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Secure your Windows 7 PC or laptop

We look at Windows 7's best security features

Until now, Windows Vista was the most secure version of the Windows operating system. Windows 7 picks up where Vista left off, and improves on that foundation to provide an even more secure computing experience. Here’s a look at some of the more significant security enhancements in Windows 7.

Using BitLocker Without a TPM

By default BitLocker requires a Trusted Platform Module (TPM) chip to store the BitLocker encryption keys and facili­tate the encryption and decryption of the BitLocker-protect­ed data. Unfortunately, many desktop and laptop computers are not equipped with a TPM chip, but all is not lost.

Microsoft has included the option to use BitLocker Drive Encryption without a compatible TPM, but accessing that option is not necessarily intuitive or easy. To use BitLock­er without a TPM chip, follow these steps:

1. Click the Windows logo at the bottom left (the Start button).

2. In the ‘Search Programs and Files’ field at the bottom of the Start menu, type gpedit.msc and press .

3. Under Computer Configuration, navigate to Administra­tive Templates, Windows Components, BitLocker Drive Encryption, Operating System Drives.

4. Double-click on the Require additional authentication at start­up option.

5. Select the Enabled radio button at the top and check the Allow BitLocker without a compatible TPM check box.

6. Click OK.

Protecting Mobile Data With BitLocker to Go

Windows Vista was able to protect the drives and volumes that are part of the computer, but it could not encrypt data on removable drives. Windows 7 addresses that glar­ing lack of functionality with BitLocker to Go.

While you can continue working during the encryption process, when you initially encrypt a removable drive you must be sure not to remove it during the encryption pro­cess. If you do so before the process is complete, it may damage the data on the drive irreparably. If you must shut down or remove the drive prior to the completion of encryption, use the Pause button to halt the process first.

Using BitLocker to Go, you can protect data on USB thumb drives and other removable media. If you need to share sensitive information with other people, you can give them the encrypted data on the USB thumb drive and choose a password that you can share with them to unlock the contents. For additional protection, you can require a smartcard to unlock the data, and deliver the encrypted drive and the smartcard separately.

BitLocker to Go also gives administrators the ability to control how removable media can be used, as well as to enforce policies for protecting data on removable drives. Through Group Policy, administrators can make unpro­tected removable storage read-only and require that the system apply BitLocker encryption to any removable stor­age before users can save data to it.

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