Should I Turn on FileVault on Mac?

My quick answer is yes, you should turn on FileVault on your Mac. The security benefits far outweigh any possible performance issues or inconveniences you may have heard of. In the end, they are not really even noticeable but the enhanced security will give you solid protection.

I’m Eric, a computer and technology enthusiast for nearly 40 years. Even though I have been around computers forever, I am still learning new things all the time. I enjoy sharing my findings whenever I can in hopes to help others who want to learn also.

If you would like to know what FileVault is, is it good or bad, or should you turn it on or not, then keep reading and we will discuss this further.

Stay with me if you are ready to learn more!

What is FileVault?

FileVault not turned on yet on Mac

Maybe you have heard about FileVault and opinions about whether or not you should turn it on, but you still don’t know what it is. Or you may kind of know what it is but your not completely sure what it is for. Even if you do know what it is, let’s take a quick overview.

Filevault is an encryption utility that comes with your macOS. In simple terms, it protects the data on your computer’s hard drive by encoding it in a format that only those with the password can read. It prevents thieves and hackers from being able to read the information on your Mac.

Once it’s enabled all the existing data on your hard drive will be encrypted as well as anything new that you store there now or in the future. It uses a very secure 128 bit AES encryption method and a 256-bit key to decode the data.

This may sound like some kind of high-tech 007 spy-type stuff but It’s really not that complicated. When it comes to keeping your data safe Mac does a good job of it. You probably don’t need to know all the details, just know that it is there to protect your information.

Am I Already Using Filevault?

It is possible that you are already using FileVault and don’t even know it. Most newer Macs and macOS will ask if you want to turn on Filevault when setting up your new computer or operating system. 

If you didn’t know what it was at the time, there’s a chance you may have already enabled it. You can easily check to see if you do have it enabled using the following steps.

Step 1: Click on the Apple symbol in the upper left corner of the screen and then select System Preferences.

Step 2: In the System Preferences window click on Security and Privacy.

Step 3: In the Security and Privacy window click on the FileVault tab.

If FileVault is NOT turned on, you will see the message in the middle of the screen that says FileVault is turned off for the disk …

You will also see the button on the upper right side that says Turn On FileVault.

Should I Enable Filevault?

If you have found that you do not have it enabled, you may now want to decide whether or not to turn it on. For some this decision is easy and for others, it may not be so clear. Let’s take a look at some of the pros and cons to enabling it and maybe it can help you to decide.

Pros

The positives to enabling this tool are very straightforward. It will protect your data. Especially if you work with sensitive data such as medical information, government information, or proprietary information, you will most definitely want to have it enabled.

In fact, if you work for a company that deals with any of this type of data, they may require you to have it enabled. If you are unsure, you might want to check with your manager or security officer to ensure you are following the correct security procedures for your company.

It also just makes good sense to protect your own personal information. Identity theft and other cybercrimes continue to be on the rise and this is one more layer of protection that can defend you.

You might think that no one else is going to have access to your computer, but what if it gets lost or stolen? What if a thief removes the hard drive from your computer? This type of encryption will keep others from being able to read the data and keep your personal information safe.

Cons

While the early days of FileVault were somewhat painful, it has come a long way since 2003 when it was first introduced. Back then it was known to slow down your system and didn’t even provide full protection of all your data drives.

The version used today runs much smoother and does provide protection for all of your data. In fact, on most newer Macbooks and Mac systems, you won’t even know that it is running. Once it is completely set up you probably won’t see a difference in performance.

If your using an older Mac system there is a chance that you will notice some slow down to your system but in most cases, it won’t be painfully slow. It will still protect all of your data which may be a priority for you.

One other negative will be the simple fact that you will be required to have password protection enabled on your Mac. Most of us already do this anyway so it will not be a big deal, but for those who hate having more passwords and leave their system unprotected it may be an extra hassle.

Make sure that you do not forget your password and keep the recovery key safe somewhere. If you can not remember your password and do not have the recovery key you will not be able to access your data and it could be lost permanently.

How to Turn on FileVault on Mac

If you do decide to turn FileVault on, it’s not too difficult to do. Just follow these quick steps.

Step 1: Open the Privacy and Security settings as shown above and select the FileVault tab.

Step 2: Click on the lock symbol in the lower-left corner and enter your id and password to make sure you have administrator permissions.

Step 3: Click on the Turn On FileVault button.

Step 4: Follow the on-screen instructions for the options you want.

Step 5: After a few seconds the encryption process will begin. It may take a couple of hours to encrypt all of your data depending on how much there is. It can run in the background while you work on other things but your performance may be slowed while the process is running.

If you would like to see more details of how to Turn on FileVault take a look at this video.

Final Words

FileVault is a great tool that can help you protect the data on your Mac. In my opinion, turning it on is a very good idea but for some, it may not be worth it. I hope that the information we have provided can help you to decide if FileVault is right for you.

As always, please let us know if you have any questions or comments. We would love to hear from you.

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