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Encrypt your USB flash memory drive

USB flash memory drives, sometimes called thumb drives or pen drives, are great for when you need to carry files around in your pocket so that you can use them on any computer. They have completely replaced the floppy old disk becaus they are much more convenient, faster and have a higher capacity.

However, they are also very easy to lose. Hands up if you've lost one! Of course, this would enable anyone that finds one - or steals one for that matter - to access the files that it contains. What if there's personal information stored on the device? The solution is to encrypt the contents.

There are many ways to do this and there are both free and commercial tools. A really good one though is TreCrypt. Go to www.truecrypt.org and download the free TrueCrypt program.

There are two ways to use the program and it can be installed on the PC or it can be run without installation. Double click the downloaded file and select the Extract option to use it without installing it because this means that you can also carry it on a USB flash memory drive.

Run TrueCrypt and select Volumes, Create new volume. Choose Encrypt a non-system partition/drive to encrypt a flash memory drive and then select Standard TrueCrypt volume. Click Select Device and then choose a drive. You can tell the flash memory drive by its drive letter and size, which is something like F: and 2Gb. Keep clicking Next, enter a password and format the drive (beware, the previous contents are erased). That's it, you can exit the wizard.

Whenever you want to use the USB flash memory drive, select a drive letter in the TrueCrypt window, click the Auto-Mount Devices button and enter the password. The drive then appears in Explorer windows and in programs when you want to load or save files.