Computer question: Securing my external hard drive

I’m running WinXP pro and have user accounts turned on. I was able to make the file storage areas of my system private by making this area the “my documents” special folder. Problem now is that I want to secure the files on my external HD back up device. I can’t find a way to do this (make the files private) without designating the external HD directories as a “my documents” special folder. Is there a workaround? Can locations on two drives both be “my documents” folders?

I thought about file encryption but wonder whether this would be compatible with my backup software.



Do not use file encryption! If you lose the encryption keys (e.g. reinstalling Windows) you will lose your files and not be able to recover them.

In your case, I’d suggest simply converting the external HDD to NTFS and applying file level permissions.

I suggest modifying Quartz comment to:

Do not use Windows File Encryption for the reason given. A third party encryption tool (such as Truecrypt) places the responsibility of keeping the keys on the user, not storing the key in the OS where it can be flattened by a reinstall, or only be used on that machine.

Otherwise, the advice above is fine, but will only work on the machine you are currently using - if the drive is plugged into another machine, your files may be accessible by other users (and certainly by administrators on that machine).


Thanks for the responses. In the interim I used TweakUI to designate the external HD back-up directory as “my videos” folder. This allowed those folders to be made private. Everything seems to be working properly. I never uise the “my” folders anyway so I don’t see a downside.

What do you mean convert to NTFS? How would I do that and how does it enable privacy? Will it interfere with my bacjup software?

Why use the Bill Gates’ method for deciding where to put files?

My documents are in a directory called “documents.” My images are in a directory called “images.” And so on. I can store my files wherever I choose with no muss and no fuss. In fact, all my images are stored on an external drive. (You can change the destination of “My Documents” if you need to keep the Bill Gates system. There are also several utility programs that will assist you. This one is jus an example that will do it for you.)

I deliberately do not use the default conventions that Bill Gates says is good for me because I prefer to do it my way. Well, that was my excuse so many years ago. Now it has an added benefit where so many worms, trojans and viruses are looking for my files in the Bill Gates default settings. Only they are not there. It came in handy years ago when I managed several web servers for a university. We deliberately changed all the default Bill Gates settings of where to set up the web server root, FTP root, etc. We know it contributed to never having the servers successfully attacked at the time because all attempts to do so seem to be hard-coded to only look in the default settings and directories. Attacks today are more sophisticated and this may no longer work.

Not to be a prick, but… that’s absolutely ridiculous. If you want to protect data, encryption is your friend. Using a robust encryption solution is absolutely easy. Grab TrueCrypt, PGP, or any of a myriad other solutions out there. The software generally manages the keys for you, and you only need to remember a passphrase. The key will be protected by that passphrase, so make it something you can remember.

Also, if the data is being stored on an external HD, the OS isn’t even a factor if the OS is running from the internal disk.

Sorry to sound snotty but, honestly, if everyone would just use encryption to protect sensitive data, we wouldn’t be seeing breaches popping up all over the place.

Reminds me the scene in Full Metal Jacket. If it weren’t for people who didn’t lock things up, there wouldn’t be any thievery in the world.

No-one disagrees with you - Quartz was referring specifically to the Windows File Encryption supplied in XP/2K/2K3 - which is NOT robust and may NOT be your friend. Because it uses the Windows Authentication system and the registry to store the keys (instead of in your head), a failure of the OS or a change of the password or a disk glitch can leave the data entirely unencryptable without the help of the NSA.

No-one disputes the utility and safety of Truecrypt, PGP etc. These are systems that allow key backup and place key management responsibility with the user. However, they do require installation, and reduce the flexibility of the encrypted media. Even TrueCrypt in traveller mode requires Local Admin rights to be used on a client PC.


I have generally eschewed the Gatesian conventions as well. I’m using the “special” folders because they permit designation of private folders . I could not make “non-special” folders private. In fact, the basis of my OP was how could I accomplish this.