Helping to protect your files with device encryption

Device encryption helps protect your Windows 8.1 PC by encrypting your data – or "scrambling" it – to help keep it secure. Only someone with the right encryption key (like a password) can unscramble and read it. Device encryption helps block hackers from getting the files they need to steal your password. If your PC itself is lost or stolen, device encryption also helps keep other people from accessing your data by physically installing your locked drive in a different PC. Even if your PC is encrypted, you can still sign in to Windows and use your files as you normally would.

Note

  • Device encryption is available in all Windows RT 8.1 PCs, and in Windows 8.1 PCs that support InstantGo. InstantGo allows your PC to wake up instantly from sleep with your applications and data up to date. For more details about whether you can use device encryption with your PC, check the information that came with your PC or go to the manufacturer's website.

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How do I turn on device encryption?

You need to sign in to your PC with a Microsoft account with administrator permissions to use device encryption. For more info about administrator permissions, see Standard accounts versus administrator accounts. If you didn't sign in with a Microsoft account, or if you don't have a Microsoft account and want to get one, follow these steps.

To sign in with a Microsoft account

  1. Swipe in from the right edge of the screen, tap Settings, then tap Change PC settings.
    (If you're using a mouse, point to the bottom-right corner of the screen, move the mouse pointer up, click Settings, then click Change PC settings.)

  2. Tap or click Accounts, and then tap or click Switch to a Microsoft account.

If you're using a new PC with a fresh installation of Windows RT 8.1, device encryption is turned on automatically when you sign in. Windows helps protect data on your PC and automatically uploads a recovery key to your Microsoft account online. This recovery key lets you sign in to your PC if you've been locked out.

However, if you've upgraded to Windows RT 8.1 from a previous version of Windows, you'll need to turn on device encryption manually.

To turn on device encryption manually

  1. Swipe in from the right edge of the screen, then tap Search.
    (If you're using a mouse, point to the bottom-right corner of the screen, move the mouse pointer up, then click Search.)

  2. In the Search box, enter encryption.

  3. Tap or click Change device encryption settings and follow the instructions.

When would I need to use a recovery key?

You need a recovery key when your PC goes into recovery mode. There are a few reasons why this might happen. For example, your organisation might have a password security policy that locks your PC after a certain number of failed attempts to sign in. Your PC can also enter recovery mode if it encounters a hardware malfunction or an unexpected configuration change that affects security. Requiring a recovery key helps make sure only an authorised person can unlock your PC and restore access to your encrypted data.

For more info about the recovery key and how to get it, see Recovery keys: Frequently asked questions.

How do I back up my recovery key?

If you've signed in with a Microsoft account, protection is turned on for your PC and your recovery key is automatically backed up to your Microsoft account online. If you want to store another copy of the recovery key, you can print it or save it as a file.

  1. Swipe in from the right edge of the screen, then tap Search.
    (If you're using a mouse, point to the bottom-right corner of the screen, move the mouse pointer up, then click Search.)

  2. In the Search box, enter device encryption.

  3. Choose Back up your recovery key and follow the instructions.

How do I view my device encryption settings?

  1. Swipe in from the right edge of the screen, tap Settings, then tap Change PC settings.
    (If you're using a mouse, point to the bottom-right corner of the screen, move the mouse pointer up, click Settings, then click Change PC settings.)

  2. Tap or click PC and devices, then tap or click PC info.

    The Device encryption section appears at the bottom of the PC info page.

How do I turn device encryption off?

Not all PCs are set up to let you change device encryption settings. To determine whether you can turn device encryption off on your PC, follow these steps.

  1. Swipe in from the right edge of the screen, then tap Search.
    (If you're using a mouse, point to the bottom-right corner of the screen, move the mouse pointer up, then click Search.)

  2. In the Search box, enter encryption.

  3. Tap or click Change device encryption settings and follow the instructions.

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