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What Is BitLocker Drive Encryption Recovery Key & How to Get It

Updated on Wednesday, November 30, 2022

iBoysoft author Amanda Wong

Written by

Amanda Wong
Professional tech editor

Approved by

Jessica Shee

What Is BitLocker Drive Encryption Recovery Key & How to Get It

Summary: This post explains the BitLocker drive encryption recovery key, and it tells how to generate and save a BitLocker recovery key, also provides solutions when you have problems unlocking the BitLocker drive with the recovery key.

bitlocker drive encryption recovery key

Computer users keep all kinds of content on the storage media, including crucial work documents, private files, photos, etc., so it is of great necessity to protect this information from unauthorized access. Most people choose to encrypt the drive, Apple provides FileVault, and BitLocker is Windows' solution, featured with a BitLocker drive encryption recovery key. Let's dive into it in this post.

Table of Contents:

BitLocker drive encryption recovery key explained

BitLocker, a full-volume encryption feature for Microsoft Windows, is applied since Windows Vista. It is designed to protect data by providing encryption for entire volumes. This feature is available on:

  • Ultimate and Enterprise editions of Windows Vista and Windows 7
  • Pro and Enterprise editions of Windows 8 and 8.1
  • Pro, Enterprise, and Education editions of Windows 10 and Windows 11
  • Windows Server 2008 and later

BitLocker provides there modes to encrypt the volume, including Transparent operation mode(TPM) based on hardware, user authentication mode such as a pre-boot PIN or password(so-called BitLocker password), and the USB Key mode which boots the protected OS via a USB device. You can combine more than one mode to enhance the security of your data.

When you enable BitLocker to encrypt your internal and external hard drives, it will automatically generate a BitLocker drive encryption recovery key, a unique 48-digit numerical password, and stored in a .BEK file. It is used to unlock/decrypt the BitLocker encrypted drive so that all the content is readable. If you lose it, you cannot access the BitLocker encrypted drive anymore.

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Where to save and find BitLocker drive encryption recovery key

When you follow the onscreen guide to enable BitLocker on operating system drives or removable drives, it automatically generates the BitLocker drive encryption recovery key and asks you to save it somewhere. 

save bitlocker recovery key

  • Save to your Microsoft account. A Microsoft account is an email address and password that you use with Microsoft services such as Outlook.com, Office, OneDrive, Skype, and Windows. After you save the recovery key to your Microsoft account, you can find it once you sign into it
  • Save to a file. You can save the BitLocker drive encryption recovery key as a plain text file on any device, such as a USB flash drive or a second and unencrypted volume on the device. When you need to read the recovery key, just open the file with any text editor.
  • Print the recovery key. You can print the recovery key and keep the printout safe and away from the computer so that a thief won't steal your computer and get the recovery key simultaneously. Otherwise, your data will be vulnerable.
  • Save to a USB flash drive. This option is exclusive to enabling BitLocker on an operating system drive. If you save the recovery key to a USB flash drive, you will need to unlock the drive by inserting the USB into your Windows PC and following the onscreen guide.

Suppose you want to back up the BitLocker drive encryption recovery key later. In that case, you can go ahead to the Start menu and type BitLocker, select Manage BitLocker from the list of searching results, choose Back up your recovery key, then select where you want the key backed up, and click Finish.

When you forget the BitLocker drive encryption recovery key, you can find it in your Microsoft account, on the USB flash drive, in a txt file, and in a document saved when you print it. Besides, if you are a domain user, the recovery key may be saved in Active Directory, then your administrator can help to get it for you. And if you sign in with an Azure Active Directory account on a work PC, check the device info for your Microsoft Azure account to get the recovery key.

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When to use BitLocker drive encryption recovery key

Usually, computer users enter the PIN(Personal Identify Number) or password to unlock the device, and Windows loads the booting process to start up from the operating system. But if you have enabled the auto-unlock option in Windows 10, it causes the BitLocker keeps asking for the recovery key at every boot.

bitlocker recovery screen

If so, you can disable auto-unlock by heading to the Start menu > Control Panel > BitLocker Drive Encryption, clicking the Turn off auto-unlock option next to the C drive, and restarting the computer.

In addition to that, many other reasons could also trigger the BitLocker recovery mode, showing a BitLocker recovery screen, and asking for the BitLocker drive encryption recovery key, including:

  • Authentication errors. Perhaps, you forget the PIN, enter the wrong PIN too many times, or lose the USB flash drive containing the startup key.
  • Boot/BIOS changes. When you upgrade BIOS, change the boot order, turn off BIOS support for USB when using a USB-based key to boot up the computer, etc., BitLocker will ask for the recovery key.
  • Hardware, software, and firmware changes. If you make changes to the primary NTFS partitions, upgrade TPM firmware, add or remove hardware, and so forth, you may need to enter the recovery key to access your data.

Some other situations could also make BitLocker ask for a recovery key as long as it detects a possible unauthorized attempt to access the data. You just enter your 48-digit recovery key to bypass the recovery mode and use your computer as normal.

Have problems using the BitLocker recovery key

If you encounter problems when using the BitLocker drive encryption recovery key, read the articles provided by iBoysoft below to get out of the trouble.

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Can I open a BitLocker encrypted drive on Mac

BitLocker drive encryption is designed for Microsoft Windows and is not compatible with macOS by default. If you connect the BitLocker drive to another Windows PC, you can enter the recovery key to unlock it without any hassle. But if you plug the BitLocker-protected drive into a Mac computer, you will fail to open and read the content stored.

However, you can use a third-party BitLocker for Mac to gain full read-write access to BitLocker-encrypted HDD, SSD, USB flash drive, SD card, etc., on Mac. It supports the latest macOS Monterey and earlier, and M2, M1, M1 Pro, M1 Max embedded Macs.

Recover lost data from BitLocker encrypted drive

When you mistakenly delete from a BitLocker encrypted drive or lose data on it caused by disk errors, file system corruption, etc., you need to perform data recovery on the drive. But compared with usual data recovery, recovering data from a BitLocker encrypted drive is more challenging. 

Thus, professional BitLocker data recovery software is what you need to retrieve your lost data as much as possible, and as soon as possible. iBoysoft BitLocker Recovery ranks top to recover corrupted BitLocker encrypted drive and get deleted/lost data back from formatted/inaccessible ones.

Download it and recover lost data from the BitLocker drive within a few steps now.

Conclusion

This is a complete guide about the BitLocker drive encryption recovery key. After reading, you know what it is and when it is needed to unlock and access the drive. If you encounter problems using the recovery key, such as forgetting the recovery key, the key not working, etc., we provide solutions for you. 

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