We carry a ton of data on our USB thumb drives that we wouldn’t want leaked on the Internet. Whether your key carries your “piss off” letter to your boss, a cache of all your passwords and serial numbers, or those incriminating videos that you took on your last trip to Amsterdam, you need to protect its contents. That’s where Private Disk comes in.
Using this tiny app—it’s less than 2MB—you can encrypt your files using 256-bit AES encryption. Without the appropriate password, your data just looks like a junk-filled file on your drive. Unlike other encryption utilities, which encrypt one file at a time, Private Disk creates an encrypted virtual volume, which is perfect for encrypting the contents of a USB key.
Here’s how it works: First, you create your encrypted volume, specifying the size of volume you want. Then the app will save a single file containing the info in the volume in a location of your choice. Depending on the size of the encrypted volume, and the speed of your computer, this can be a fairly lengthy process. Then, to access your encrypted volume, you’ll double-click the file and enter your password. After the data’s decrypted, the contents of the volume will show up in My Computer, and you can read and write files to it, just like any other drive. It’s really that easy.
We like to dedicate about half of our 2GB thumb drive to our encrypted volume, and put a copy of Private Disk on the unencrypted portion, along with other files we want access to at quick notice. All in all, it’s a great little app, albeit a bit pricey for a one-trick pony.
Month Reviewed: September 2006