Use TrueCrypt For Multi-Platform Encryption Support [OS X Tips]

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Yesterday, I wrote a tip about using FileVault 2 encryption in Mac OS X Lion to encrypt a variety of external devices and SD cards. Although I like FileVault 2, I mentioned that it had some caveats.

The most glaring caveat is that media encrypted using FileVault 2 won’t work on other platforms. That might be fine in a home or business that uses only Macs, but it isn’t fine if you are also using computers running Windows or Linux.

Today I’ll show you how to encrypt drives that will work on computers running Mac OS X, Windows and Linux.

If you are using any of these three platforms, you can use TrueCrypt to create encrypted media that is accessible from all three of operating systems listed above. The only issue is that you’ll need a different version of TrueCrypt for each operating system, which you can download directly for free.

Once you have it downloaded on your Mac, use the included installer to install TrueCrypt. The app is installed in the Applications folder on your startup disk.  Once you launch it, you’ll be able to do the following:

  • Create a virtual encrypted disk within a file, which mounts just like a real disk.
  • Encrypt an entire partition or storage device (i.e. USB flash drive, hard drive, etc.).

The first item is useful if you have an existing drive you don’t want to erase but still need to have encryption capabilities for. You can have the best of both worlds – encrypted files and non-encrypted files residing on the same drive. You cannot do this with FileVault 2.

The second item is similar to the way FileVault 2 handles encryption since the entire drive is encrypted. Setting up a drive this way means that it will be erased, so don’t set this up on a drive with data you need to keep. Back the data up first, apply the TrueCrypt encryption and copy the data back onto the encrypted drive.

TrueCrypt offers a plethora of additional features that make it worth taking a good look at and if you like the app I recommend you make a donation to the developers. If you are a secret agent or just someone concerned about privacy, if you have access to multiple platforms and need to share encrypted media, then TrueCrypt might be a better solution to use than FileVault 2.