For anyone who needs a mobile device with higher-than-usual
security, there are a number of options. One such option is to encrypt your
entire device. This means that every time you power your phone on, you’ll need
either a numeric pin or password to decrypt the device. An encrypted device is
far more secure than an unencrypted one. When encrypted, the only way to
get into the phone is with the encryption key. That means your data is going to
be safe, should you lose your phone.

Unfortunately, an encrypted Android device does come with a
few pitfalls:

  • Performance: The performance of your device will
    take a slight hit. Because of that, I do not recommend encrypting older or
    slower devices. The Moto X is a solid candidate for encryption.
  • One way: The encryption process is one way. Once
    encrypted, you cannot undo this. The only way to disable encryption is via
    factory reset.
  • Time involved: The encryption process takes
    about an hour (or longer, depending upon how much data you have), so you’ll
    need a fully-charged device or have that device plugged in. Also, make sure
    you have plenty of time to start and finish.

If, after reading those warnings, you still want to encrypt
your device, let’s move forward. 

Note: The following steps will work with nearly
all Android devices. I will demonstrate using the Verizon-branded Samsung
Galaxy S4. Some device instructions may vary (depending upon the device).

Step 1: Fully charge, or plug in your phone

I cannot emphasize this enough. You must either have a full
charge or the ability to plug your device in for the entire time the encryption
process runs. If you don’t, you run the risk of losing data.

Step 2: Back up your data

Although the Android platform makes it incredibly simple to
restore data (even moving from phone to phone), that system can only go so far.
You’ll want to make sure you back up any important data to a cloud service or
an external memory card.

Step 3: Begin the encryption

Here’s how you begin the encryption:

  1. Open
    the app drawer
  2. Click Settings 
  3. Tap
    the More tab
  4. Tap
    Security
  5. Tap
    Encrypt device

At this point, you must select the Set screen lock type. Warning: Whatever screen lock type you choose will be used for starting the
device and getting past your lock screen. Should you select to use a strong
password, you’ll be typing that password every single time you wake up your phone.
This can be a bit cumbersome — but if you’re looking for very strong security
on your device, this is the way to go.

Step 4: Walk through the encryption wizard

After you tap the Set screen lock type button, you’ll have to select what type of screen lock to use (Figure A).

Figure A

Select the type of screen lock for encryption.

The next window will be determined by the type of encryption you select. I chose Password, so I had to enter (and confirm) a password (Figure
B
).

Figure B

 

 

Enter a password for encryption.

As I mentioned earlier, select a strong password here, otherwise
it defeats the purpose of encryption all together. Once you’ve confirmed your
password, you’ll then be informed if your phone has enough charge for the
process. Even if they device is plugged in, it must have a minimum of 80% charge before the Encrypt device button will be available (Figure C).

Figure C

 

 

When your phone is over 80% charged, you can tap the
Encrypt device button.

Tap the Encrypt device button, and you’ll be prompted for
your password. Once you’ve done that, tap the Encrypt
device button again, and step away from the phone. It will immediately restart and begin the process
of encryption. Do NOT interrupt the process. Leave the phone plugged into the
charger while the encryption process takes place. Once the phone prompts you
for your encryption password, the process is complete.

I will say, on the Samsung Galaxy S4, the encryption
completed within about 20 minutes and no noticeable hit on performance.

If you’re looking to get the highest possible encryption
from your Android smartphone, the built-in device encryption is solid. Just use
caution when setting it up and do not forget your encryption password.

Do you use encryption on your Android device. Share your experience in the discussion thread below.