BitLocker recovery keys: Frequently asked questions

If you're locked out of your PC, you'll need a BitLocker recovery key to sign back in.

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Why am I locked out?

There are several reasons that might make a PC go into recovery mode. For example, your organization might have a password security policy that locks you out after a certain number of failed attempts to sign in. Or perhaps your PC encountered a hardware malfunction, an unexpected configuration change, or another security event. Requiring a recovery key helps ensure that only an authorized person can unlock your PC and restore access to your encrypted data.

How can I get my BitLocker recovery key?

Depending on how your PC is set up, there are different ways to get your recovery key.

If your PC is connected to a domain

  • Contact your administrator to get your recovery key.

If your PC isn’t connected to a domain

  • There are several locations in which your BitLocker recovery key might have been saved. Here are some places to check:

    • Your Microsoft account online. This option is only available on non-domain-joined PCs. To get your recovery key, go to BitLocker Recovery Keys.

    • A saved copy of the recovery key. You might have saved a copy of the BitLocker recovery key to a file, a USB flash drive, or printed a hard copy.

      • If you saved the key to a file or printed it, find your copy, follow the instructions on your locked PC, and enter your key when prompted.

      • If you saved the key to a USB flash drive, insert the USB flash drive and follow the instructions on your PC. (If you saved the recovery key as a file on the USB flash drive, you’ll need to open the file and manually enter the recovery key.)

What if I have problems with my Microsoft account?

If you're having problems with your Microsoft account, here are a few tips.

I have a Microsoft account, but I can’t sign in

I’m signed in with my Microsoft account, but I don’t see my recovery key

The recovery key might not have been saved to your Microsoft account online. In this case, look for any copies of the recovery key you might have printed or saved to a file.

If you accidentally deleted the recovery key from your Microsoft account online and want to save it again, you need to force Windows to back up the recovery key automatically. The only way to do this is to switch to a local account, and then switch back to a Microsoft account.

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

  2. Tap or click Users, tap or click Switch to a local account, and follow the instructions.

  3. Repeat step 1, tap or click Users, tap or click Switch to a Microsoft account, and follow the instructions.

I don’t have a key. What else can I do?

Unfortunately, if you can’t find your key, and no other administrator on the PC can find a backup copy either, you’ll need to restore the PC to factory default settings. Only choose this option as a last resort because it will delete your personal data from the PC. While it helps protect your data against unauthorized access, it also prevents you from ever accessing your data again.

Depending on your Windows configuration, you might be able to restore your PC to its factory default settings directly from the Windows recovery screen.

I see a link at the bottom of the recovery screen

  • Tap or click the Learn more about resetting your PC to factory defaults link, and then follow the instructions.

In some Windows configurations, you might need to start the recovery process using a button instead.

I see buttons at the bottom of the recovery screen

  • Tap or click the Learn more about resetting your PC button, and then follow the instructions.

In other Windows configurations, you might have the option of skipping over certain drives without unlocking them.

I see an option to skip a drive

  1. Tap or click the Skip this drive link at the bottom of the BitLocker Drive Encryption screen to continue without unlocking the current drive.

    If you skip all of the BitLocker-encrypted drives, you’ll see a list of advanced repair and startup options to choose from.

  2. Tap or click Repair and Restore, tap or click Other repair options, and then tap or click Factory Reset and follow the instructions.

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