What is FileVault for Mac and how it can protect your data

FileVault is one of those Mac features you know is there but are never really sure what for. Apple has never made a big fuss about this great tool designed to protect your data. So I decided to shed some light on it instead. You'll find everything you need to know about FileVault, about how and why you should use it in this article. 

Okay, let's get started, shall we? 

What is FileVault?

FileVault is macOS built-in disk encryption feature. It's designed to encrypt your Mac's files on the hard drive using a 128-bit AES encryption with a 256-bit key. Once FileVault is enabled on your Mac, every single existing piece of data will be encrypted. Any new and changed data will be automatically locked and password-protected to prevent unauthorized access.

FileVault was initially introduced to Mac in 2003 on OS X 10.3 Panther. But to say it wasn't good enough would be an understatement. It was terrible! The functionality was very poor, the implementation was shoddy, and only the home directory could be encrypted.

Thankfully, 2003 was long ago, and today with the new FileVault, you get full-disk encryption. Also, the Find My Mac feature can be used to wipe your drive remotely if it ever gets into the wrong hands.

Should I use FileVault?

The short answer from me is YES.

Suppose you're concerned about the privacy of your files and user data, or your computer contains sensitive information that shouldn't be seen without authorized access. In that case, you have to use FileVault disk encryption.

This feature is outstanding if you're a Mac user that regularly travels with a laptop, meaning there's a greater chance for it to be lost or stolen. FileVault offers peace of mind, and that's priceless. 

The only downside is that FileVault automatically locks your device, so you're forced to log in each time you boot your Mac. Besides, this process takes a bit of CPU, slightly affecting performance. But if these inconveniences don't bother you, FileVault is a surefire way to protect your files.

How to check if FileVault is enabled?

Here's a quick instruction on how to check if FileVault disk encryption is enabled on your Mac:

  1. Click on the Apple menu and select System Settings.
  2. Select Privacy & Security.
  3. Click on the FileVault tab and check the status. 

Before you turn on FileVault, be aware that the initial encryption process can take hours to complete. However, it does run in the background, so you can continue using your Mac as you usually do. However, it might not be at the peak performance level. 

The other thing to keep in mind, FileVault encrypts the entire disk. You'll have to add any additional users to enable them to unlock the disk by entering their password.

How to turn on FileVault disk encryption

  1. Click on the Apple menu and select System Settings.
  2. Select Privacy & Security. Press on the FileVault tab, then click the lock in the bottom left corner of the window.
  3. Enter your administrator name and password and click Unlock. Then click Turn On FileVault.
  4. Choose whether you want to link your iCloud account to FileVault to unlock the disk, reset your password (or create a recovery key), and click Continue.
  5. Restart your Mac to begin the encryption process.

Choosing a FileVault Recovery Key

The FileVault recovery key deserves special mention here. If you choose this option over linking your iCloud account, it's critical to make a note of the recovery key and keep it in a safe place that's not on your hard drive. Losing the recovery key makes your data unrecoverable, so it's worth writing it down, storing it in a safe place, and entering it into a password manager.

How do I turn off FileVault?

Once your disk has been encrypted, you can turn the FileVault off. You might decide to do this if you find that the feature is too resource-heavy or such a high level of security just isn't for you.

  1. Click on the Apple menu and select System Settings.
  2. Select Privacy & Security. Click on the FileVault tab, then click the lock in the bottom left corner of the window.
  3. Enter your administrator name and password.
  4. Click Turn Off FileVault.

Disabling FileVault starts the process of decrypting your files. This process also runs in the background, but, just like encryption, it is a lengthy one.

How do I keep online and offline activity private?

FileVault's capabilities only extend as far as user data and file encryption. Other things you do on your Mac, like web browsing, chatting via messaging apps, downloading software, and more, are not that private.

 For me, the best option to keep my online and offline activity private is to use CleanMyMac X.

CleanMyMac X is the best Mac utility toolbox designed to clean, protect, and optimize your system, providing flawless performance. 

CleanMyMac X - Smart Scan

The latest edition of MacPaw's leading utility tool comes with a Privacy feature that lets you wipe off all unwanted traces, delete browsing history, remove downloads, clear cookies, etc. All you need is to choose a convenient timeslot and let CleanMyMac X take care of the rest. 

Protect your data, maintain your privacy

If there's anything on your computer that you prefer keeping to yourself, safeguard your information by choosing one of two simple ways:

1. Enable FileVault to keep all your user data and files under lock and key.

2. Download CleanMyMac X to keep all your online and offline activities private.

Security and privacy should be your top priority in a world where computer viruses and data theft are rife. The tools like FileVault and CleanMyMac X guarantee extra protection and assure that your information will not be compromised.

Laptop with CleanMyMac
CleanMyMac X

Your Mac. As good as new.