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Mountain Lion allows one to encrypt any disk by right-clicking on the disk in the Finder and selecting Encrypt from the contextual menu.

Is there anyway to check on the progress of this encryption process?

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up vote 35 down vote accepted

Open up the Terminal and enter the command:

diskutil cs list

You will see an output listing at least one Logical Volume Group, with a Logical Volume Family and Logical Volume nested below.

There is be a Conversion Status item in the Volume Family entry that will tell you if it's converting to an encrypted volume or not, and for a progress indicator, look under the Logical Volume entry for Size (Total) and Size (Converted) entries, to see how many GB have been converted so far.

During encryption:

Encryption Status:           Unlocked
    Encryption Type:         AES-XTS
    Conversion Status:       Converting
    Conversion Direction:    forward
    Has Encrypted Extents:   Yes
    Fully Secure:            No
    Passphrase Required:     Yes
 Disk:                       disk6
    Status:                  Online
    Size (Total):            569869340672 B (569.9 GB)
    Size (Converted):        231454277632 B (231.5 GB)
    Revertible:              Yes (unlock and decryption required)
    LV Name:                 Heap
    Volume Name:             Heap
    Content Hint:            Apple_HFS

Encryption completed:

Encryption Status:           Unlocked
    Encryption Type:         AES-XTS
    Conversion Status:       Complete
    Conversion Direction:    -none-
    Has Encrypted Extents:   Yes
    Fully Secure:            Yes
    Passphrase Required:     Yes
 Disk:                       disk6
    Status:                  Online
    Size (Total):            569869340672 B (569.9 GB)
    Size (Converted):        -none-
    Revertible:              Yes (unlock and decryption required)
    LV Name:                 Heap
    Volume Name:             Heap
    Content Hint:            Apple_HFS

The actual Terminal output is nested and longer. Here, only the most important information is listed.

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1  
Would you know if it's expected that erasing a disk (formatting) with enabling encryption, and then copying 50GB of files to that shows the "Complete" state immediately when copying is done? But when doing the same for Time Machine (first erasing and enabling encryption), TM goes into (another?) long lasting encryption process when the first backup is complete? Both start with an empty, encrypted disk... – Arjan Mar 14 '13 at 9:19
    
Note that as soon as you tell Mac OS X you want to encrypt an external disk, it will tell you (a) that you need to reboot and (b) diskutil will say nothing about encryption, but that the physical volume's Status is Checking. You do not need to reboot: a volume eject/re-insert will work. Once you do that, diskutil will give you output similar to the above. – Christopher Schultz Dec 27 '15 at 4:42

On OS X 10.11.1 the output diskutil cs list shows encryption progress as:

+-- Logical Volume Group 19B060CE-52A6-4102-9F3D-E6108BD91316
    =========================================================
    Name:         My harddrive
    Status:       Online
    Size:         499113885696 B (499.1 GB)
    Free Space:   18972672 B (19.0 MB)
    |
    +-< Physical Volume 3F2AE785-3A81-45E2-9A3B-93BA762C0AD2
    |   ----------------------------------------------------
    |   Index:    0
    |   Disk:     disk5s2
    |   Status:   Online
    |   Size:     499113885696 B (499.1 GB)
    |
    +-> Logical Volume Family E4B845E2-2294-4F26-89B5-25ADE02747D2
        ----------------------------------------------------------
        Encryption Type:         AES-XTS
        Encryption Status:       Unlocked
        Conversion Status:       Converting (forward)
        High Level Queries:      Not Fully Secure
        |                        Passphrase Required
        |                        Accepts New Users
        |                        Has Visible Users
        |                        Has Volume Key
        |
        +-> Logical Volume 58EA9B33-CD1A-49F7-A596-E2C5ED6E24B5
            ---------------------------------------------------
            Disk:                  disk6
            Status:                Online
            Size (Total):          498742591488 B (498.7 GB)
            Conversion Progress:   2%
            Revertible:            Yes (unlock and decryption required)
            LV Name:               My harddrive
            Volume Name:           My harddrive
            Content Hint:          Apple_HFS

For easier viewing use diskutil cs list | grep Conversion to only show the line with the progress.

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i like to do it this way.

while true; do diskutil cs list | grep 'Conversion Progress' ; sleep 30; done

will print out an updated progress every 30 seconds so you can just leave it running and glance over and instantly see where the progress is up to without having to run the command again.

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Just as an extra note to the existing answers, I ran this through grep to get a concise answer to each conversion.

diskutil cs list | grep -e "Conversion" -e "Volume Name"

The result was:

|       Conversion Status:       Converting (forward)
|           Conversion Progress:   71%
|           Volume Name:           Macintosh HD
        Conversion Status:       Converting (forward)
            Conversion Progress:   4%
            Volume Name:           Data
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