What is a BitLocker recovery key?

A BitLocker recovery key is a special key that you can create when you turn on Bitlocker Drive Encryption for the first time on each drive that you encrypt. You can use the recovery key to gain access to your computer if the drive that Windows is installed on (the operating system drive) is encrypted using BitLocker Drive Encryption and BitLocker detects a condition that prevents it from unlocking the drive when the computer is starting up. A recovery key can also be used to gain access to your files and folders on a removable data drive (such as an external hard drive or USB flash drive) that is encrypted using BitLocker To Go, if for some reason you forget the password or your computer cannot access the drive.

You should store the recovery key by printing it, saving it on removable media, or saving it as a file in a folder on another drive on your computer that you are not encrypting. You cannot save the recovery key for a removable data drive (such as a USB flash drive) on removable media. Store the recovery key separate from your computer. After you create a recovery key, you can use Manage BitLocker to make additional copies.


  • If your computer is part of a domain, your system administrator might control which recovery key options are available.

  • Assistive technology software that runs on Windows, such as screen reading software, can't read BitLocker startup screens because they are displayed during basic input/output system (BIOS) startup before Windows starts. This includes screens used when you type a personal identification number (PIN) or recovery key, and any BitLocker error messages.

To copy your BitLocker recovery key

  1. Open Bitlocker Drive Encryption by clicking the Start button Picture of the Start button, clicking Control Panel, clicking Security, and then clicking Bitlocker Drive Encryption.

  2. Click Manage BitLocker, and then follow the instructions.