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Recovering Data From an Encrypted Hard Drive on Windows 8.1

Hard drive encryption is an important safety feature and it is now enabled on Windows 8.1 systems by default. It is a new feature that was previously only available on the Professional and Enterprise editions of Microsoft’s operating systems. However, now it is available to everyone, providing that your system is new enough to support it.

Data encryption adds a layer of protection to everything that you store on your hard drive and ensures that you’re better protected. Whether it’s a malicious user attempting to access your data or someone trying to use the drive in another system, encryption puts up a layer of defence to make such a task extremely difficult. Windows 8.1 will encrypt the operating system drive and any fixed data using AES 128-bit protection.

A lot of users will put an account on their user profile and think that this protects their data. However, that simply isn’t true. If someone so wanted, they could remove the hard drive from the system, connect it to another computer and then view all the files with ease.

Drive encryption will automatically be enabled by default, providing that your system supports connected standby and adheres to the Windows Hardware Certification Kit for TPM and SecureBoot. If you have a new system then this will be true, but if your computer is old then you might find that the encryption is incompatible and won’t be enabled.

Additionally, encryption will only be abled providing that the user of the computer is logging in with a Microsoft account that has administrator privileges. Alternatively, the computer could be joined to a domain. As such, logging in with a local user account will not enable encryption.

However, what happens if you forget your user password and are unable to access your own data? Luckily, that doesn’t mean all is lost. There is a reason that encryption is only enabled when logging in with a Microsoft account or connecting to a domain. This is because Microsoft has a recovery key that will be given to you after going through a recovery process.

As such, it is very important that the security settings for your Microsoft account are up to date. When going through the recovery process you will need to prove who you are. This can be done in a number of ways, like receiving a text message to the phone linked to your account. You should login to your account and check your settings to ensure that everything is correct and that there will be ways of identifying yourself should you need to go through the recovery process.

Since Microsoft does hold a recovery key, that means your data isn’t one hundred percent secure. Should the need arise, they would be able to hand it over to the government and they’d be able to access your data. However, for the average user, you should hope that this wouldn’t be the case. This encryption will still protect against malicious users and thieves. However, should you wish to be totally in charge of your own encryption, a third party tool like TrueCrypt is a better bet.


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