At first glance, an encrypting file system (EFS) can seem like a handful. However, the concept of EFS is quite simple to understand so long as any technical jargon is explained beforehand. This guide will help you understand it completely and provide in-depth insight. Here are some important distinctions for you to grasp before we get started.

NTFS is the New Technology File System. It’s simply the way Microsoft Windows stores files and retrieves files. Encryption in this case means locked or secure.

These terms come up often with EFS discussion. Now let’s take a look at what EFS is and some of the ways it can help you.

What Is EFS?

The Encrypting File System (EFS) is a Microsoft Windows tool that encrypts files stored on a physical hard drive. The EFS intended use is to defend against intruders accessing your computer, such as thieves. EFS is supported by the NTFS, which is the system used to store and retrieve files.

An EFS is like a safe inside a house. Even though only you and your loved ones have access to your house (computer), there’s possibilities for intruders. With a locked safe (EFS), the intruder is restricted from the most valuable items in the house. Just like a safe, EFS lets users protect the most sensitive items of their choosing. This typically involves things like data and other files or information.

A bank vault opened, showing rows of deposit boxes.
An EFS protects physical items from unwarranted use.

Who Needs EFS?

EFS is best suited for people with sensitive data to protect. It helps laptop and other mobile device users the most. With EFS, users guard their susceptible files and folders from any type of intruder, including those with direct access to the physical computer itself. Think of it as a security system for both a physical and digital threat.

EFS is most beneficial to laptop and mobile device users because of the inherent risk of theft attached to laptops. If someone steals the computer, or even explores it while attended, they’ll be unable to open EFS-protected files and folders. Desktop users are at risk if used in high-traffic areas as well.

A woman leaves her laptop unattended at the beach.
Laptops are easy targets for theft.

Some Valuable Features

So what do users get out of EFS besides the basic security features? Here are the three most important beneficial aspects of EFS:

Effortless System

Though an EFS encryption is very powerful and secure, it’s also extremely easy and user-friendly. Once implemented, every file on a computer is capable of encryption. Furthermore, sensitive files or folders are secured with the click of a button.

Seamless File Use

Encryption of a file with EFS doesn’t alter the file itself and doesn’t slow down any other processes concerning editing, storing or using the file.

Simple Encryption Recant

Encrypted files no longer in need of encryption are decoded as fast as they were originally secured. A simple click of a button once again does the trick and brings the file back to normal status.

We too often get caught up protecting ourselves from online hackers and other intrusions that we forget to secure our files from physical attacks. Though it seems like common sense, take the next step in protecting yourself from these very real threats. Make sure you understand the basic principles of an encrypting file system to remain safe at all times.

Casey Schmidt – Content Manager and Industry Expert | Canto

Casey is a content management and branding expert who enjoys taking complex subjects and making them easy to understand for readers.