Securing your partitions and drives is necessary when working with sensitive data, and BitLocker is an excellent choice. This built-in Microsoft-designed tool can encrypt any volume or partition in Windows, and it uses passwords and recovery keys, the only two methods of unlocking encrypted drives.

However, since BitLocker encryption is far from perfect, users with BitLocker-encrypted drives often run into issues like a BitLocker that won't unlock with the correct password or a BitLocker recovery key not working. Don't worry – these issues are easy to fix, and today, we'll show you what you need to do.

In this article
    1. Recover Your BitLocker Recovery Key From Microsoft Account
    2. Use CMD Manage-Bde Command
    3. Enable/Disable Secure Boot
    4. Update BIOS to the Latest Version
    5. Try a Legacy Boot
    6. Update Windows OS
    7. Try Reformatting the Drive
    8. Remove Unnecessary External Devices

What Is the "BitLocker Recovery Key Not Working" Problem

The BitLocker recovery key not working error is a common occurrence for BitLocker users. Even if you input the correct password or recovery key you know should work for your encrypted drive, BitLocker won't let you access it.

While incredibly frustrating, and although various issues can cause it, solutions to this error exist, and we'll guide you through them.

Why BitLocker Recovery Key Is Not Working

Although BitLocker is a terrific choice and an effective encryption tool, a handful of issues can cause your BitLocker recovery key to stop working. These issues are often connected to the following elements:

  • 🧑Authentication Errors – Since BitLocker uses different encryption options for older and newer operating systems and internal and external devices, users can often encounter authentication errors. These errors can prevent you from unlocking the drive on a different computer or another operating system, even if you use the correct password or recovery key.
  • 📌Secure Boot or BIOS Changes – BitLocker requires Secure Boot to be enabled and only works with BIOS settings applied when setting up the encryption. Thus, if you change these settings or disable Secure Boot after setting up BitLocker, you'll likely cause your BitLocker encryption to stop working.
  • 💻Hardware, Software, and Firmware Changes – BitLocker remembers your system's components and OS version for security reasons, so changing your CPU, motherboard, GPU, and RAM or updating the OS to a newer version can cause issues with BitLocker-encrypted drives. Thus, such changes should be avoided if possible.
  • 📐Connecting or Removing Hardware – Besides changing your hardware and software, adding or removing RAM sticks, storage devices, keyboards, mice, printers, and other USB peripherals can cause BitLocker to malfunction. Thus, you should avoid making these changes if you have enabled BitLocker encryption.

We've also included a table of the most common causes behind a Bitlocker recovery key not working error, the appropriate methods and solutions, and a short guide for your convenience:

Causes Methods How-to-do
🧑Authentication Errors Method 1: Recover Your BitLocker Recovery Key From Microsoft Account
Method 2: Use CMD Manage-Bde Command
Use your Microsoft account to recover the key or remove BitLocker encryption via CMD.
📌Secure Boot or BIOS Changes Method 3: Enable/Disable Secure Boot
Method 4: Update BIOS to the Latest Version
Method 5: Try a Legacy Boot
Change the Secure Boot option inside BIOS to enabled or disabled, update your BIOS, or try using Legacy Mode when booting.
💻Hardware, Software, and Firmware Changes Method 6: Update Windows OS
Method 7: Try Reformatting the Drive
Update your operating system, reformat the encrypted drive, and recover data with Wondershare Recoverit if needed.
📐Connecting or Removing Hardware Method 8: Remove Unnecessary External Devices Remove the connected peripheral devices.

How to Fix "BitLocker Password & Recovery Key Not Working" Issue

Although the culprits behind the issue of a BitLocker recovery key not working can be overwhelming, they're nothing to fear, as they're relatively easy to fix with a suitable troubleshooting method. Below is a list of the most common solutions for BitLocker problems, and as long as you carefully follow the instructions, you'll quickly regain access to your encrypted drives.

Method 1: Recover Your BitLocker Recovery Key From Microsoft Account

When you first set up BitLocker, the app asks you to print the recovery or save it to a safe location, with a Microsoft account being one of the options. If you've done that, you can recover the key by following these steps:

  1. Navigate to your Microsoft account in a web browser, sign in, and go into BitLocker recovery keys.
  2. Locate the corresponding key and copy it to the clipboard.
    bitlocker recovery keys inside microsoft account
  3. In a new window, open the BitLocker dialogue and tap More options.
  4. Select Enter recovery key, paste the key by hitting CTRL + V, and hit Unlock.
    enter the copied recovery key

After unlocking the encrypted drive, you should remove the encryption and set it up again, but take care of your password better this time.

Method 2: Use CMD Manage-Bde Command

If your recovery key doesn't work, you can resolve the issue using the manage-bde command inside the Command Prompt. You'll need to do this:

  1. From the BitLocker Recovery Screen, press ESC on your keyboard.
  2. Select Skip this drive at the bottom and navigate to Troubleshoot > Advanced options > Command Prompt.
    open the command prompt
  3. Type the following command alongside your recovery key and hit Enter.

    manage-bde -unlock X: -rp < recovery password >
  4. Make sure to swap "X" with the drive letter of your encrypted drive. At the same time, you need to input your BitLocker recovery password inside the brackets instead of the text.

  5. Enter this command to disable BitLocker for that drive:

    manage-bde -protectors -disable X:

When done, restart your PC, and you should be able to access your drive without a password.

Method 3: Enable/Disable Secure Boot

Since BitLocker depends on your Secure Boot settings at the time of the first setup, a change related to this setting can cause BitLocker to malfunction and your BitLocker recovery key to stop working. However, this is a relatively straightforward fix:

  1. Find your motherboard manufacturer's instructions on booting into BIOS. More often than not, it's one of the following keys: ESC, F2, F8, F10, F12, DEL.
  2. Reboot your PC and press the appropriate key to enter BIOS.
  3. Once inside, find the Secure Boot setting. It's often under the System Configuration, Authentication, or Security tabs.
  4. Change it from Enabled to Disabled or vice versa.
    turn off the secure boot option

Reboot the PC and check whether your BitLocker recovery key issue persists. If it doesn't work, revert the Secure Boot settings and move on to the following solution.

Method 4: Update BIOS to the Latest Version

Although BIOS updates rarely fix BitLocker issues, they are vital for your overall computer health. Since they're free and quick, they're worth a shot for fixing BitLocker problems. Here's how to update your BIOS.

  1. Grab an empty USB stick and visit your motherboard manufacturer's website.
  2. Head to the support page, add your motherboard model and download the latest BIOS version.
  3. Unzip the downloaded file and place it on your USB stick.
  4. Reboot the PC and press the corresponding key to boot into BIOS.
  5. Locate the BIOS update settings, which vary from manufacturer to manufacturer, and add your USB stick as the update source.
  6. Carefully follow the instructions and let the PC handle the rest.
    update your computer bios

It's highly recommended to enter the BIOS beforehand and check the version number, as you might be able to skip this step if you already have the latest version.

Method 5: Try a Legacy Boot

While BitLocker will most often work in the boot mode it was set up in, meaning Legacy mode for older Windows operating systems and UEFI mode for newer ones, some users report that changing these settings has helped them resolve the issue. Since it'll only take a few seconds, it's worth a shot, and you can always revert the changes if it doesn't work.

  1. Press the appropriate key to boot into BIOS.
  2. Using your keyboard, navigate to the Boot tab.
  3. Look for UEFI/BIOS Boot Mode and set it to Legacy.
    use the legacy boot option
  4. Navigate to the Exit tab and choose Exit Saving Changes.

You can also often tap the F10 keyboard to save BIOS modifications, exit BIOS, and initiate an automatic restart.

Method 6: Update Windows OS

Keeping your operating system updated with the latest security patches is vital for the health of your computer. It can also solve some BitLocker issues, especially the ones related to hardware, software, and firmware changes. Here are the steps for updating your Windows OS:

  1. Hit the Windows key on your keyboard and search for Windows Update settings or go into Settings > Windows Update.
  2. Press the Check for updates button.
    update the windows operating system
  3. Download and Install any available updates.

Remember to restart your computer afterward to finish installing the updates, regardless of whether you're prompted to restart.

Method 7: Try Reformatting the Drive

Writing down your BitLocker password and carefully handling the recovery key to avoid misplacing it is highly recommended. However, these precautions are sometimes not enough. Some users might be forced to format their encrypted drives when the password and the recovery key don't work or are lost.

Even so, it doesn't mean the end of your data, and you'll soon see how to recover it – but first, let's dive into drive formatting and show you how to do it. Here are the steps:

  1. Navigate to File Explorer > This PC.
  2. Right-click on an encrypted drive and choose Format.
    format the encrypted drive
  3. Choose the formatting options, name the USB drive, and click Start.
    modify drive formatting options
  4. Once done, a notification will appear. Click OK when you see it.

Adding the "quick format" option to the formatting operation increases the formatting speed and makes it possible to recover data from that drive. If you don't add it, formatting will default to a full format, and your data will be irrecoverable.

Therefore, data isn't lost if you've formatted the encrypted drive with the quick format option. A reliable and dedicated data recovery tool like Wondershare Recoverit can still recover your precious data. Using it is incredibly simple and only requires a few steps and minutes of your valuable time.

Free Download
Free Download

Here's how:

  1. Launch the Wondershare Recoverit app on your computer.
  2. Pick Hard Drives and Locations on the left and select the drive you've formatted.
    open the wondershare recoverit app
  3. The app will automatically start a detailed scan on the selected drive.
    scan the formatted drive
  4. You can speed up the scanning operation by adjusting file type and size filters and adding keywords to look for specific files.
    adjust filters and add keywords
  5. You can also preview the found files by clicking the Preview button.
    preview the found data
  6. When ready, hit Recover to save the files to a safe location.
    save the recovered files

It's worth noting that Wondershare Recoverit can do much more than recover data from previously encrypted drives. It works wonders in over 500 data recovery situations, including accidental deletion, malware, viruses, formatting, corruption, etc.

Method 8: Remove Unnecessary External Devices

BitLocker is known to flag peripheral devices as security issues, and many users encounter these after adding a USB stick, an external drive, headphones, NAS storage, and other types of external devices. Removing these external devices can resolve the problem.

Unplug the newly added external device from your PC and reboot the computer. Your BitLocker encrypted drive should no longer malfunction, and you'll regain access to your sensitive files.

Conclusion

While BitLocker's recovery key failsafe can save the day, sometimes it doesn't work even if you use the right 48-digit key. Authentication errors, changed hardware or software, incorrect BIOS settings, and added peripheral devices often cause these issues.

Fortunately, they're relatively straightforward to fix, and we've included pointers as to what method to use for each problem. In most cases, these issues are nothing to worry about, as you can always reformat the drive and then get your files back by using dedicated data recovery software like Wondershare Recoverit.

Free Download
Free Download

FAQ

  • What can I do if BitLocker won't unlock with the correct password?
    If your password doesn't work, BitLocker includes an excellent failsafe option in the form of a recovery key. You can find it on your PC, on a USB drive, printed on paper, or inside your Microsoft account's settings, depending on the option you picked when setting up BitLocker encryption.
  • Can I fix BitLocker if there's something wrong with it?
    Absolutely. Whether you've lost the password or the recovery key or have both, but BitLocker isn't accepting either one, you can still fix the issue and regain access to your encrypted data. In addition, even if you can't open the BitLocker encrypted drive, you can reformat it and then use a data recovery tool to find and retrieve the deleted files.
  • Is BitLocker a reliable tool?
    Despite the described problems, BitLocker is a highly reliable encryption tool and an excellent option if you're working with sensitive data. It's worth noting that, compared with the number of BitLocker encryption users, the number of situations where the BitLocker recovery key isn't working is relatively tiny.
Alex Nappi
Alex Nappi May 14, 24
Share article: