How to Encrypt Your Mac’s Hard Drive

Without a moments notice, your life could be thrown into chaos. A thief nabs your laptop. It’s not just that the computer itself is valuable, it’s not even the lost family photos or essays in progress, it’s your passwords, identity information, enough for a savvy thief to ruin your finances. But then you breathe a sigh of relief as you remember that your computer’s hard drive had full-disk encryption enabled. That’s the kind of peace of mind that encryption can offer. Without your master password, you could hand over your hard drive to a would-be thief and rest easy knowing that should they decide to snoop around your hard-drive, all they would be met with is unintelligible gobbledygook.

Steps:

  1. Open “System Preferences” and choose “Security & Privacy”
    1SysPrefs
  2. Click “FileVault” and choose “Turn On FileVault”
    Note: You may need to click “Click the lock to make changes” and enter your administrative password if the “Turn On FileVault” option is shaded out.
    2SecPrivacy
  3. At this point, you will be presented with a 24-digit recovery key. Write this down and store it securely somewhere other than your computer’s hard drive! This is your only fall-back. Should you forget your password, using this recovery key you will be able to re-set your password at the login screen. Otherwise, you’re out of luck.
    3RecoverKey
  4. Click continue and you will now be asked to re-start.
  5. When you re-start you’ll be prompted to enter your password. This will be the new norm on your encrypted system.
  6. Your Mac will now begin encrypting in the background. If you’d like to see progress, open “System Preferences,” choose “Security & Privacy” and click the “FileVault” tab.
    6EncryptionProgress
  7. Leave your system powered on until encryption has finished. From now on, your full hard drive will be protected by FileVault encryption.
    Note: Don’t worry about the time estimation, it’s near useless. Just leave your system on until it’s finished.

Wrap Up:

FileVault Version 1 (OS X 10.3 – 10.6) only encrypted your “home” folder, which contains your desktop, documents folder, applications folder, basically anything most users would have created, downloaded or placed in a default save location. Beginning with FileVault Version 2 however, (OS X 10.7 onward) your entire hard drive will be encrypted. Full disk encryption, as the name suggests, covers everything, the operating system files, save data that may be written outside your home folder, everything.