You’re likely aware of BitLocker encryption if you’ve kept private information or sensitive data on a USB device or an external drive. Protecting your data with such encryption is vital, especially if the external drive constantly exchanges hands or you use it on different computers.

However, you may wish to remove BitLocker from a USB or external drive if you’re no longer dealing with sensitive files. Stay with us, as that’s what we’ll show you today.

In this article

How to Remove BitLocker From a USB/External Drive When You Know the Password

External drive or USB BitLocker removal is relatively straightforward with a password. It’s also excellent when you’re no longer dealing with sensitive files and want to avoid unlocking the external drive before each use. Here are the step-by-step instructions:

  1. Navigate to File Explorer > This PC, double-click the encrypted USB/external drive, and input your encryption password.
  2. Right-click the drive and select Manage BitLocker.
    head into bitlocker settings
  3. Click on Turn off BitLocker.
    remove bitlocker from usb via password

As you can see, USB BitLocker removal is easy with a password, but what if you can’t remember it? In that case, the recovery key is your only option.

How to Remove BitLocker Encryption From an External Drive/USB When You Have the Recovery Key

BitLocker encryption has a built-in failsafe mechanism that lets you access your data even if you’ve forgotten your encryption password. Namely, users who encrypt their USB or external drives with BitLocker first input the password, but they also receive a recovery key if they forget the password.

Therefore, removing BitLocker encryption from external drives or USBs is still possible even if you’ve forgotten your encryption password. You’ll need to follow the next few steps to remove BitLocker encryption by using the recovery key:

  1. Locate your Recovery Key .txt file and find the 48-digit key inside it.
    find the recovery key text file
  2. In a separate window, navigate to File Explorer > This PC and double-click the encrypted USB or external drive.
  3. Click on More options under the password input field and select Enter recovery key.
    select the recovery key option
  4. Paste the 48-digit recovery key from the .txt file, and hit Unlock.
    input your recovery key
  5. Once unlocked, open the Control Panel and navigate to System and Security > BitLocker Drive Encryption.
  6. Expand your USB/external drive options and click Turn off BitLocker.
  7. Follow the instructions and click Close when done.

Your encrypted USB or external drive should now be entirely decrypted, and you can use it without inputting the encryption password every time.

How to Remove BitLocker Encryption From External Drive/USB Without Recovery Key

While BitLocker encryption is an excellent method of encrypting and protecting your drives and vital data, losing your essential files is easy if you’re not careful with your passwords and recovery options.

Thus, the worst-case scenario means losing your encrypted data forever if you’ve forgotten your encryption password and misplaced your BitLocker recovery key. However, you can still reuse your USB or external drive by formatting it.

Let’s dive into drive formatting.

  1. Open File Explorer and click on This PC.
  2. Right-click on your encrypted USB/external drive and select Format.
    format the usb or external drive
  3. Adjust the formatting options, label the USB drive, and hit Start.
    adjust usb formatting options
  4. Click OK when the “Format Complete” notification appears.

Checking the box next to “Quick Format” is highly recommended because it only takes a few seconds instead of minutes or hours. It’s also vital to mention again that formatting wipes all data from the USB device or external drive and should only be performed as a last resort. Many users also accidentally format the drive before looking for a recovery key.

Nevertheless, the encrypted USB’s data can still be recovered when you have the right tool for the job. Using dedicated and reliable data recovery software like Wondershare Recoverit, users can quickly and efficiently retrieve vital files, even from a formatted USB or external drive.

Free Download
Free Download

Here’s how:

  1. Connect the USB stick or external drive to the PC and launch Wondershare Recoverit.
  2. Select Hard Drives and Locations on the left side of the screen and choose your external device or USB drive.
    open wondershare recoverit
  3. Recoverit will automatically begin an all-around scan on the selected external device, which will start locating files and take a few minutes to complete.
    scan the external device
  4. Preview the found data and hit Recover to save the files to a safe location on your computer.
    preview and recover files

In addition to formatted and encrypted drives, Recoverit can handle crashed computers, accidental deletion, viruses, Mac data loss, and NAS and Linux file recovery. It supports more than 1,000 file types and over 2,000 different devices, and using the app is incredibly straightforward.


Although BitLocker encryption is terrific at handling sensitive data and protecting your USB/external drives, it can also be frustrating as it constantly requires inputting the password. If that’s the case, you can remove it from your device altogether.

There are a few methods for USB BitLocker removal, and they revolve around using a password and, alternatively, a recovery key if you’ve forgotten the password. However, if you’ve forgotten the password and misplaced the recovery key, formatting the drive is your only option.

Accidentally formatting an encrypted drive is also a common issue with BitLocker-encrypted devices. In that case, data recovery software like Wondershare Recoverit can be your go-to option.

Free Download
Free Download


  • Can I put BitLocker encryption on internal drives?
    Absolutely! While BitLocker To Go focuses on external drives and USB sticks, the original BitLocker tool covers all types of internal drives. Since it’s designed to encrypt any volume or partition in Windows, it can be turned on for any drive. It uses passwords and recovery keys, the only two methods of unlocking BitLocker encrypted drives.
  • Is there a Mac version of the BitLocker To Go software?
    Unfortunately, no. BitLocker and BitLocker To Go are Microsoft-only tools – you can’t use them on macOS computers. Such drives will appear “not readable” on any operating system other than Windows. However, macOS has an equivalent application called FileVault, and it handles drive encryption similar to Microsoft’s BitLocker. At the same time, FileVault-encrypted drives won’t be readable on other operating systems.
  • What types of encryption does BitLocker offer?
    While older versions of Windows like Vista, 7, 8, and 8.1 exclusively used the AES-CBC 128-bit encryption, Microsoft introduced a new, better encryption with Windows 10 called XTS-AES 128-bit, adding additional integrity support to these drives. BitLocker has a detailed explanation when you’re first setting up, suggesting XTS-AES for newer Windows versions and internal drives and AES-CBC for external devices and USBs and older operating system versions.
Alex Nappi
Alex Nappi May 14, 24
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