The main benefits of USBs are their storage capacity, lightweight, and especially their portability, so you can put them in your pocket and take them wherever you go. People usually store more than their music, photos, and videos; they also save cryptocurrency, client deliverables, travel documents, financial documents, etc.
Imagine if you lose your USB or someone decides to access it without your permission. What would happen to your data?
Below, we will introduce the ten best USB encryption software tools to help ensure your data’s security. A USB encryption tool is software running on the USB designed to protect your sensitive data from falling into the wrong hands.
How to Choose The Best USB Encryption Tool
Before choosing any USB encryption software, you must pay attention to several critical criteria. This section will introduce the main features you’ll have to consider while looking for the right USB encryption tool.
- Security Encryption is the key to ensuring the safety of your USB’s data. It scrambles the data, so it becomes unreadable to any human. So before buying any USB encryption software, you’ll have to know what type of encryption it uses. Unfortunately, some USB encryption tools still use contemporary algorithms such as SHA-1, MD2, MD4, or DES/3DES that may be easier to crack with ordinary computing resources. However, encryption strength and the computation to back it have improved over time. Examples of solid encryption algorithms are AES-256 or AES-1024.
- Functionality Before choosing a USB encryption software, another critical criterion to pay attention to is its functionality. What is the set of features provided by the USB encryption software? This software must give a proper level of functionality that fulfills what the user is looking for (encrypting a USB.) If there is too much functionality (or features) built in the USB encryption software, the attack surface area can drastically increase (an imbalance in security). For instance, a dedicated encryption solution for USB drives can be better than a solution that encrypts HDD, SDD, containers, files, etc.
- Usability USBs are easy to use, but encryption is not. In the real world, if something is too secure (it has many restrictions and controls), it becomes too complicated to use. According to the security-usability-functionality triangle used to design a balanced information system, when security goes up, the usability (ease-of-use) and functionality come down. So, look for USB encryption software accessible to both technical and non-technical users. All the best USB encryption tools shown in this list provide a decent balance between ease of use, security, and features.
- Compatibility Not all USB encryption tools are designed for every operating system. When finding software to encrypt your USB drive, always ensure what OS environment the tool is compatible with. USB encryption tools such as BitLocker or SecurStick are only compatible with Windows, and what it does in this particular environment is fantastic, but it is useless in other environments. Consider getting a cross-platform USB encryption tool such as VeraCrypt if you are working on various OS environments, perhaps Linux, macOS, or Windows altogether.
Taking all the criteria mentioned in the previous section, we came up with the ten best USB encryption tools you can choose from.
Here is our list of the best software encryption tools:
- VeraCrypt A free, open-source, and cross-platform USB encryption software. Veracrypt is a leader in the market.
- BitLocker To Go A reliable, secure, and highly portable Windows-based USB encryption tool.
- AxCrypt It is an easy-to-use and simple USB encryption tool, yet it strikes a good balance between usability and security.
- EncryptStick A cost-effective and robust encryption solution that allows you to encrypt USBs (and other drives) and protect drives, folders, and files with passwords.
- Rohos Disk Encryption A USB encryption solution that lets you create (256-bit) encrypted volumes, customize them and protect them with a password.
- SecurStick A free and simple yet effective USB encryption software that allows you to encrypt and hide files stored on USBs.
- DriveCrypt A quite popular encryption tool that protects data in USB drives, external drives, containers, or files.
- KakaSoft USB Security A simple and highly portable USB encryption solution that can be self-contained in the USB drive.
- GiliSoft USB Stick Encryption A beautiful UI and robust encryption system. GiliSoft USB Stick Encryption uses AES-256.
- Cryptomator A free tool with cloud-optimized encrypted file storage. It can be used to create an encrypted vault on a USB drive and synchronize it to the cloud..
The 10 Best Software Encryption Tools
VeraCrypt is one of the most popular USB encryption tools. It provides an interface with customizable encryption settings. One of VeraCrypt’s main benefits is that it can encrypt (entire partitions or full storage) from USB devices, hard drives, and virtual containers. VeraCrypt uses the encryption algorithm AES 256-bit key and other methods like Serpent, Twofish, Camellia, and Kuznyechik.
Unlike the majority of other encryption software, VeraCrypt is free and open source. With VeraCrypt, there is no way that data saved on an encrypted drive can be viewed without the correct password or encryption keys. The system provides super-secure protection that safely backs up crucial files. One of the disadvantages of VeraCrypt is that its UI can be complex to learn. This encryption program is compatible with all operating systems, including Windows, Linux, Unix, and Mac OSX.
How to Start with VeraCrypt? Download VeraCrypt for free.
2. BitLocker to Go
BitLocker is a Windows-native full volume encryption utility that has been around Windows machines for a long time. This tool is designed to encrypt entire volumes using the AES encryption algorithm with either 128-bit or 256-bit. In addition, it also provides a Graphical UI and integration to PowerShell commands to configure encryption.
BitLocker offers two encryption methods. The popular hardware-based encryption Trusted Platform Module (TPM) (outside the scope of this post) and the software-based with a USB flash drive and password (used for booting into Windows 10). The BitLocker To Go is an extension of the software-based encryption that protects the data in the USB or any other removable media. The Bitlocker To Go USB encryption software is reliable, compliant, and highly portable.
How to start with BitLocker To Go? This USB encryption software is available in Windows 10 (Pro, Enterprise, and Education editions) and Windows 8/8.1 (Pro and Enterprise editions).
If you’re trying to find a simple way to encrypt USBs, AxCrypt can be a great choice. PCMag Editors’ Choice 2022 named AxCrypt as an “advanced encryption in a superbly simple setting”. The software is easy to use, provides password-protected access, and encrypts files using either 128-bit or 256-bit encryption.
Although AxCrypt doesn’t have as much functionality as programs like VeraCrypt, it does have one of the best graphical user interfaces in the market. AxCrypt’s UI features two columns and one window. The left column displays a tree-like listing of all the files and disks on your device, making it easy to locate the files that you want to encrypt. Once you’ve found the data you wish to encrypt, simply right-click on it and encrypt it.
How to start with AxCrypt? You can choose between Premium ($3.75 USD/month) or Business ($9.92 USD/month/user). Try AxCrypt for free with a 30-days trial.
The EncryptStick, by eSecurity Products, is an encryption technology that allows users to protect USB devices and generate password-secured virtual folders or files. EncryptStick is cross-platform; it works on many operating systems, including Windows, Linux, and macOS. In addition, this software provides one of the most solid encryption algorithms for encrypting flash USB sticks. It supports various versions of AES encryption, including the ultimate AES-1024.
In addition, EncryptStick is also very easy to use. It allows you to copy/paste or drag-n-drop any file that you want to encrypt. To keep up with security in this easy-to-use design, EncryptStick requests your password every time you switch the window and switch back again to interact with a USB driver’s window.
How to start with EncryptStick? The price for this USB encryption software starts at $39.99.
5. Rohos Disk Encryption
Although Rohos Disk Encryption was mainly designed for HDD encryption, it later included robust and diverse USB encryption capabilities. One of Rohos Disk Encryption’s main advantages is its ability to create encrypted volumes and customize their size and additional settings. Rohos Disk Encryption tool encrypts USBs using the 256-bit AES encryption algorithm.
When you connect a USB drive, the Rohos Disk Encryption software will allow you to specify a custom volume size and criteria such as the container’s location or let the software automatically decide the optimal container size. Another great advantage of this software is that you can hide encrypted disks and information within media files. You can encrypt files on your PC so that they can only be accessed when a USB drive with encrypted documents is attached.
How to start with Rohos Disk Encryption? The price for Rohos Disk Encryption starts at $35; you can upgrade to the Pro version for $71.95 USD. Try a fully-functional 30-day free trial.
SecurStick is a free USB encryption tool for Windows systems. It allows you to encrypt and hide files stored on USB devices. SecurStick may not provide the level of functionality as other USB encryption tools, but its simplicity, portability, and right features make it one of the favorite USB encryption software for many people.
SecurStick locks your files in what they call a “secure area”, protecting the access by a password and the contents with administrative-level encryption. Once you create this secure area (or disk), you can simply copy your data and paste it into the secure disk. When you exit SecurStick, all the files will be encrypted. SecurStick is highly portable. It does not require installation and administrative privileges to run it.
How to start with SecurStick? Download SecurStick from its official download site.
DriveCrypt is one of the most popular USB encryption tools for ensuring the safety of your data. This software encrypts your sensitive information at the USB, drive, and container level but can also encrypt at the file level. With DriveCrypt, you can take data protection to the next level by leaving no trace of anything being encrypted. In addition, you can also hide your sensitive data in fake virtual disks or files (i.e., photo or music files).
DriveCrypt provides an ultra military-grade encryption method at 1344-bit, which is virtually unbreakable. Its cryptographic algorithms range from AES, Blowfish, Tea 16, Tea 32, 3DES, Misty 1, and Square. The installation, deployment, and use of DriveCrypt are straightforward; installation takes very little administration and training; however, it is only compatible with Windows environments.
How to Start with DriveCrypt? The price for DriveCrypt is 39.95 €. You can register to download a 30-days trial version.
8. KakaSoft USB Security
KakaSoft USB Security is a free USB encryption software with limited functionalities. But the simplicity of this USB encryption tool is for a reason: the software is entirely self-contained on the USB flash drive, making it highly portable and relatively easy to use. The Kakasoft USB security software runs automatically every time you connect it to a USB port.
The KakaSoft USB Security software protects USBs and all portable devices with a password, including USB flash drives, memory sticks, cards, thumb drives, and external drives. The software offers lock/unlock options to secure your USB drive, folders, and data and access it anywhere on any device.
How to start with KakaSoft USB Security? There are two software editions, Free and Pro. Pro is priced as follows: Monthly ($14.95), Annual ($24.95), Lifetime ($29.95), and Enterprise ($79.95). The editions range on time and the number of USBs supported. Download the free USB Security tool.
9. Gilisoft USB Stick Encryption
Gilisoft USB Stick Encryption has one of the most unique, attractive, and user-friendly UIs as compared to the highlighted competition on this list. Although they emphasize the UI and the tool are only compatible with Windows, its encryption system is pretty good. Although this tool offers simple security, its encryption AES-256 is still industry-standard and compliant in many cases. Gilisoft USB Stick Encryption uses AES-256 to encrypt your partitions, containers, or files.
To use this USB encryption software, simply connect the USB drive to the computer, and the software will detect it instantly. It will then allow you to select the disk space on the USB drive to create a folder or simply to upload files. You can also specify an encrypted password to protect access to the drive and its sensitive data.
How to start with Gilisoft USB Stick Encryption? You can download the free trial (Gilisoft USB Stick Encryption version 11.0) or buy it for $49.95 USD.
Cryptomator brings something unique to this best ten USB encryption software list. This free encryption solution is created with cloud synchronization in mind, as opposed to local data protection solutions such as VeraCrypt (and all other tools on this list). Although this solution is designed for cloud-optimized encrypted storage (such as Dropbox), you can use Cryptomator to create an encrypted vault (or virtual drive) on a local drive like HDD or USB or folder; give it a password and (optionally) synchronize it to the cloud.
Cryptomator encrypts data using the AES encryption method with a 256-bit key length. Cryptomator employs a simple and easy-to-use encryption system with trusted (industry-standard) encryption mechanisms, but still if you are looking for faster and stronger encryption (but more difficult to learn and use), go for software like Veracrypt or AxCrypt.
How to start with Cryptomator? Download Cryptomator for free for Windows, macOS, Linux, Android, and iOS.
Frequently Asked Questions (FAQ) on USB Encryption
- What is USB Encryption? Encryption safeguards your data at rest on a drive-by scrambling it in an unreadable manner for any human. The encryption algorithms suggested protecting the data on a USB are anything above 256-bit keys. The standard encryption protocol is AES (although there are a few alternatives to AES, like RSA, SHA, 3DES, etc.).
- Encrypted USB vs. password-protected USB? If a USB is protected by a password (but its data is not encrypted), a hacker could still use brute-force dictionary attacks to guess the password, access the USB, and read the contents. But if it is encrypted with a strong algorithm (and without a password), the hacker won’t still be able to read or use the USB’s content.
- USB local encryption vs cloud-based encryption? Local encryption is the most secure because only you hold the decryption keys, but it can make the data much less available if the keys or the USB is lost. Cloud-based encryption, on the other hand, broadens the attack surface. Data on the cloud can be less private (without zero-knowledge encryption or passwords), but in a positive light, it makes it extremely available and reliable.
- What are some USB encryption software benefits? A USB drive with encryption (+ password-protected) dramatically reduces the chances of brute force attacks. Nobody, even with the password, could open the USB drive and make sense of the data. Plus, some USB encryption tools also allow you to hide sensitive data.