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I swap between two external drives for Time Machine backups. I swap every few weeks. I just swapped back to a disk that used to be encrypted but it isn't anymore. The backups are working but I no longer have to enter my password. I just checked now and the other disk is still encrypted. I also checked to see whether I added the password to the keychain and I can't find it.

Here's some information about the two drives. The "Top" volume is not encrypted but the "Bottom" one is. Interestingly, the encrypted drive is a logical volume and the unencrypted drive is a physical volume. I'm not sure it's related to my problem, though.

Disk Info from Disk Utility

I have enabled FileVault on the system drive since I last used this "unencrypted" drive. Could that have caused this? Do I have to reformat and re-encrypt to reenable encryption? Is there any way to encrypt in place like I did with the system drive?

I noticed there are some questions already about similar topics but they seem to be really old. This is for Big Sur.

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  • Are the drives actually unencrypted or are you just not needing a password? Open Disk Utility and select the volume. It will indicate whether it's encrypted or not there.
    – Ezekiel
    Aug 19 '21 at 15:34
  • Good question, @EzekielElin. I've added the requested information above. Aug 19 '21 at 17:51
  • Not really an answer, but this might be a good time to reformat your external disk as APFS (Encrypted) instead, since Time Machine now supports that - and it's faster to complete backups. You can start with your "Top" disk being APFS and not modify your "Bottom" one for now. To do this, select the physical hard drive entry in Disk Utility and Erase, formatting as GUID/APFS Encrypted
    – Ezekiel
    Aug 19 '21 at 20:16
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    @StephenRasku No, the backup is not encrypted. It is not the case that the UI has simply disappeared. Yes, you can definitely copy the saved backups to a different drive, reformat encrypted, and then move them back.
    – jksoegaard
    Aug 19 '21 at 20:50
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    @StephenRasku Yeah, I'm not sure you'll be able to transfer the backups unfortunately. If this is important than you'll have to stick with Mac OS Extended
    – Ezekiel
    Aug 22 '21 at 13:55
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No, enabling FileVault on your system drive cannot cause an external drive that is not connected to suddenly become non-encrypted. It also doesn't do it to a drive that is connected.

If your external disk was ever encrypted, you have reformatted it or disabled the encrypted manually since then.

You can encrypt the disk without reformatting it by opening Finder, and then right-click the drive in the sidebar, and click "Encrypt Top xxxx" (the name of your drive). You are then prompted for a password and the disk will be encrypted in the background. You can use it while it is being encrypted, although it might be a bit slower.

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  • Right-click does not display "Encrypt Top ..." Aug 19 '21 at 19:33
  • What does it display then?
    – jksoegaard
    Aug 19 '21 at 20:50
  • It shows: "Open in New Tab", "Show in Enclosing Folder", "Eject 'Top ...'", "Remove from Sidebar", "Get Info", "Back Up Now", and "Rename 'Top ...'" Aug 19 '21 at 20:54
  • Ah sorry - I meant what DiskUtil display then? - can you screenshot the whole thing instead of just a cropped image? - There must be some reason why Finder doesn't offer the Encrypt menu item.
    – jksoegaard
    Aug 19 '21 at 21:28
  • I've added the full Disk Util information. Aug 19 '21 at 22:57

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