TrueCrypt — The Best Disk Encryption Utility

I’ve decided to add another installment to my reviews/recommendations of free, open-source software. Quite honestly, I had forgot that TrueCrypt was an open-source utility, otherwise I’d have reviewed it earlier. I only use it at work currently, since I’ve no reason to encrypt my files at home, so I’d basically forgot about it altogether.

TrueCrypt is an absolutely amazing encryption utility that can be used on flash drives, partitions and entire hard disks. TrueCrypt essentially reformats your storage volume in an encrypted format that can only be decrypted using the appropriate password. Once the password is entered, the volume is mounted on your computer the same as any other disk or disk drive.


Features

TrueCrypt allows you to use any of the following encryption algorithms:

  • AES
  • Serpent
  • Twofish
  • AES-Twofish
  • AES-Twofish-Serpent
  • Serpent-AES
  • Serpent-Twofish-AES
  • Twofish-Serpent

It then allows you to choose from three different hash methods (Whirlpool, SHA-1 and RIPEMD-60). You can even use key files from your computer that somehow allow TrueCrypt only to be used on computers that contain that particular key file.

Starting Out

To begin, you simply start TrueCrypt and tell it to create a new TrueCrypt volume. You can create a standard volume or a hidden volume (the standard volume never shows up when its not mounted, but it is possible to tell that something exists by subtracting the size of the existing partitions from the total capacity of the drive – but a hidden volume is nearly possible to detect).

You choose your encryption algorithm and your hash method, then you choose your preferred file system. Set your password and decide where you want to create the volume, and TrueCrypt does the rest for you. When it finishes, you have a fully encrypted volume available.

Mounting Your Devices

Once you create the TrueCrypt volume, that space on the drive does not show up at all unless you mount the device using TrueCrypt. In other words, no one will even know that area of the drive exists if it is not mounted through TrueCrypt.

You can set up a “TrueCrypt Traveler Disk”, which basically allows you to automatically start TrueCrypt each time the disk is inserted (or plugged in) into your computer. With a traveler disk, a portable version of TrueCrypt is installed on the same device you have encrypted, so you can use it even on computers that don’t have TrueCrypt installed.

After starting TrueCrypt, all you have to do is enter your password and TrueCrypt mounts the volume as a standard disk drive. You can open and edit files, move and copy files and create new files just like you would on any other drive. The only difference is, when TrueCrypt is stopped, those files are virtually undetectable and fully encrypted.

Performance

TrueCrypt performs amazingly. It generally mounts your device in a fraction of a second. Once the device is mounted, the encryption/decryption is virtually unnoticeable, allowing you to manipulate files at essentially the same speed you would on a standard storage volume.

Availability

TrueCrypt is available for all major platforms, allowing you to use your encrypted volume on any computer, no matter which OS it’s running.

Downloads

TrueCrypt can be downloaded from the official TrueCrypt Web site.

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