BitLocker is a valuable encryption feature in Windows operating systems that helps protect your data by encrypting the entire disk drive. However, as with any security measure, there is a possibility of losing access to your data if you forget your password or encounter hardware issues. That's where the BitLocker Recovery Key comes into play. In this article, we will explore what the BitLocker Recovery Key is, compare it to a password, explain how to find it, and discuss backup and recovery options.
Table of Contents:
What is BitLocker Recovery Key?
The BitLocker recovery key, consisting of 48 unique digits, is automatically generated when you set up BitLocker encryption. This special key is crafted during your initial activation of BitLocker Drive Encryption for each drive you secure.
Your BitLocker recovery key serves a crucial purpose – it's the key to unlocking content on a BitLocker-encrypted drive. This key is your backup plan, helping BitLocker assist you when you forget your BitLocker password.
What is BitLocker Encrypted Drive?
A BitLocker encrypted drive is a storage device that has been encrypted using BitLocker, a full-disk encryption feature included with Microsoft Windows. BitLocker encrypts all of the data on the drive, including the operating system, system files, and user files. This makes it impossible to access the data without the correct encryption key.
So, even if you've misplaced or don't remember your BitLocker credentials (like your password, PIN, or USB key), as long as you have your BitLocker recovery key for an encrypted operating system, fixed, or removable drive, you can use it to regain access to your drive.
Difference between the Password and Recovery keys in BitLocker
Here’s a comparison of Password and Recovery Key in BitLocker
Used for regular access to your encrypted drive
Used as a backup option to ensure you can still access your data in case of certain issues.
Used every time you want to access the encrypted drive.
Not meant for daily use, but for specific situations where you can’t access your drive with your regular password.
Chosen by the user when setting up BitLocker.
Automatically generated by BitLocker during setup.
Can be of any length as set by the user.
Always a 48-digit numerical key.
Why windows is asking you for the BitLocker Recovery key?
Windows may request the BitLocker Recovery Key for various reasons:
Hardware or Firmware Changes: If there are alterations in your computer's hardware or firmware, BitLocker will detect these changes and secure your PC, requiring the recovery key for access. This safeguards your data from unauthorized access.
Boot List Changes: Whenever you connect a new device to your PC and it appears in the boot list, BitLocker may prompt you for the recovery key. If you encounter this even when not connecting any devices, it could be due to default settings like Preboot support for TBT and USB-C/TBT being turned on.
Security-Related Settings Changes: If someone attempts to tamper with your PC by altering security-related settings, BitLocker will detect these changes and lock your PC, necessitating the recovery key for entry.
Incorrect PIN or Lost USB: When you forget your PIN, enter an incorrect one multiple times, or misplace the USB containing the startup key, the recovery key becomes essential for unlocking your device.
Outdated Drivers or Auto-unlock Key Enabled: BitLocker may ask for the recovery key if you have outdated drivers or have enabled auto-unlock keys in the BitLocker settings.
Presence of Malware: The presence of malicious software in your system can trigger frequent BitLocker recovery key prompts, alerting you to potential security threats.
BitLocker Recovery Options
BitLocker Recovery Options are a set of tools and procedures that can be used to unlock a BitLocker-encrypted drive if you are unable to access it using your normal login credentials. This can happen for a number of reasons, such as if you forget your password, your TPM chip malfunctions, or your drive is damaged.
There are three main BitLocker Recovery Options:
Method 1: Use the Recovery Key: The Recovery Key can be used to unlock your BitLocker-encrypted drive in the event that you are unable to access it using your normal login credentials. You should save your Recovery Key in a safe place, such as on a USB drive or in a cloud storage service.
Method 2: Contact IT Support (For Enterprise Users): If you are using BitLocker in a corporate environment, you can contact your IT support team for assistance if you are unable to unlock your drive. Your IT support team may be able to provide you with your Recovery Key or help you to unlock your drive using other methods.
Method 3: Recovery Environment: If you are using Windows 10 or later, you can access the BitLocker recovery options from the Windows Recovery Environment (WinRE). WinRE is a special boot environment that allows you to troubleshoot and repair problems with your computer.
To access WinRE, hold down the Shift key while restarting your computer. Once in WinRE, you can select the Troubleshoot > Advanced options > BitLocker Recovery option to access the BitLocker recovery options.
Important: If you lose your Recovery Key and your IT support team is unable to help you, you will need to reinstall Windows in order to access your data. Reinstalling Windows will erase all of the data on your BitLocker-encrypted drive, so it is important to have a backup of your data before recovering your drive.
How to find the BitLocker Recovery Key
To find your BitLocker recovery key in your Microsoft account, follow these steps:
STEP 1: Open a web browser on another device and go to https://account.microsoft.com/devices/recoverykey
STEP 2: Sign in to your Microsoft account.
STEP 3: Under Devices, select the device whose recovery key you want to find.
STEP 4: Click Show recovery key.
STEP 5: Save your recovery key in a safe place, such as on a USB drive or in a cloud storage service.
To find your BitLocker recovery key in OneDrive, follow these steps:
STEP 1: Go to https://onedrive.live.com/recoverykey.
STEP 2: Sign in to your Microsoft account.
STEP 3: Find your PC name and the recovery key.
STEP 4: Save your recovery key in a safe place, such as on a USB drive or in a cloud storage service.
Navigate to your browser and login into your Microsoft recovery page. Go to Devices and select the device whose key you want to find. Click on your device, and you’ll find your BitLocker key.
These steps are essentially the same as the previous steps, but they are written in a more conversational tone.
It is important to note that you can only find your BitLocker recovery key in your Microsoft account if you saved it there when you enabled BitLocker. If you did not save your recovery key to your Microsoft account, you will need to find it in another location, such as on a USB drive or in a cloud storage service.
How to backup your BitLocker Recovery Key
Here are the steps to back up your BitLocker recovery key:
STEP 1: Tap the Windows Start button and type "BitLocker."
STEP 2: Select the "Manage BitLocker" Control Panel app from the list of search results.
STEP 3: In the BitLocker app, click on "Back up your recovery key."
STEP 4: You'll see the "Manage BitLocker Encryption" app with an arrow pointing at the option to back up your BitLocker recovery key.
STEP 5: Choose where you want to back up the key:
Option 1: Save to your Microsoft Account:
This option will save the key in the Recovery Keys library of your Microsoft Account, making it easily accessible from any computer in the future.
Option 2: Save to a USB flash drive:
If you have a USB flash drive handy, you can save the key to it. If your computer asks for the key in the future, just insert that USB drive and follow the onscreen instructions. The key takes up only a small amount of space, so the drive doesn't need to be large.
Option 3: Save to a file:
You can save your recovery key as a plain text file on any device. If you need that file in the future, simply open it with any text editor like Notepad or Microsoft Word to view the key. You won't be able to save it to the BitLocker-encrypted drive, so consider saving it to a USB drive if your device doesn't have a second, unencrypted volume.
We recommend copying or moving that text file to your OneDrive Personal Vault for secure storage that can be easily accessed from any device when needed.
Option 4: Print the recovery key:
If you prefer a hard copy, you can choose to print the recovery key. Important: Store the printout in a secure location separate from your computer. If a thief were to steal both the computer and the printed recovery key, they could potentially bypass BitLocker encryption, putting your data in danger.
STEP 6: Once you've selected your preferred backup method, click "Finish" to complete the process.
The BitLocker Recovery Key is a crucial safeguard for your encrypted data in the event of password-related issues or hardware failures. It serves as a failsafe, allowing you to regain access when needed most. By understanding its importance, knowing how to find it, and implementing best practices for its backup and storage, you can ensure that your data remains both secure and accessible, providing you with peace of mind in the world of digital security.