How to Easily & Robustly Encrypt Several External Hard Drives Which are Lying Around

Several old external hard drives lying around.

What is the easiest and most robust way to encrypt them?  They all have standard USB ports.

Thinking of your basic bad-guy encryption where the value of my data to anyone would outweigh the cost of having to do advanced cryptography.  Where whoever found the drives would think, "This is more valuable to me formatted and resold than taking the time to figure out how to get past the encryption here."

What looks good, and strong - but won't take up too much time on my end?

Many thanks!

OT
oaktreesAsked:
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Gerwin Jansen, EE MVETopic Advisor Commented:
Veracrypt or BitLocker

Personally I would go for Veracrypt (open source, multi platform).

Setup wouldn't take much time, encrypt process can take time, depending on USB and system speed.
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Michael PfisterCommented:
If you're running Windows you can use Veracrypt or built-in BitLocker
HTH
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McKnifeCommented:
Are you able to give us an idea what OS' this hard drive will connect to?
On Windows: bitlocker, hands down win. However, should you be using win7 pro (and not 8.1 pro or 10 pro or the enterprise editions of these, you cannot use bitlocker to encrypt the drives since it is not included.
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oaktreesAuthor Commented:
Hi!

First - thanks ALL! :)))

They are all Windows OS drives, created over many years of Windows versions 7 and up, I'd say.

I've using Win 10 Pro now.

Rookie question - once I add the encryption, it will apply to the existing data.  Am I right?  Put another way - after I encrypt with whichever one of these we decide is the best to go with, then the data that is already there will be protected?

Thanks,

OT
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Michael PfisterCommented:
If you encrypt an entire disk/stick in VeraCrypt you have to move the data off the drive first. The creation of an encrypted volume will wipe the the disk.
Alternatively you can create an encrypted container (file) on the disk and move your data to this container.

BitLocker will encrypt your existing data/file system.
HTH
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McKnifeCommented:
@Michale Pfister: Veracrypt will wipe the drive? No. It can be installed to any system and encrypt the entire drive without wiping.
Bitlocker can do the same - yes, anything is protected. However, using veracrypt will need veracrypt to be installed anywhere, while bitlocker is already present by default.
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Gerwin Jansen, EE MVETopic Advisor Commented:
To add to McKnife's remark: https://www.veracrypt.fr/en/System%20Encryption.html

Note that VeraCrypt can encrypt an existing unencrypted system partition/drive in-place while the operating system is running (while the system is being encrypted, you can use your computer as usual without any restrictions). Likewise, a VeraCrypt-encrypted system partition/drive can be decrypted in-place while the operating system is running. You can interrupt the process of encryption or decryption anytime, leave the partition/drive partially unencrypted, restart or shut down the computer, and then resume the process, which will continue from the point it was stopped.

You can just take a thumb drive, put some files on it and encrypt it using Veracrypt - for testing purposes.
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AlanConsultantCommented:
Another vote for VeraCrypt as you can access the drives from any machine if or when you need to, whereas Bit Locker is only available on certain Windows SKUs.

Both are good though.

Alan.
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McKnifeCommented:
No Alan, that's not correct. To encrypt with bitlocker, you need certain SKUs, yes, but to read bitlocker encrypted drives, all editions of win7/8.x/10 will do and need no additional software and no administrative permissions. There's even a bitlocker reader for windows xp and vista available.

For veracrypt, to read a portable encrypted drive on another machine, you need veracrypt installed or veracyrpt portable AND admin rights.
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oaktreesAuthor Commented:
Thanks! :)))))))))))))!
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AlanConsultantCommented:
Okay, but as far as I know, you can't ever access a bitlocker drive from anything other than Windows, so still far more restrictive I'd say.

Alan.
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Gerwin Jansen, EE MVETopic Advisor Commented:
@oaktrees - So which of the 2 proposals are you going for? Just for future references to this question - thanks.
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