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BitLocker 000-Bitlocker Drive Encryption.png
Vista’s BitLocker drive encryption is available in the Ultimate and Enterprise editions. To use it, you’ll need a computer with a supported Trusted Platform Module (TPM), but even if you have one, it may not be enabled properly in your computer (in which case, you’ll be waiting on your PC or motherboard vendor to update the BIOS).

You may remember some talk about Vista allowing you to use a USB flash drive on systems that don’t have a TPM. It’s possible, but you need to dig up an obscure setting to turn it on.The first thing you need to do is modify your drive partitions to support BitLocker. Until about a week ago, this was a massive hassle: you’d need to re-partition and install from scratch. Fortunately, MIcrosoft has released a Windows Ultimate Extra (available through Windows Update) that will prepare your drive for BitLocker without repartitioning:

Bitlocker 001-Install Bitlocker Enhancements.png

After you’ve installed it, open the Start Menu, and choose Programs->Accessories->System Tools->BitLocker->BitLocker Drive Preparation Tool. Follow the instructions (including the warning about backups), and prepare your drive. After it finishes, you’ll need to reboot, and you’ll find that the BitLocker control panel still isn’t ready to cooperate:

BitLocker 006-still need a TPM.png

To sort it out, you need to run the Group Policy Object Editor (open the Start menu, type gpedit.msc into the search field, and press enter. You can also launch gpedit.msc from the Run dialog or command prompt). Once you get into the Group Policy Object Editor, drill down to Local Computer Policy->Computer Configuration->Administrative Templates->Windows Components->BitLocker Drive Encryption. In the right-hand pane, double-click on Control Panel Setup: Enable advanced startup options. In the dialog that appears, enable this option, then press OK and close the Group Policy Object Editor:

BitLocker 009-Enabled advanced options.png

Run the command gpupdate /force from the command prompt, search box, or start menu (you might need to launch the command prompt with Admin privileges, which means you need to find Command Prompt in the Start menu, right-click it, and choose Run as Administrator). After gpupdate runs, close the control panel and open it again to the BitLocker options, and with any luck, you should be able to configure BitLocker:

BitLocker is a go.png

Brian Jepson

I’m a tinkerer and finally reached the point where I fix more things than I break. When I’m not tinkering, I’m probably editing a book for Maker Media.



  1. DSchwartzberg says:

    Any way to get BDE to work on VMware with a USB key? I’ve been testing it and I keep hitting a wall. Just curious to see if anyone has any success.

  2. Riff says:

    How do you make a duplicate Bitlocker USB startup key? The Bitlocker program has a feature labeled “manage bitlocker keys.” Click this feature and you get a screen giving you the option to duplicate your USB key. This is good to create a duplicat startup key in case the original gets lost or stolen. The problem is that this feature does not work. I spent an hour on Sunday and another hour on Monday trying to get Microsoft technical support to make this feature work. My experience with Microsoft technical support was horrible. I don’t understand how they could be so incompetent. If you know how to make a duplicate startup key, please let me know.

  3. Spiral says:

    You don’t get to make duplicate USB keys, but you are forced to create a backup (or many backups) of the key when you first set it up.

    If you need to make a new backup – your key is regenerated making your old keys invalid. So be sure you can manage this before making backups willy nilly.

    The feature does work – it just doesn’t work the way you think it does.

  4. bryan says:

    I am very impressed by this article it workedgreat on Vista ultimate. I was suprised it still worked with SSFL enabled which locks the maching down into a security monster. Anyway I’ve had no problems or bugs to report. Booting is a bit slower but it thats the sacrafice I have to make for bitlocker security so be it. Thanks so much for your hard work and great tutorial.

  5. DeepandMeaningless says:

    Anyone get this message, and have any idea how to resolve it?

    bit locker could not be enabled. The system firmware failed to enable clearing of the system memory on reboot

  6. Eric says:

    If your USB startup key is not working, just change the boot order in your BIOS so that your computer boots first from the hard drive. If it boots first from the USB drive, it may hang there and you will just get a message saying “no bootable partition” or maybe just a blinking cursor. To load the bitlocker key, your system must boot from the hard drive. It then scans for the startup key on your usb drive and loads it. Some USB drives will not cause this problem but many will. So, if you have this problem, change the boot order. Note: the writer who said you cannot duplicate your startup key is incorrect. Yes you can. Just open bitlocker and select manage keys where you will get that option.

  7. Tom says:

    I got “firmware failed to enable clearing” on new Vostro 1310 w/o TPM and w/ Vista Ultimate Upgrade from business. Setting bitlocker gpedit.msc to ‘enable don’t write’ didn’t help. Dell couldn’t help. I gave up eventually and skipped bitlocker tests. There is an option in the BIOS to ‘protect’ memory which I didn’t try changing so that may or may not overcome the issue.

    I thought I had problem duplicating USB startup key (or (re-) writing it actually.) I probably didn’t, but have to enable visibility of ‘system files’ in Vista to see it. The .BEK file (re-)written has the same name and I suspect the same content, so I believe that ‘Spiral’ is incorrect.

    I eventually got the USB to work somewhat reliably after formatting it NTFS, and playing with boot orders and playing with which USB slot it is plugged into. Not sure which of any of these made the difference as my BIOS settings are back to original (HDD first, removable second but active.)

    I believe Dell to be prone to not being able to read USB for some time after power-up. I believe I’ve seen this with other Dell workstation and server gear. That would explain spotty function.

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