How To Back Up Your File Encryption Key In Windows Vista

If you have Windows Vista, you can easily encrypt your data stored on the computer. To facilitate this, Vista employs the file encryption technology that seems to be quite identical to that of Windows XP from a user’s perspective. Generally, you encrypt your data using an encryption key.

However, have you ever thought of what would happen if you lost this key? Well, the direct consequence is that you will also have to forget your encrypted data forever. But wait a minute! In Windows Vista, there is a way to recover this encryption key if you have taken its backup.

It is highly crucial to back up your encryption key in case you are utilizing the encryption features. An encryption key in Windows Vista begins to play its role as soon as you sign the encrypted files with it. This certainly means that you can easily take a backup of the encryption key. Fortunately, Windows Vista reminds the user instantly when she or he encrypts any file for the first time.

In case of a public computer or using a smart card for encryption, you will need a file recovery certificate, but that is beyond the scope of this article. Herein, we will only concentrate on how to backup the encryption key in Vista. In case you are not aware of the terminologies related to the file encryption, I would recommend reading the next section instead of skipping it.

Introduction To Encrypting File System (EFS)

In Windows, EFS manages the encrypted files with the help of a private key as well as a digital certificate. The key facilitates decryption and is well protected by a password. However, if for any reason this private key is lost or corrupted or you forget the password, remember that you cannot decrypt the files in any way. However, there is an exception to it.

If you have the key’s backup, you can safely escape that shocking situation! On the other hand, the digital certificate aims at binding the public key from the private/public key pair to your identity. Signed by Windows, it plays a role of an issuing authority that is valid for a longer time.

Taking the Backup Of The Encryption Key

When you encrypt a file for the first time, Vista displays a popup-balloon as a taskbar notification item so that you are reminded of backing up your file encryption key immediately. You need to then follow the given below steps to backup your encryption key.

1. Click the popup notification. The Encrypting File System window is displayed.

2. Select Back up now (recommended) option from the Back up your file encryption certificate and key screen.

The Certificate Export Wizard screen is displayed.

3. Click Next. The Export File Format screen is displayed.

4. Select the desired check boxes from the Personal Information Exchange section, except for the Delete the private key if the export is successful check box.

5. Click Next. The Password screen is displayed.

6. Enter a strong, memorable password in the two text boxes. This is the password with which you will be able to restore the encryption key.

7. Click Next. The Save As dialog box is displayed.

8. Enter the suitable file name and select the preferred location for saving the backup file.

9. Click the Save button.

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10. Click Next. You will get a message that the export is successful.

11. Click OK.

In case you do not observe the popup notification, you can backup the encryption key by navigating to Control Panel, entering certificate in the search box, and clicking Manage file encryption certificates.

This will display a simple screen to take the backup.