That's one hefty vault.
April 23, 2007 10:58 AM   Subscribe

I can't use FileVault. What other options do I have for protecting my data?

I'm trying to make my computer as unhelpful as possible to a possible thief. I'm running Undercover and I've got a good set of random-character passwords (including Open Firmware, FWIW, maybe the thief will be The Last Person On the Internet Who Doesn't Know The Trick). I tried to turn on FileVault just now, and it asked for 4TB of disk space to encrypt my home folder. I'm skeptical of trying to get it to work, since this is 2 orders of magnitude larger than my hard drive, the Apple forums are full of people who <a href="
posted by tylermoody to Computers & Internet (9 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
Response by poster: The html worked on preview. End of the question: people who can't turn FileVault off, rumors that Apple doesn't want its employees using it, stories of it expanding bloblike until it has eaten entire hard drives, etc. etc. with citations.

What other schemes are out there to keep my (intel) mac's data away from prying eyes?
posted by tylermoody at 11:00 AM on April 23, 2007

You can make a simple encrypted disk image and store your important data there. This is basically what FileVault does, but if you manage it yourself it should be much more reliable, if less transparent.
posted by xil at 11:15 AM on April 23, 2007

I agree that the encrypted disk image is the tidiest solution, but if you're in the market for other options, you could use a flash drive and remap your home folder to it. Keep the thumb drive on one of those retractable keychain leashes, and it would be hard to lose.
posted by adamrice at 11:29 AM on April 23, 2007

FWIW, I use FileVault on both my desktop and laptop and have never had any issues with it, although I do think that it doesn't give back space as quickly or efficiently as it should (the sparsefile is 10GB on disk, but when I open it and run an "sudo du -hs" from within /~, it's only 4.7GB...).

Because of FileVault, I can't think of any 3rd party utilities that do the same thing. TrueCrypt would be great, but unfortunately the Mac version seems to be progressing at a snail's pace.

If you're just looking to secure your files, you can create a fixed-size disk image (.dmg) with Disk Utility, encrypted, and keep your stuff in there; if you make it 4.3GiB or smaller, you can just back it up to a DVD periodically.

Disk Utility will give you an option of creating a "sparse" type of disk image, which is basically similar to how FileVault works; it's a special kind of disk image that expands based on what's in it (actually it's exactly how filevault works). I don't recommend it though, since moving sparse files around can lead to Bad Things happening, including corruption of the file and everything inside.

There are some commercial utilities out there for Mac which have stolen-laptop tracking and can even (attempt to) render it inoperable, but it's nothing irrecoverable. If a thief takes your laptop just for the hardware, it's not going to stop them from just formatting the drive.
posted by Kadin2048 at 11:45 AM on April 23, 2007

I use Knox - it's expensive for what it does, but when I got it the price was just a small incremental on top of path finder as part of a bundle promo.
posted by devbrain at 12:11 PM on April 23, 2007

moving sparse files around can lead to Bad Things happening, including corruption of the file and everything inside.

Do you have a reference for that? I've done this many times and never had a problem. Sparse disk images are NOT implemented as old UNIX "sparse files", by the way -- the HFS+ filesystem doesn't support them.
posted by xil at 12:17 PM on April 23, 2007

Via mefi projects: messagevault
"Portable Self-decrypting Archive", written in HTML and Javascript."
posted by acro at 12:19 PM on April 23, 2007

derail: For Windows and Linux, Truecrypt.
posted by zippy at 2:55 PM on April 23, 2007

Just for anyone who might be reading this down the road, as of 2/5/08, there is now a Mac version of TrueCrypt 5.0. I think that's exactly what you want.
posted by Kadin2048 at 12:10 PM on February 7, 2008

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