Quickly Secure a Mac with FileVault

Mac security and privacy section with FileVault selected.

Written by Chris Mayhew

August 11, 2021

In today’s tech environment, cybersecurity is on everyone’s mind. Business owners are scrambling to ensure that their systems are safe. However, sometimes they forget that the most important information a business has is their company data. This article will discuss how you can secure a Mac using FileVault disk encryption.

Why You Should Encrypt Your Data

One of the common arguments heard about not encrypting business data is, “We don’t have data worth stealing.” Most businesses don’t realize that all business data is valuable, even something as simple as your contact list with phone numbers and email addresses.

Take a moment and imagine the impact on those contacts and your business if their personal information is being sold on the dark web due to your data being compromised. The thought can be a little frightening.

Even something as small as client contact information makes it critical to secure a Mac and encrypt the data. Enabling FileVault is the first step of protecting your business and securing your precious company data.

Additional Reading: Why Macs Need Endpoint Security

When full-disk encryption is performed on a Mac, the data from the hard drive can not be accessed even if the hard drive is removed. Providing an amazing level of peace of mind.

What is FileVault?

FileVault disk encryption is a built-in security feature of Apple’s macOS that encrypts the data on your hard drive – the first step in healthy Mac security.

Additional Reading: Why BitDefender is the Best Malware Protection for macOS

FileVault works by creating an encrypted disk image of your startup volume and storing a recovery key in another location (usually iCloud). The encryption process can take anywhere from 30 minutes to several hours, depending on how much data needs to be encrypted.

Once the process is complete, you will need a password or recovery key before accessing this encrypted disk again. If your Mac were lost or stolen, your data would not be accessible without unlocking the start-up disk with one of these two methods.

The Benefits of Enabling FileVault

The most important benefit of using FileVault in macOS is data security. When enabled, FileVault uses disk encryption technology to protect the entire hard drive so that no one can access your data without permission. You also don’t have to worry about preventing unauthorized access or tampering with your computer in sleep mode because only a password will unlock the system from slumbering and decrypt the startup disk’s content.

Imagine that you are sitting in an airport or another public space, and your computer disappears. Without FileVault enabled on your Mac, your data can easily be accessed by anyone. If you are using your Mac for business, this can be a scary thought.

Now imagine that same scenario, but your data is encrypted using FileVault. Using all the sneaky ways possible, a hacker couldn’t break into your computer’s data. Booting into the built-in macOS Recovery requires that the FileVault password or recovery key be entered to make the hard drive data accessible.

If data is what the thief is after, they’ll lose that battle. Their only option at that point is to erase the computer. You may lose the computer, but that is better than your reputation being ruined from losing business data and client information.

How to Check FileVault Status

Typically, when using a new Mac, the FileVault is selected to be turned on by default during the setup process. Unless you uncheck the boxes associated with this option, there is a good chance there is nothing more you need to do. However, when it comes to your data, you always want to be safe. Your files are secure and encrypted.

Here’s how to check.

  1. Click on the Apple menu.
  2. Select System Preferences
  3. Select Security & Privacy
  4. Click on FileVault

When you are on the System Preferences screen for FileVault, if you see a button that says “Turn Off FileVault,” then you are good to go. FileVault setup is already done, and you have full disk encryption of your startup disk.

How to Enable FileVault

  1. Click on the Apple menu.
  2. Select System Preferences
  3. Select Security & Privacy
  4. Click on FileVault
  5. Unlock the System Preference pane with an administrator name and password
  6. Click “Turn on FileVault”Image showing security & privacy section of a Mac with Filevault selected.

If you are on a shared computer with multiple user accounts, you may be prompted to enable each user accounts. In this case, each user must type in their user password before unlocking the startup disk. Users added to the Mac after FileVault is enabled are automatically capable of unlocking the startup disk.

Security and privacy tab showing additional users that need to be enabled for FileVault.

A caveat to keep in mind if you enable FileVault (and you should). If your computer currently logs into your account automatically, that feature will be disabled. You will be required to enter your user account password after every reboot.

The FileVault Recovery Key

The FileVault Recovery Key is a critical piece of the setup process. A recovery key is a set of alphanumeric characters that can unlock the startup disk should you forget your password.

The recovery key is automatically created during FileVault setup. Since macOS Yosemite, you can use your iCloud account to unlock your startup disk and reset the FileVault password if the recovery key is lost. If this feature is a benefit to you, be sure to select the option “Allow my iCloud account to unlock my disk If you do not select this option, be sure to document your recovery key, not on your computer, and save it in a safe location in the event it is needed.

As Apple points out, Use FileVault to encrypt the startup disk on your Mac – Apple Support, “If you lose both your account password and your FileVault recovery key, you won’t be able to log in to your Mac or access the data on your startup disk.” In addition, Apple does not guarantee its ability to give you the FileVault recovery key if you lose or forget it..”


Using FileVault is a great tool to secure a Mac. FileVault is a free and built-in disk encryption system on Mac computers. This feature encrypts the entire hard drive so that no one can access your data without permission. It is your first line of defense to protect your sensitive data.

FileVault should be enabled for all Mac users to protect their sensitive information from theft or prevent unauthorized access. Especially those that are using their Macs for business purposes. The peace of mind you will have knowing your data is on an encrypted startup disk is priceless.

Additional Reading: Top 6 Features to Keep Your Mac Secure

You can always make sure your Macs are secure and running at their best by using our MacCare managed services program. If you have any questions about enabling this, let our team of experts know by contacting us today.

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