrypt. It supports encrypting files, partitions, and entire drives. Here’s how to use VeraCrypt to encrypt a drive:

  1. Download and install VeraCrypt.
  2. Run VeraCrypt and select “Create Volume” to start the VeraCrypt Volume Creation Wizard.
  3. Choose “Encrypt a non-system partition/drive” and click Next.
  4. Select the drive you want to encrypt and click Next.
  5. Choose AES encryption and a hash algorithm like SHA-256. Click Next.
  6. Enter a strong password to secure the encrypted volume. Click Next.
  7. Adjust the filesystem type if desired, or keep as default. Click Format.
  8. Click Encrypt to start encrypting the drive.

Once complete, the selected drive will be encrypted and require the password to access. VeraCrypt is easy to use and provides strong encryption to protect your data.


DiskCryptor is another open source disk encryption tool for Windows. To use it:

  1. Download and install DiskCryptor.
  2. Open DiskCryptor and select the drive partition you want to encrypt.
  3. Click on Encrypt in the toolbar.
  4. Select an encryption algorithm like AES and key size.
  5. Enter a password to secure the encryption key.
  6. Optionally, choose additional options like encrypting the whole drive.
  7. Click Ok to begin the encryption process.

DiskCryptor provides versatile options for drive encryption. However, the interface is a bit more technical than some other tools.

Encryption with a Virtual Encrypted Disk

You can also encrypt a drive by creating an encrypted virtual disk container. This stores encrypted files in a virtual disk image:

  1. Download and install a virtual disk tool like Dokany.
  2. Run Dokany and select “Create new image file.”
  3. Choose a location to save the image file and set a size.
  4. Set a password and encryption options.
  5. Mount the new virtual encrypted disk.
  6. Copy files into the mounted virtual drive to encrypt them.

This method allows you to encrypt selected files in a virtual disk image, rather than the full disk. It provides added flexibility but can be slower.

Other Factors When Choosing Disk Encryption Software

Here are some other factors to consider when selecting disk encryption software:

  • Compatibility: Make sure the software works on your version of Windows.
  • Ease of use: Look for an intuitive interface for encrypting drives.
  • Security: Verify the encryption algorithm used is secure like AES 256-bit.
  • Cost: Some paid tools like PGP have more features than free ones.
  • Support: Check if the software is actively maintained for updates.
  • Single vs. multi-user: Some tools only allow one user account for decryption.

Doing a quick comparison of multiple disk encryption tools can help you determine the best one for your specific needs.

Steps to Encrypt a Drive in Windows 7

Here is a summary of the overall steps to encrypt a drive in Windows 7:

  1. Download and install disk encryption software like VeraCrypt.
  2. Run the encryption software and select the drive to encrypt.
  3. Choose encryption options like AES or SHA-256.
  4. Create a strong password for securing the encrypted drive.
  5. Start the encryption process.
  6. Optionally, wipe deleted data to enhance security.
  7. Access the encrypted drive using your password.

Be sure to back up important data first before encrypting a drive, as you may lose access if you forget the password.

On average, allow at least a few hours up to a day for a full disk encryption, depending on drive size and computer performance. Encrypting is a one-time process that provides ongoing security.

How Secure is Disk Encryption?

When implemented correctly, disk encryption provides a very secure way to protect sensitive data stored on hard drives and external media. Here are some of the key security benefits:

  • Prevents unauthorized access – Users cannot access encrypted data without the password.
  • Resistant to cracking attempts – Modern ciphers like AES-256 are virtually unbreakable.
  • Hides data at rest – Encrypted data looks like random gibberish when the drive is not mounted.
  • Portable – External drives can be encrypted and accessed from different PCs.
  • Minimal performance impact – Less than a 10% drop in read/write speeds in most cases.

However, there are some things to keep in mind around security:

  • Use a very strong password that cannot be easily guessed.
  • Keep the password secure and do not lose it, or the data will be inaccessible.
  • Enable features like “wipe after x failed login attempts” to prevent brute force guessing.
  • Store the encryption keys separately from the drive if possible.

Overall, drive encryption is considered extremely secure if you practice proper password management and use strong ciphers like AES-256.

Potential Issues When Encrypting Drives

While disk encryption is generally reliable, there are some potential issues to be aware of:

  • Forgotten passwords – If you forget the password, it’s nearly impossible to recover encrypted data. Be sure to keep a backup of the password.
  • Software crashes – If encryption software crashes or experiences errors, it can cause data loss or corruption issues.
  • Limiting access – Other users on the computer won’t have access to encrypted volumes that are mounted.
  • Limited support – Some boot or recovery tools may not work with encrypted drives.
  • Slower performance – There is a slight reduction in read/write speeds due to the encryption overhead.

These risks can be minimized by creating backups before encrypting, safely storing passwords, and maintaining the encryption software. Consult with the encryption tool vendor for troubleshooting help as needed.

Alternatives to Drive Encryption

If encrypting an entire drive is not feasible for your situation, some alternatives to consider include:

  • Cloud storage with client-side encryption – Services like MEGA allow encrypting files before uploading to cloud storage.
  • Encrypting external drives only – You can just encrypt portable external drives that contain sensitive data.
  • On-demand file/folder encryption – Use EFS or third-party tools to just encrypt specific files.
  • Partial disk encryption – Some tools allow encrypting just the partition with sensitive data.
  • Encrypting systemic files – Use filesystem features like metadata encryption to secure systemic files.

The right approach depends on your specific use case and security needs. But file-level and external drive encryption provides more flexibility than full disk encryption in some cases.


Encrypting your hard drives helps protect sensitive personal and business data from unauthorized access in case a device is lost or stolen. While Windows 7 doesn’t have the BitLocker tool, there are plenty of free disk encryption alternatives to securely lock down your drives.

VeraCrypt and DiskCryptor are two excellent open source options. Follow best practices on using strong encryption and passwords, enable enhanced security features, and properly back up passwords to avoid any data loss. Full disk encryption might reduce performance slightly, but provides a huge security advantage for sensitive data at rest.

Carefully evaluating multiple disk encryption tools for factors like usability, security algorithms, support, and compatibility can help determine the best solution for your specific needs. With the proper setup, you can securely lock drives on Windows 7 without requiring BitLocker.