I have an external HD I use for extra storage and it's encrypted, every time I plug it in OSX asks me for the password to be able to read and mount it. In my mind, this makes sense, the disk is worthless without the password if anybody gets their hands on it.

My MacBook disk however never asks me for the password, yet it's also encrypted with FileVault. When I reboot or log off/in, it just loads. I'm probably wrong so correct me on this, but it seems that I'm gaining no extra protection beyond my user password.

If someone steals my computer, if they have my account password they have access to the disk whether or not I've encrypted it. So what's the advantage of using FileVault in this case ?

Dupe vote update: The linked question explains how it loads without asking for the password, but doesn't answer the question as to what's the advantage of using FileVault if all I need is my user password to access the disk ?

  • @user3439894 I do have to type my user password and I require password after sleep and screen saver, but it never asks about FileVault password
    – blackbird
    Jul 18, 2016 at 20:43
  • Possible duplicate of FileVault Doesnt Ask For Password At Startup Jul 18, 2016 at 20:52
  • 1
    Not near my computer right now, but don't you have to specify which users are able to decrypt FileVault? If you login as an authorized user, then you get through. Otherwise you get asked for the FileVault password. The user who setup FileVault would be implicitly authorized. This streamlines the login process, while still protecting you from someone extracting your hard drive and stealing data from it.
    – user11633
    Jul 18, 2016 at 21:23
  • 1
    @Phong I didn't set that up, but basically what you're saying is in a multi-user setup, other users will only see encrypted files on my part of the disk ?
    – blackbird
    Jul 18, 2016 at 22:26
  • 1
    Consolidated my explanations as an Answer.
    – user11633
    Jul 18, 2016 at 23:02

2 Answers 2


The following is my experience from using FileVault 2 in Yosemite.

After enabling FileVault 2, you will need to login as a user who is authorized to decrypt the disk, every time you boot up your Mac. If you attempt to login as a user who isn’t authorized to decrypt the disk, you will be prompted to provide the FileVault password, or to login as an authorized user first.

Once a Mac has been unlocked, any user account can login normally (until the next restart).

Authorization is granted on an account-by-account basis. The account that setup FileVault in the first place is implicitly authorized.

Logging in doesn't mean decrypting the entire disk at once. Files are decrypted on-the-fly, as they are accessed, and file system permissions still apply. So users are unable to access other users’ files unless those files have been shared. Otherwise, since they cannot be accessed, they cannot be decrypted either.

If a thief extracts your hard drive, they won't be able to steal your data without providing either an authorized account password or the FileVault password. Until then, that data is encrypted.

Yes, if a thief steals your computer and has your account password, then they get access to your data. But the purpose of FileVault isn’t to protect you from yourself (which, in essence, it would be doing by requiring you to enter both your account and FileVault passwords every time you logged in). Without FileVault, a thief wouldn’t even need your account password to steal your data.


Without FV, a password offers limited protection, because OS X provides means to reset an unknown password (e.g. in single user mode).

FileVault prevents all access to the disk unless a password is provided.

You must log in to answer this question.

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged .