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Set up and use FileVault

Protect your personal data when you’re out and about using super-secure encryption

As computers become smaller and lighter, we can be flexible enough to work anywhere (local coffee shop, anyone?). However, there is one pitfall that is often overlooked: security. How safe is your data when you’re out with your Mac in public places? It’s not only your Mac that might get stolen when you’ve nipped to the loo… it’s your data as well.

This is where FileVault comes in – built-in security standards employed by governments worldwide, it enables you to encrypt your data so
that only you can access it. So if your Mac is lost, stolen or hacked, your data is safe. Before using FileVault, though, you need to think carefully about whether you really need it, as you risk losing all of your data if the encryption goes wrong at any stage. Here’s how it works.


1 Launch System Preferences

To get started, click on the Apple logo in the top-left of your desktop and choose System Preferences. Or, navigate to your Applications folder and find System Preferences in there.


2 Open the preferences

In the System Preferences pane, select Security & Privacy from the top row of icons, which will launch the Security & Privacy preferences pane for your Mac. Next, click on the FileVault tab.


3 Show your credentials

Click on the padlock icon in the bottom-left. When prompted, enter your Administrator username and password. You must be an administrator to secure your Mac using FileVault.


4 Back up your data

Before you proceed, double-check that you have a recent backup, as you won’t be able to perform a full back up after this point. Next, click on the Turn on FileVault button.


5 Remember your recovery key

A recovery key will be displayed on the screen. Write it down and keep it safe; you will need this to decrypt (remove) FileVault if you forget your password in the future. Press Continue.


6 Entrust your key

Apple gives you the option of storing your recovery key with them to protect your data if you lose it. If you wish to do this, select ‘Store the recovery key with Apple’ option.


7 Create security questions

You’ll be prompted to create security questions and answers: choose a question from the drop- downs and enter answers. Be aware that Apple only accepts exact answers to recover your key.


8 Activate FileVault

Once you’re all set, press Continue. Your Mac will restart and begin the initial encryption process. Don’t force power off your Mac during this process otherwise you may lose all your data.


9 Carry on encrypting

FileVault will continue encrypting after you’ve logged back in. This can take minutes or hours, depending on how much data there is. Head back to the FileVault pane to check progress.