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Encrypt Your Sensitive Data: Back up and Restore

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Back up encrypted Windows files

Back up a Windows certificate

Restore a Windows certificate

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How to Back up Windows data to external media

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Encrypt Macintosh data

IT Help Center
Last Updated: 8/17/05
Copyright 2005 University of Delaware

Back up encrypted Windows files

Once you have encrypted your data, you must make a backup copy. Follow the backup instructions, based on the type of media you wish to use.

  • If you copy files to removable media or use CDRW software to burn data discs, your files will be unencrypted. In this case, secure the media physically; for example, lock it in a file cabinet or desk.
  • If you use Windows Backup or third-party true backup software, your files will remain encrypted. In this case, along with your files, you must back up the certificate generated by the encryption process. This is necessary in case of hard disk failure or if you need to load the backups onto another computer.

    If you use a password to secure the certificate when you back it up, do not forget the password. If a password is lost, there is no way to recover the files.

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Back up a certificate

If you back up your encrypted files using Windows Backup or a third party backup software, you must also back up the security certificate from your computer. This certificate associates your account with the encrypted state of your encrypted files. If your computer fails, you reset your password, or your computer account is damaged, you will need this certificate to restore your encrypted files.

How to back up your certificate

  1. Open Internet Explorer
  2. From the Tools menu, select Internet Options then click the Content tab:

    content tab

  3. In the "Certificates" section, click the Certificates button.

  4. In the "Certificates" window, click the Personal tab:

    personal certificates

  5. Click the certificate listed (there is usually just one that refers to the account you use to log in to the computer) and click the Export button. You will see the Certificate Export Wizard Welcome window.

  6. In the "Welcome" window, click Next:

    export wizard welcome screen

  7. When you are asked if you want to export the Private key, select Yes, export the private key then click Next:

    Export private key

  8. In the "Export file format" window, leave the options as they are:

    export format

  9. Click Next.
  10. Next, you are prompted for a password. You can leave this blank or set a password. CAUTION: If you set a password, be sure you store it with the backup for the certificate. If you forget the password, you will not be able to import the certificate on another machine and restore your backup. The password is not recoverable.

    type password

  11. You can store the certificate on media of your choice. Specify the location as in the window below. You can store the certificate on a floppy disk, USB key, Zip drive, or a formatted CDRW. You should back up the certificate and your encrypted files onto separate physical media.

    choose  location to store certificate

  12. Click Finish to complete the export of the certificate:

    complete the certificate export

  13. You will see a box letting you know whether the export was successful.

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Restore a certificate

  1. To import a certificate, load the media containing the certificate into your computer, then double-click the certificate file. You will see an Import Wizard Welcome window:

    certificate import wizard

  2. Click the Next button.
  3. Choose your certificate by clicking the Browse button and locating the certificate file on your backup media again:

    import the certificate file

  4. Click the Next button.
  5. In the Password window:

    1. Type the password you set when you exported the certificate. If you did not set a password, leave the password field blank.
    2. Select the box next to Mark this key as exportable.
    3. type password for certificate

    4. Click the Next button.

  6. In the "Certificate Store" window, leave the radio button set for Automatically select the certificate store based on the type of certificate and click the Next button.

    store the certificate

  7. In the "Completing the Certificate Import Wizard" window, click the Finish button to complete the import.

    completed certificate import

  8. You will see a box letting you know whether the import was successful.

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