laptop security

Windows Vista File Encryption

Encrypting File System (EFS) is the Windows Vista file encryption solution. It is just one of the encryption options available in the Windows Vista security suite.

The full suite includes the following components that can be used individually or together:

  • Encrypting File System (EFS)
  • BitLocker? Drive Encryption
  • Rights Management Services (RMS)
  • Device control

EFS isn't fully supported on Windows Vista Starter, Home Basic or Home Premium, but for advanced users there is a work around that will permit the use of EFS with the lower cost versions of Vista. It involves running Cipher.exe in the Command Prompt window and copying things around. We are not sure why anyone would bother when there are excellent 3rd party whole of disk encryption systems available.

Microsoft clearly doesn't consider consumers or home and small business operators to be a significant market for laptop encryption.

Windows XP encryption software was tweaked up for release with Vista. New features incorporated into the Windows Vista file encryption system include:

  • User keys can be stored on smart cards.
  • Recovery keys can be stored on smart cards, which allows for secure data recovery without a dedicated recovery station.
  • The Windows paging file can be encrypted using EFS with a key that is generated when the system starts up. It's destroyed when the system shuts down.
  • The Offline Files cache can be encrypted with EFS. It employs the user's key not the system key, which means it can only be accessed by the user on whose behalf it is cached.

These are nice features especially when used in conjunction with BitLocker, RMS and Device Control. Whether they make Windows Vista EFS a viable stand alone proposition is the question. Corporations and government agencies will undoubtedly pay the premium to upgrade their laptops to run Windows Vista Ultimate or Enterprise Editions just to obtain the functionality of Windows Vista BitLocker.

Anyone in the market for a new laptop shouldn't settle on Windows Vista file encryption without considering PGP laptop encryption.

BitLocker brings Microsoft into the world of full disk encryption. It employs a Trusted Platform Module (TPM) that encrypts entire Windows volumes. It provides a seamless encrypted environment making for ease of use and consequently far greater data security.

BitLocker is targeted directly at the corporate market without any apologies. The entry cost is high and it will typically require a laptop upgrade or replacement to run Windows Vista Ultimate or Enterprise Editions. These costs will probably deter most individuals or small businesses with a laptop less than 12 months old.

In the absence of adequate data security measures, laptop computer users are especially vulnerable. The final defense in nearly every situation is laptop encryption.

Surf The Internet At Work?


Windows and other software programs store history about the different activities that you have performed on your computer and on the Internet. This information is stored in the system areas of your hard disk and the built-in Windows functions like 'Clear History' offer little protection as they can only partially delete this data. Anyone can take a look at your history and find out what you have been doing on your computer, and this raises serious privacy concerns.

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