I own a MacBook Pro, which is obviously a Laptop, so I want to protect myself in case it ever gets stolen.

On Windows I can use TrueCrypt to do a full system encryption, but would that also be a choice on Mac OS X?

I think that OS X contains a built-in encryption, but when it was released (10.2? 10.3?) I heard it had some really bad flaws that made it unusable.

Is that still the case? What are my options to encrypt either the full drive or at least my home directory?

5 Answers 5


The new Mac OS Lion supports whole disk encryption with the new Filevault2.


Mac OS X comes with FileVault for encrypting your home directory. There isn't a whole lot of customization for it, but it does its job. There are a few downsides, though:

  • FileVault does not play well with Time Machine backups. Time Machine can only back up the FileVault encrypted disk image when the user is logged out.

  • As FileVault runs it tends to slowly consume disk space. This space is reclaimed at logout, but it can cause problems if your drive is nearly full.

These downsides are the result of FileVault being implemented as an encrypted disk image that is then mounted at login. However, as long as you make sure you regularly log out of your machine they shouldn't present that much of an issue.

It does appear that TrueCrypt is available for Mac OS X, but I've never used it and don't know how well it works.

  • 2
    TrueCrypt works perfect on mac OS X.
    – Am1rr3zA
    Nov 23, 2010 at 5:57
  • 2
    @Am1rr3zA Not for whole Disk Encryption though Nov 23, 2010 at 23:02
  • Unfortunately FileVault is nowhere near as secure as whole disk encryption; it's even less secure than simply having a truecrypt volume. This is because FileVault simply employs user permissions to restrict access to its contents, which can be easily overcome if an attacker has physical access to your machine. May 12, 2011 at 4:49
  • @Mike I don't see how Filevault is different than TrueCrypt - both mount encrypted volumes that the operating system protects with user permissions. When unmounted (in the case of Filevault, when the user is logged out) they're both just encrypted files on the disk. It's not full disk encryption, but it's no worse than Truecrypt May 12, 2011 at 4:59
  • @Kyle TrueCrypt does not employ user permissions; you need to specify a new password for each encrypted volume you create. May 12, 2011 at 18:01

PGP whole-disk encryption supports OS X (10.5 and 10.6, Intel CPUs only), including the boot disk.

  • This seems to be the only solution for full disk encryption on OS X. FileVault has it's uses, but doesn't do the whole disk. Jan 1, 2011 at 10:49

According to http://www.truecrypt.org/docs/sys-encryption-supported-os you can't use TrueCrypt to encrypt the OS partition on macs. No idea whether it can encrypt the user directory.

  • @WWW I couldn’t find that information, where is it exactly? The page you linked shows that OS X is only supported as 32bits. Nov 23, 2010 at 15:29
  • I mislinked because of the frames. Fixed.
    – WWW
    Nov 23, 2010 at 18:37

truecrypt 7.0a works like a champ on os x 10.6.6. It even works with etoken pro 64k! You can encrypt any container (basically like a disk image). However, I don't see any way to get it to encrypt the user directory.

  • It doesn't do full file system encryption on OS X sadly, which was the question :( Container encryption works fine, but in 2011 it's also kinda lame. Feb 8, 2011 at 18:17

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