FileVault Disk Encryption on Mac The Ultimate Guide Featured Images

FileVault Disk Encryption on Mac: The Ultimate Guide

Secure your Mac with FileVault’s powerful encryption features.

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Last updated: December 20, 2023

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FileVault is a built-in security feature for Mac that uses advanced encryption (128-bit AES with a 256-bit key) to protect hard drive data from unauthorized access.

To enable FileVault disk encryption on Mac, follow these steps:

  1. Access System Settings via the Apple icon
  2. Select Privacy & Security and find FileVault.
  3. Click Turn On… and enter admin credentials.
  4. Choose between iCloud or a Recovery Key for password resets and start the encryption process.
  5. If you forget your FileVault recovery key, reset it from the FileVault section in System Settings.

Whether it’s financial data, confidential reports, or embarrassing selfie collection, nobody wants others to access their data without permission. Also, you never know when your Mac may fall into the wrong hands. macOS lets you protect your data with FileVault disk encryption on Mac. In this guide, I’ll share what FileVault is, how you can enable it on your Mac, and what you can do to recover its password and recovery key.

Before We Begin

FileVault disk encryption on Mac can protect your data from intruders on a device level. But you still have to secure your Mac against online viruses and malware. Download MacKeeper and use its Antivirus tool to scan your Mac for viruses and protect it against malware.

What is FileVault Disk Encryption on Mac? And How Does it Work?

FileVault on Mac is a built-in security feature that provides advanced disk encryption. It protects the data stored on your Mac’s hard drive from unauthorized or unknown access using 128-bit AES with a 256-bit key.

The encrypted key is stored on your hard drive with a password only you know. So, no one else can access your MacBook’s disk drive data unless they know the correct password.

Also, FileVault encrypts all the data changes made after enabling it on your Mac. Your information is always protected with the FileVault disk encryption on Mac – if enabled.

How to Turn On FileVault on Your Mac

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When enabled, FileVault ensures all the data on your Mac’s startup disk is encrypted automatically and can only be accessed with the correct credentials. Turning on FileVault on your Mac is a straightforward process.

Once FileVault is enabled, you must remember your password and keep the recovery key in a safe place. If you forget your password and lose the recovery key, you won’t be able to access your data.

Here are the steps to turn on or off FileVault on your Mac:

  1. Head to the System Settings via the Apple icon at the top.
click the apple icon and select system settings
  1. Select Privacy & Security and click FileVault.
click privacy security and select filevault
  1. Tap the Turn On… button.
click the turn on off button next to filevault
  1. Enter the administrator username and password, or use your TouchID if available. Then, click Unlock.
enter your administrator password when prompted and tap unlock
  1. When you turn on FileVault, it’ll ask you to choose an option from iCloud or Recovery Key to unlock your disk and reset your password in case you forget it. Tap Continue after choosing your desired option.
turn on the filevault create a password and choose either icloud or a recovery key to unlock your disk if you forget it
  1. If you’re disabling FileVault, click Turn Off and prepare to restart your Mac when the decryption process is finished.
  2. Now, it’ll start your disk drive’s encryption or decryption process, depending on the option you chose during the previous steps.

How to Unlock Your Mac With a Recovery Key

To unlock your Mac with a FileVault recovery key, follow these steps:

  1. Start your Mac and wait for the login screen. If your Mac is already on, restart it.
  2. Enter the wrong password three times. After the third incorrect attempt, you’ll see a message saying you can reset your password using your Apple ID or show a recovery key.
  3. Click the arrow next to Enter your recovery key to bring up the recovery key input field.
  4. Enter your FileVault recovery key exactly as it was given to you when you enabled FileVault. It’s a long string of letters and numbers.
  5. After entering the recovery key, you may be prompted to reset your account password. Follow the on-screen instructions to do so.
  6. Once the recovery key is accepted, your Mac will continue to boot, giving you access to your account.

Remember, the recovery key is a critical piece of information for accessing your encrypted data. If you lose both your account password and the recovery key, you won’t be able to access your data.

How to Reset Recovery Key for FileVault on Your Mac

If you have forgotten your FileVault recovery key or want to change it, you can reset it using the steps below. This process involves verifying your identity and generating a new recovery key. Then, you can use it to access your encrypted data if you forget your password.

Follow these steps to reset the recovery key for FileVault disk encryption on Mac:

  1. Navigate to the Apple menu and choose System Settings.
click the apple icon and select system settings
  1. Select Security & Privacy and head to the FileVault section.
click privacy security and select filevault
  1. If you have turned on FileVault already, you’ll see the Turn Off… button instead of Turn On… Click the Turn Off button.
  1. To generate a new Recovery Key, click Turn On… again.
click the turn on off button next to filevault

And that’s how you can easily reset your FileVault’s Recovery Key and encrypt your data again. But remember the Recovery Key and write it somewhere safe to avoid losing access to your Mac’s disk drive, as the chances of recovery are lesser if you lose this key.

How to Turn Off FileVault on Your Mac

Turning off FileVault will remove the encryption from your hard drive, making your data more vulnerable to unauthorized access. Ensure you have adequate security to protect your sensitive information.

To turn off FileVault on your Mac, follow these steps:

  1. Click the Apple menu and select System Settings.
click the apple icon and select system settings
  1. Select Privacy & Security and click FileVault.

click privacy security and select filevault

  1. Click the Turn Off… button to proceed.
  2. FileVault will begin decrypting your drive. This process can take some time, depending on the size of your drive and the speed of your Mac. You can continue to use your Mac during this time, but you might notice some performance impact.
  3. You can check the progress of the decryption in the FileVault section of the Security & Privacy settings. Once decryption is complete, FileVault is fully turned off.

    What If You Can’t Enable FileVault Disk Encryption on Mac

    If you can’t enable FileVault disk encryption on your Mac, there could be several reasons for this issue. Here are some common reasons and solutions:

    1. 📁 Unsupported File System: FileVault requires your startup disk to be formatted as APFS or Mac OS Extended (Journaled). If your disk is using another format, you will need to reformat it, which involves backing up your data, erasing the disk, and reinstalling macOS.
    2. 💻 Incompatible Hardware: Older Mac models might not support FileVault. Check Apple’s support website to see if your Mac model supports FileVault.
    3. 💾 Insufficient Disk Space: FileVault needs some free space on your disk to enable encryption. Free up space on your disk by deleting unnecessary files or moving them to an external storage device.
    4. 🔒 Firmware Password: If a firmware password is set on your Mac, this could interfere with enabling FileVault. You can try disabling the firmware password to see if this resolves the issue.
    5. Pending Software Updates: Sometimes, pending macOS updates can cause issues with FileVault. Make sure your macOS is updated to the latest version.
    6. 💽 Recovery Partition Issues: FileVault requires a recovery partition on your startup disk. If the recovery partition is missing or corrupted, FileVault might not enable. You might need to reinstall macOS to fix this.
    7. 🛡️ System Integrity Protection (SIP) Disabled: If SIP is disabled on your Mac, it might prevent FileVault from being enabled. Check if SIP is enabled and, if not, consider enabling it.

    If none of these solutions work, contact Apple Support for further assistance.

    Enhance Your Mac’s Privacy With MacKeeper

    For added security beyond FileVault’s device-level protection, consider using MacKeeper. MacKeeper offers comprehensive solutions for enhancing your Mac’s privacy and performance. Its Antivirus feature protects your Mac and files from malware and spyware.

    Here’s how to use MacKeeper’s Antivirus to run a virus scan on your Mac:

    1. Download and install MacKeeper on your Mac.
    2. Launch Mackeeper and click the Antivirus tab in the left sidebar.
    click antivirus under the security section
    1. Click the Start Scan button to scan your system for issues.
    click start scan in mackeeper antivirus
    1. Once the scan is complete, click the Fix items button to fix any problems found.
    2. If no threats are found, click Restart to run the scan again or close the process.
    click restart to finish the process
    1. Restart your Mac and try using Safari again. Hopefully, you won’t face Safari crashing on your Mac after this.

    What Else Can MacKeeper Do?

    Besides checking your Mac for malware, MacKeeper can improve your Mac’s performance by cleaning junk files, deleting duplicates, and uninstalling unnecessary apps. Check out my detailed MacKeeper review to learn more about these features.

    Secure Your Mac With FileVault Disk Encryption

    Enabling FileVault disk encryption on your Mac can secure your data. Here are some more tips to keep your data safe from prying eyes:

    Frequently Asked Questions

    1. Do I need FileVault encryption on Mac?

      You need FileVault encryption on Mac for enhanced security, especially if you handle sensitive data. It encrypts your entire drive, protecting your data from unauthorized access. However, if you rarely deal with confidential information, you might not need it.

    2. Why should I use FileVault on my Mac? 

      You should use FileVault on your Mac to secure your data from unauthorized access and maximize its protection through encryption. Another important point is that even if your laptop gets stolen or dies, you won’t have to worry much about your data being leaked or misused.

    3. How do I check the FileVault status on your Mac?

      To check the FileVault status on your Mac, navigate to the Apple menu > System Settings. Click Privacy & Security, and it will open the Privacy & Security settings. You can see if FileVault disk encryption on Mac is turned on or off in the FileVault section. If it is turned off, consider turning it on to ensure the security of your files.

    4. How long does FileVault encryption take? 

      FileVault encryption takes a few minutes if the Mac model has SDD volumes. Depending on the size, it may even encrypt it instantly. But the older Mac models may take several hours. It also pauses and resumes the encryption process when necessary. After completing this process, it encrypts silently in the background for the new files without affecting your Mac’s performance.

    5. How can I disable FileVault disk encryption on Mac?

      You can disable FileVault disk encryption on Mac by going to System Settings > Privacy & Security. Here, go to the FileVault section, and you’ll see the Turn Off button. When you click this button, it will disable FileVault on your Mac.

    6. Does FileVault affect the performance of a Mac?

      FileVault can slightly affect the performance of a Mac, particularly during initial encryption and heavy disk operations. However, modern Macs with SSDs and powerful processors generally experience minimal performance degradation.

    Hashir Ibrahim


    I'm Hashir, a tech journalist with a decade of experience. My work has been featured in some of the top tech publications like MakeUseOf and MakeTechEasier. I have a bachelor's degree in IT, a master's in cybersecurity, and extensive knowledge of Apple hardware, specifically MacBooks. As the senior writer at MacBook Journal, I write in depth guides that help you solve any issues you have with your mac and unbiased reviews that help you make the right buying decisions.



    Hi there! I'm Ojash, a tech journalist with over a decade of experience in the industry. I've had the privilege of contributing to some of the world's largest tech publications, making my mark as a respected Mac expert. My passion lies in exploring, using, and writing about MacBooks, and I enjoy sharing my expertise to help others make informed decisions and get the most out of their MacBook experience. Join me as we delve into the fascinating world of MacBooks together!

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