Take Control of FileVault - Learn About Mac Encryption

Take Control of FileVault – Learn About Mac Encryption

Take Control of FileVaultThe news is filled right now with hand-wringing about the security of online information (I’m hurt that I’m not famous enough for my nude selfies to make it to Reddit).

The seemingly obvious defense is to keep your sensitive information stored locally, but what happens if your computer is stolen?

A solution to this is to encrypt the information on your hard drive. You can do this by encrypting specific files, but the easiest way is to just encrypt your entire drive.[1]

There are many ways to accomplish this, but the easiest way on Mac OS X Lion and later is called FileVault[2], which is built in to OS X.

(On Windows, the rough equivalent is BitLocker.)

I’ve been a FileVault user for years, and if you have enabled it you will know there is seemingly not much to it. If you want your drive encrypted, turn it on. If you don’t, turn it off.

You can get by perfectly well with this level of knowledge, but encryption can be like an onion: the more you start looking into it, the more layers there are to peel away.

I’ve been meaning to do a more in-depth feature on FileVault and encryption for a while, but fortunately Joe Kissell has made an ebook that means I don’t need to: he has written Take Control of FileVault, and it’s extremely comprehensitve.

If you are a long-time reader of DocumentSnap you might recognize Joe’s name as he is the author of the excellent Take Control of Your Paperless Office.

In typical Take Controllian fashion, the guide goes through pretty much everything you might want to know (and more) about encryption with FileVault. Here’s a few things that it covers that I found helpful:

  • Protection for external drives.
  • Encrypting backups (sure your computer might be encrypted, but what about that drive sitting beside it?)
  • At what point is the data encrypted?

I like how the guide starts with the basics (what you need to know before you turn it on, how you turn it on) and then delves a little deeper into encrypting external drives and backups, and then goes into extremely geeky ways that you can interact with FileVault and other scenarios that are pretty hardcore even for me.

There’s also a helpful FAQ right at the beginning too.

FileVault is something that I had never given a lot of thought to other than turning it on, so I learned a lot from Take Control of FileVault. If you are someone who wants to dive into encryption on the Mac, it might be helpful for you too. It is $10 from the Take Control Store, and if you purchase through that link you’ll be buying me an Americano (thank you).

  1. This is not an either-or thing by the way — you can do both.  ↩

  2. Technically FileVault 2, but don’t get picky.  ↩

About the Author

Brooks Duncan helps individuals and small businesses go paperless. He's been an accountant, a software developer, a manager in a very large corporation, and has run DocumentSnap since 2008. You can find Brooks on Twitter at @documentsnap or @brooksduncan. Thanks for stopping by.

Leave a Reply 2 comments

Joyce - July 6, 2016 Reply

Lesson learned the hard (drive) way: Before upgrading Mac software, UNlock File Vault BEFORE doing a final back-up to Time Machine or a separate flash drive. Several years ago, the upgrade crashed; then the back-up I’d made to the flash drive wouldn’t open. I lost EVERYTHING – and I followed directions exactly. NO ONE from Apple told me that I needed to unlock File Vault first, until I got up to about Level 5 in the Tech Support hierarchy, when someone finally told me I should have unlocked FV first. There was nothing in the app that stated that. I hope that’s changed with current versions.

Deron - September 28, 2014 Reply

Would you use FileVault for your Super Duper Clone or is there an encryption option in SD? Also is there a way to encrypt Time Machine backups? Hmmmm maybe I should buy the book…

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