How to Take Your Data On the Go

Most of us use some sort of device to take our files with us on the go. This can be handy, but also scary, as this is when your data is most at risk for being damaged or stolen. Here, Tech Talker explains how to best keep files safe and secure when on the road.

Eric Escobar
5-minute read
Episode #171

Why to Encrypt:

Having a laptop or hard drive stolen is often just a dangerous as losing your wallet.

Okay, great - you've now backed everything up, so if your portable hard drive or laptop were stolen, it wouldn’t be the end of the world, because your data is all saved somewhere else. Right?

Wrong. Having a laptop or hard drive stolen is often just a dangerous as losing your wallet.

Take a moment to think of all of the information stored on the devices that you carry with you every day. Phones and laptops will have your contacts, email, social media accounts, pictures, files, internet history and sometimes even passwords! Armed with all of this information, a thief would have enough information to cause a considerable amount of damage.

This is where encryption comes in. While it may seem overboard, I recommend encrypting all of the data that you carry with you. If you’re not familiar with what encryption is, it basically takes a password and randomizes your data, so that you are only able to read the data (or even know that it is there) with the correct password.

So if you lost a thumb drive, but had the data on it strongly encrypted, you could rest pretty assured that even if someone found it, it wouldn’t be of any use to them because they wouldn’t have your password.

The same goes for laptops.: they should have the whole drive encrypted so that you wil need to enter your password before the laptop boots up. This would make your laptop and all of the files useless to anyone who tried to steal it.

How to Encrypt:

This whole process is actually fairly easy to setup, and after you do it once you never have to think about it again.

Every modern operating system has a feature that allows you to fully encrypt your hard drive. Windows has BitLocker for full drive encryption, Apple has File Vault, and Linux has LUKS (and a few other options.) There’s also the ever popular TrueCrypt, which I still use on some of my devices; it has been abandoned for development, though, meaning that it’s still fine to use, but it won’t be receiving updates any longer.

If you just use Google or YouTube to search for your operating system plus 'full drive encryption," you’ll find more than enough information to get started - and it should all take you less than an hour!

You can also use TrueCrypt, which is available for any operating system, to encrypt folders and files. This is great if you’re using a flash drive as an external hard drive, because you can encrypt all of your files in seconds and take them with you wherever you go, confident in the knowledge that it would be impossible to access the files or folders without the password.

What About My Phone?:

At this point, you’re probably thinking, ‘Eric, you still haven’t mentioned anything about my phone!’ This is because most modern phones built within the past couple years have been hardened to automatically encrypt the operating system, and to back themselves up to their respective service, such as Google Drive for Android users, iCloud for iPhone users, and OneDrive for Microsoft users.

Well, that’s it for today! Be sure to check out all my earlier episodes at techtalker.quickanddirtytips.com. And if you have further questions about this episode, or want to make a suggestion for a future one, post them on Facebook.com/QDTtechtalker.

Until next time, I’m the Tech Talker, keeping technology simple! 

Photo of man with portable file courtesy of Shutterstock.


About the Author

Eric Escobar

Tech Talker demystifies technology and cutting edge devices so that even the most tech illiterate can understand what's going on with their computer or gadget — and what to do when something goes wrong.