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What is Bitlocker Recovery?

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  • 5 min read

In today’s digital world, keeping our data safe is essential, and everyone wants to protect their important information from unauthorized access. BitLocker Recovery, created by Microsoft, is a strong tool that helps us achieve this. Whether you have a personal computer or work for a big company, BitLocker Recovery ensures that your data remains secure, even if your computer is stolen.

In this article, we have discussed what is Bitlocker encryption, Bitlocker recovery and what causes Bitlocker recovery.

Also read: Windows 11 Enterprise vs Pro: Key Differences

What is Bitlocker encryption?

BitLocker Drive Encryption, also known as BitLocker, is a special feature for Windows users that helps keep their data safe by encrypting their hard drives. It has been a part of Windows since 2007, but it has improved even in Windows 10 version 1511. With this update, Microsoft introduced stronger encryption methods and allowed separate settings for encrypting fixed data drives, removable data drives, and the main operating system drive.

BitLocker offers different ways to confirm your identity, but some methods can lead to lockouts. The most common way is using a special microchip called the Trusted Protection Module (TPM), found in certain laptops and desktops. This chip automatically unlocks your hard drive during startup without needing a PIN code or USB. While this method is convenient, it’s not the most secure.

For stronger security, Microsoft suggests combining the TPM with a BitLocker PIN or a startup key on a USB. Both options require your input, which can sometimes cause lockouts if you forget your PIN or lose your USB key. So, keeping them safe is essential to avoid any access issues.

Also read: Windows 11 Pro vs Pro N: Differences and Similarities

What is Bitlocker Recovery?

BitLocker recovery is a process to regain access to a BitLocker encrypted drive when you can’t unlock it normally. If the encrypted drive contains the operating system, you can use a free BitLocker recovery boot disk to recover your data.

What is the Bitlocker recovery key?

A BitLocker recovery key is like a super-long password with 48 digits. It helps you unlock your BitLocker encrypted drive when you can’t access it the usual way, like when there’s a lockout. This key is automatically created when you set up BitLocker on your computer.

How to find the Bitlocker key?

Your recovery key could be stored in different locations, depending on your choices when you turn on BitLocker. These locations may include.

  • Your Microsoft account: Log in to your Microsoft account from another unlocked device. If your main device supports automatic encryption, the recovery key might be saved in your Microsoft account.
  • A USB flash drive: If your recovery key was stored on a USB drive, insert the USB device into the locked computer and follow the provided instructions.
  • A .txt file: If the recovery key was saved as a .txt file on a USB drive, insert the USB drive into another already unlocked device to access the code.
  • In Active Directory: If the locked device was connected to your organization’s account, the recovery key might be stored in your Active Directory account. You might be able to access it, but contacting a system administrator might be necessary.

Also read: Fix: X509: Certificate signed by unknown authority

What causes Bitlocker recovery?

Many reasons can cause Bitlocker recovery; we have mentioned different causes responsible for Bitlocker recovery mode below.

Authentication errors

  • Forgetting the PIN you set for BitLocker.
  • Entering the PIN incorrectly too often activates the TPM’s anti-hammering logic, which might lead to a lockout.
  • Using a keyboard with a different layout that doesn’t enter the PIN correctly in the pre-boot environment.
  • Losing the USB flash drive that contains the startup key.

Hardware, software, and firmware changes

  • Inserting or removing a CD/DVD from the computer.
  • Docking or undocking a portable computer if it was docked or undocked when BitLocker was turned on.
  • Making changes to the NTFS partition table on the disk, like creating, deleting, or resizing primary partitions.
  • Turning off, disabling, deactivating, or clearing the TPM.
  • Updating option ROM firmware.
  • Upgrading TPM firmware.
  • Adding or removing hardware from the computer, including add-in cards like video or network cards, or upgrading their firmware.

Boot/BIOS changes

  • When using USB-based keys, turn off BIOS support for reading USB devices during pre-boot.
  • Changing the BIOS boot order, prioritising another drive instead of the hard drive (e.g., CD/DVD drive).
  • Upgrading critical early startup components, like BIOS upgrades.
  • Making changes to the master boot record (MBR) or boot manager on the disk.
  • Failing to boot from a network drive before booting from the hard drive.
  • Using a BIOS hotkey during boot changes the boot order to something other than the hard drive.

Other reasons

  • Modifying the Platform Configuration Registers (PCRs) used by the TPM validation profile.
  • Hiding the TPM from the operating system.
  • Moving the BitLocker-protected drive to a different computer.
  • Upgrading the motherboard to a new one with a new TPM.
  • Failing the TPM self-test.
  • Having a BIOS or option ROM component that doesn’t comply with relevant Trusted Computing Group standards for a client computer.
  • Changing the usage authorization for the storage root key of the TPM to a non-zero value.
  • Disabling the code integrity check or enabling test signing on Windows Bootmgr.
  • Removing, inserting, or completely depleting the charge on a smart battery (for portable computers).
  • Pressing the F8 or F10 key during the boot process.

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Akash Singh

Akash is a law graduate who likes to go for bike rides on the weekends soul-searching for answers to his many existential questions. You can contact him here: [email protected]