Drive encryption not just for hard disks

By Scott Dunn

I pointed out in our July 19 issue some programs that encrypt hard-disk partitions — a feature of the more-expensive Ultimate and Enterprise versions of Windows Vista.

But these days, you may want protection for more than just hard disks, such as Flash drives.

Get portable encryption on Flash drives

Reader Richard Niolon has a question about the hard-drive encryption programs I described:
  • “I read the column by Scott Dunn about file security in Vista and how you can get similar protection for your XP system. But it discusses computer hard drives.

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    “I’ve been looking for something for my Flash drive that is portable, is easy to use, doesn’t slow down file access unbearably, and most of all… that does not require administrator privileges.

    “That way, I can access my Flash drive on the public computers at my school. Any ideas? Free is nice, but not required.”
The freeware encryption tool TrueCrypt will probably fill the bill. Although it requires an administrator account to set up an encrypted file, you don’t need to be an administrator to mount the encrypted container later on. TrueCrypt can encrypt entire Flash drives or just create an encrypted container on part of the Flash drive.

Since you want it to be portable, you’ll need this second option. According to the FAQ on the TrueCrypt Web site, as long as you create an encrypted container on one part of the Flash drive, and put TrueCrypt on another part of the drive (i.e., not in the container), you should be able to accomplish what you are want. For details, see the Traveller Mode chapter of the user guide.

Virtual PC works on XP and Vista Home

The July 19 issue also mentioned that the system requirements for Microsoft’s Virtual PC application don’t include XP Home or Vista’s Home Premium edition. But reader Pete Green writes to tell a different story:
  • “I thought you might like to know that, despite what Microsoft says, both in its requirements and when you install the program, Virtual PC does in fact work fine on XP Home. I’ve been using it on my Home install ever since it became available.”
In a similar vein, Mike Simpson writes:
  • “You mention Virtual PC not being compatible with XP Home. A similar message appears if you attempt to install it on Vista Home Premium, stating you are not licensed to use Virtual PC. However, if you do not care if you are licensed or not, you can still install it with no problems under Vista Premium Home.”
Other readers wrote in with similar comments. Naturally, using a product in a way not contemplated by the license means you can’t expect to receive any support from Microsoft if something goes wrong.

Run old DOS programs under Windows

A number of readers commented on a letter in the July 26 issue, in which reader Gerhard Oberschlick wondered how to get MS Word for DOS to run on his XP Home computer. For example, Howard Wexler writes:
  • “Don’t know what Gerhard Oberschlick is talking about. I have XP Professional, but I have always been able to run Word for DOS 5.0 from XP without any added software.”
But many more readers pointed to the solution first proposed by a reader named Tommy:
  • “Since the user wanted to run DOS programs, I’d suggest he investigate using DOSBox from dosbox.sourceforge.net.”
According to its Web site, DOSBox emulates an Intel x86 machine. This permits older DOS programs (including but not limited to games) to run in newer operating systems like Windows 2000 and XP, including support for sound, graphics, mice, and more. It also includes a rudimentary command prompt for helping you install your old applications.

The downloads page includes add-ons for languages other than English. The product appears to be free, but the site does solicit donations.

We’re sending a gift certificate for a book, CD, or DVD of their choice to readers Green, Simpson, Wexler, and Tommy for sending us tips that we printed. Send us your tricks using the Windows Secrets contact page.
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All Windows Secrets articles posted on 2007-08-02: