How to use Encryption in 15 minutes (with screenshots)

Encryption for Humans

Real-world encryption in 15 minutes, with screenshots

Abstract – the purpose of this article is to provide a quickstart guide for protecting sensitive data with strong encryption using the free, open source encryption software VeraCrypt.  This is not an exhaustive guide and does not provide extensive details on what is happening.  Instead, this article provides the user, novice or intermediate, with enough detail to easily and securely download, extract and use VeraCrypt to store sensitive information on otherwise insecure media (the media that we use for the demo is cheap USB disks purchased at the local ‘big box’ office supply store).  Additional information on encryption is available in the Misc / Errata section at the end.

  1. Preparation
    1. A USB disk large enough for the VeraCrypt software (approximately 45MB) and your encrypted volume (variable)
    2. A folder named VeraCrypt on your USB disk
  2. Install VeraCrypt
    1. Download VeraCrypt to your local computer
    2. Double-Click on the VeraCrypt file that you downloaded
    3. Read and agree to the License Agreement and click Next
    4. When prompted to Install or Extract, choose Extract and click Next
    5. Click Ok to acknowledge that VeraCrypt is not fully portable
    6. Click Yes to acknowledge that VeraCrypt will prompt for credentials
    7. Click Browse and select the VeraCrypt directory on your USB Disk
    8. Click Ok to extract the VeraCrypt files to the VeraCrypt folder on your USB Disk
    9. Click Ok to acknowledge successful setup
    10. At this point, you will see a list of files in the VeraCrypt folder
  3. Create an Encrypted Volume
    1. Double-Click on the VeraCrypt icon / application / file
    2. Click Create Volume
    3. Select Create an encrypted file container and click next
    4. Select Standard VeraCrypt Volume and click Next
    5. Click Select File and create a file on your USB Disk.  Navigate to your USB Disk and enter the filename for your Encrypted Container
    6. It is safe to leave the encryption and hashing defaults alone and click Next
    7. Specify the size of your container and click Next.
    8. Choose a key (password) that will be used to open the container
    9. Move your mouse around inside the window to create entropy, or random data
    10. Once the bar is green, click Format to create your container.  This process can take some time, depending on the size of the container, the speed of your computer, etc.
    11. When complete, click the Ok and exit
  4. Mount Encrypted Volume
    1. Double-click the VeraCrypt icon / application / file
    2. Select a drive letter for your encrypted volume.  Once mounted, you will access your encrypted volume the same as any other drive
    3. Click Select File and select the file that you created in 3.5 above and click Mount
    4. Enter the key (password) that you created in 3.8 above and click Ok.
  5. Use Encrypted Volume
    1. Copy, save or move files into the encrypted volume as you would any other folder
  6. Dismount Encrypted Volume
    1. Click the Dismount button to dismount your file

Misc / Erratta


VeraCrypt License Agreement
VeraCrypt License Agreement
Choose Extract
Choose Extract (not install)
Click Ok
VeraCrypt will prompt for credentials, click Yes
Select the VeraCrypt directory on your USB Disk
Select the VeraCrypt directory on your USB Disk
Double-Click on VeraCrypt
Double-Click on VeraCrypt
Select Create Volume
Create encrypted file container
Create an encrypted file container
Select Standard VeraCrypt Contaner
Select Standard VeraCrypt Container
Create a file for your encrypted container
Leave the default encryption and hash options and click Next
Leave default encryption and hash settings
Set size of container.
Set size of container
Choose key / password for container
Choose key / password for container
Move your mouse to generate entropy
Move your mouse to generate entropy
Volume Created
Volume Created
Double-Click on VeraCrypt
Double-Click on VeraCrypt
Select Drive Letter
Select your encrypted volume file
Enter Key / Password

Click Dismount