How Can You Save Microsoft BitLocker Keys?

Encrypting sensitive data is a critical security step. Microsoft makes it easy, but managing BitLocker keys and where they are saved can be a challenge. It’s always a good idea to secure sensitive data with Microsoft’s BitLocker encryption technology. BitLocker ensures only the owner can access the encrypted files.

The Importance of BitLocker Encryption

In today’s digital age, protecting sensitive data is more critical than ever. Data breaches and cyber attacks are on the rise, with an estimated 3,800 publicly disclosed breaches in the first half of 2019 alone, exposing 4.1 billion records (RiskBased Security, 2019). Encryption technologies like BitLocker play a vital role in safeguarding this data. BitLocker, a full disk encryption feature included with Microsoft Windows, encrypts entire volumes to protect information from unauthorized access.

BitLocker is widely used because it integrates seamlessly with Windows, offering robust encryption without requiring third-party software. This makes it a preferred choice for businesses and individuals looking to enhance their data security. However, the downside of encrypting data with BitLocker is the overhead of managing encryption keys and the risk of data loss if the keys are misplaced.

The Necessity of Managing BitLocker Keys

To mitigate the risk of data loss, it’s critical that BitLocker encryption keys are backed up and easily recoverable should the need arise. Losing access to these keys can result in permanent data loss, which can be devastating for businesses. According to a survey by Ponemon Institute, the average cost of a data breach in 2020 was $3.86 million (Ponemon Institute, 2020). This underlines the importance of securely managing and backing up encryption keys.

To effectively manage BitLocker keys, follow these steps by starting with right-clicking on your storage volume in Windows 11 and selecting “Manage BitLocker”. Then choose one of these four options.

If you want the ultimate protection for your recovery keys, saving them to a USB storage device is an excellent option. This method creates an offline backup of the recovery key, preventing any unauthorized access. To back up a recovery key to a USB storage device, choose “Save to a USB flash drive” in the BitLocker backup menu and specify a connected flash drive. Windows will do the rest.

One of the primary benefits of saving BitLocker keys to a USB device is the physical security it offers. Since the keys are not stored on the device or network, they are immune to cyber attacks targeting network or cloud storage. This method is particularly useful for businesses that handle highly sensitive information and need to ensure maximum security. Additionally, USB devices are portable and can be stored in secure physical locations, such as a safe or a bank deposit box.

However, it is essential to handle USB devices carefully. They should be stored securely to prevent theft or loss. According to a study by Kingston, 73% of organizations have lost USB drives containing sensitive information (Kingston Technology, 2018). To mitigate this risk, consider using encrypted USB drives, which provide an additional layer of security by requiring authentication before accessing the data.

Save to a TXT File

Windows 11 also provides the option of backing up to a text file. By choosing the “Save to file” option, BitLocker allows you to specify a local or network location for the saved key. Once confirmed, the recovery key will be stored in a text file at your requested destination. Saving a recovery key to a text file is a good approach if you have a secure network location in mind.

Saving BitLocker keys to a text file is a straightforward and accessible method. It allows users to easily copy and paste the key into secure documents or systems. This method is particularly useful for IT administrators who need to maintain organized records of encryption keys. Furthermore, storing keys in a network location ensures they are backed up regularly and can be accessed by authorized personnel as needed.

However, storing keys in a text file requires stringent security measures. The file should be protected with strong access controls to prevent unauthorized access. According to the 2021 Data Breach Investigations Report by Verizon, 61% of breaches involved credentials (Verizon, 2021). Encrypting the text file and storing it in a secure network location can mitigate this risk. Additionally, implementing multi-factor authentication (MFA) for accessing the network storage can enhance security.

Print to Paper or File

For those worried about storing important recovery keys digitally, printing the recovery key to physical paper is an effective alternative. The “Print the recovery key” option in BitLocker ensures the backup is not susceptible to data corruption and provides a true physical barrier. Many choose to store this important paper in a bank safety deposit box or another secure area.

Printing the BitLocker recovery key on paper offers several benefits. It is immune to cyber threats such as hacking, malware, and data corruption. Additionally, physical copies can be stored in highly secure locations, providing peace of mind that the keys will be available when needed. This method is particularly useful for individuals and small businesses that do not have extensive IT infrastructure.

However, physical backups require careful management to prevent loss or damage. It is advisable to store multiple copies in different secure locations to mitigate the risk of loss due to fire, theft, or other disasters. For example, one copy could be kept in a home safe, while another is stored in a bank deposit box. Labeling the keys clearly and keeping an inventory of the stored locations can help in quick retrieval when needed.

Save to a Microsoft Account

If you are logged in to your Windows 11 PC using your Microsoft account, BitLocker can save recovery keys to your Microsoft account in the cloud. By choosing the “Save to your Microsoft account” option, BitLocker will automatically create the backup and upload it. Simply authenticate to Windows 11 with your Microsoft account, and your recovery key will be immediately available.

Saving BitLocker keys to a Microsoft account offers convenience and accessibility. The keys are securely stored in the cloud, allowing users to access them from any device with internet connectivity. This method eliminates the risk of losing physical copies or local files. Moreover, Microsoft’s robust security measures, including encryption and multi-factor authentication, protect the keys from unauthorized access.

Despite the convenience, storing keys in the cloud comes with potential security risks. Cloud storage can be a target for cyber attacks, and unauthorized access to your Microsoft account could compromise the keys. According to a report by Cybersecurity Ventures, cybercrime damages are predicted to cost the world $6 trillion annually by 2021 (Cybersecurity Ventures, 2020). To mitigate these risks, it is essential to use strong, unique passwords and enable MFA for your Microsoft account. Regularly monitoring account activity can also help detect and respond to any suspicious access.


Managing BitLocker encryption keys effectively is crucial to ensure data security and prevent data loss. Each of the four methods discussed—saving to a USB storage device, saving to a TXT file, printing to paper, and saving to a Microsoft account—offers unique advantages and considerations. By understanding and implementing these options, users can choose the method that best suits their security needs and operational requirements.

The importance of encryption cannot be overstated in an era where data breaches are common and costly. According to IBM’s Cost of a Data Breach Report 2020, the average time to identify and contain a breach is 280 days, with an average cost of $3.86 million (IBM, 2020). Effective encryption and key management can significantly reduce the risk of unauthorized access and data loss.

In conclusion, securing BitLocker keys is an essential practice for anyone using encryption to protect sensitive data. By following the best practices outlined in this article, users can ensure their encryption keys are safely backed up and recoverable, providing peace of mind and robust data protection.

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