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Bitlocker disk encryption

BitLocker Disk Encryption (BDE) is Full Volume Encryption solution by Microsoft first included with the Enterprise and Ultimate editions of Windows Vista. It is also present in Windows 7 and later version along with a system for encrypting removable storage media devices, like USB, which is called BitLocker To Go. Unlike previous versions of BitLocker, BitLocker To Go allows the user to protect volumes with a password or smart card.


BitLocker encrypts data with either 128-bit or 256-bit AES and optionally using a diffuser algorithm called Elephant. The key used to do the encryption, the Full Volume Encryption Key (FVEK) and/or TWEAK key, is stored in the BitLocker metadata on the protected volume. The FVEK and/or TWEAK keys are encrypted using another key, namely the Volume Master Key (VMK). Several copies of the VMK are also stored in the metadata. Each copy of the VMK is encrypted using another key, also know as key-protector key. Some of the key-protectors are:

  • TPM (Trusted Platform Module)
  • Smart card
  • recovery password
  • start-up key
  • clear key; this key-protector provides no protection
  • user password

BitLocker has support for partial encrypted volumes.

BitLocker To Go

Volumes encrypted with BitLocker To Go will have a hybrid encrypted volume, meaning that part of the volume is unencrypted and contains applications to unlock the volume and the other part of the volume is encrypted. The "discovery drive" volume contains BitLocker To Go Reader to read from encrypted volumes on versions of Microsoft Windows without BitLocker support.

How to detect

Volumes encrypted with BitLocker will have a different signature than the standard NTFS header.

A BitLocker encrypted volume starts with the "-FVE-FS-" signature.

A hexdump of the start of the volume should look similar to:

00000000  eb 58 90 2d 46 56 45 2d  46 53 2d 00 02 08 00 00  |.X.-FVE-FS-.....|
00000010  00 00 00 00 00 f8 00 00  3f 00 ff 00 00 00 00 00  |........?.......|
00000020  00 00 00 00 e0 1f 00 00  00 00 00 00 00 00 00 00  |................|
00000030  01 00 06 00 00 00 00 00  00 00 00 00 00 00 00 00  |................|
00000040  80 00 29 00 00 00 00 4e  4f 20 4e 41 4d 45 20 20  |..)....NO NAME  |
00000050  20 20 46 41 54 33 32 20  20 20 33 c9 8e d1 bc f4  |  FAT32   3.....|

These volumes can also be identified by a GUID:

  • for BitLocker: 4967d63b-2e29-4ad8-8399-f6a339e3d00
  • for BitLocker ToGo: 4967d63b-2e29-4ad8-8399-f6a339e3d01

Which in a hexdump of the start of the volume should look similar to:

000000a0  3b d6 67 49 29 2e d8 4a  83 99 f6 a3 39 e3 d0 01  |;.gI)..J....9...|


To view the BitLocker Drive Encryption (BDE) status on a running Windows system:

manage-bde.exe -status

To obtain the recovery password for volume C:

manage-bde.exe -protectors -get C: -Type recoverypassword

Or just obtain the all “protectors” for volume C:

manage-bde.exe -protectors -get C:


You can unlock a drive with the cscript command, leaving the master key in the clear by using these commands:

cscript manage-bdg.wsf unlock c:
cscript manage-bdg.wsf autounlock enable c:

Changes in Bitlocker for Windows 10

As of the fall of 2015, Microsoft introduced a new mode in Bitlocker on Windows 10, XTS-AES. Volumes encrypted in this manner are not backwards compatible with previous versions of Windows/Bitlocker and can only be opened on Windows 10 systems and later.

See Also