How to Use FileVault in Yosemite to Encrypt Your Hard Drive (or Not)

Open vault door showing OS X logo

Apple has just made it much harder for someone else to get to your data if it becomes compromised. By default, OS X Yosemite prompts you to enable disk encryption on your Mac with FileVault. In order to not use it, you have to decide to turn it off.

Here’s how to do it.

When the FileVault window first comes up and you decide you don’t want to use FileVault Encryption, uncheck the following checkboxes:

  • Turn on FileVault Disk Encryption
  • Allow my iCloud account to unlock my disk

FileVault Disk Encryption prompt window

If you change your mind later and want to turn on FileVault Disk Encryption, go to System Preferences > Security & Privacy > FileVault. Next, select Turn on FileVault. Once you turn this on, it could take a bit of time to encrypt your data, depending on how much you have.

Note: While your hard drive is encrypting your data, you can still work and reboot your machine; FileVault will just pick up where it left off.

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In case you’re wondering, FileVault encrypts your hard drive with XTS-AES 128. Encryption is painless and can keep the everyday thief from accessing your data if your computer is stolen. If your computer is completely shut down, your entire drive is encrypted and secure. The contents are unlocked after the user boots up and logs in to the machine.

Other Ways to Guard Your Mac

If you have a computer that contains super-sensitive data, you will want to shut down your Mac whenever you are away from it or when you’re done for the day. Leaving your computer in Standby or Sleep mode can make it susceptible to a cold boot attack. This is because the encryption keys are kept in memory while the computer is booted on.

It basically comes down to what computer you are using. For everyday, non-sensitive use, configure your computer with encryption and Standby and Sleep should be no worry. With a highly sensitive computer, shut it down whenever you are away from it for 100 percent protection.

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