Windows Vista security

BitLocker demystified: Competition

This final segment of the BitLocker guide, which originally appeared on, discusses some of BitLocker's steepest competition, such as SecureDoc and TrueCrypt, and offers advice for channel professionals on choosing the right product for your customer's environment.

Another widely asked question about BitLocker is how it compares to existing encryption products, both commercial and free. WinMagic Inc.'s SecureDoc is one example of a Windows product that supports full-system encryption, including the OS partition, and that also supports other verification mechanisms such as smart cards. SecureDoc is used extensively. More than 500,000 licenses have been sold worldwide, according to the company. Administrators may want to balance the per-license cost of SecureDoc ($150 per seat, with volume discounts) against the cost of upgrading to Vista. If Vista upgrades are planned and they work out to be cheaper overall, BitLocker may be the better deal. People looking to encrypt specific systems now, however, can benefit from SecureDoc.

Another product that is popular is TrueCrypt. I've worked with TrueCrypt a fair amount, and it has one feature that distinguishes it heavily from BitLocker: Full volumes encrypted with it are indistinguishable from random data, and there is no volume signature on an unencrypted volume. By contrast, BitLocker volumes can be easily detected, as they have a distinct signature. To that end, TrueCrypt is more useful for encrypting non-system data, such as auxiliary or external drives.

One possible way to use TrueCrypt (or another file-and-partition product) for creating an encrypted OS partition would be to create a system volume for a virtual PC on an encrypted drive and use that. This is perfectly feasible (in fact, I've done it myself), but it requires the presence of virtual machine software in the first place.

Because BitLocker is a Vista-exclusive product designed to meet a very specific need -- full-disk encryption for the Windows OS partition -- the odds of it displacing existing general-purpose or full-disk encryption solutions are pretty low. But as Vista becomes the version of Windows over the next several years, BitLocker ought to become more attractive as a standard-issue way to secure laptops and desktops -- either with or without the additional expense of TPM hardware.

BitLocker demystified: End-to-end encryption for Vista

  The basics
  Keying up
  Common misconceptions

About the author
Serdar Yegulalp is editor of the Windows Power Users Newsletter. Check it out for the latest advice and musings on the world of Windows network administrators -- and please share your thoughts as well!

This tip originally appeared on

This was first published in January 2007

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