How to backup BitLocker recovery key on Windows 11, and why

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On Windows 11, you can create a backup of the BitLocker recovery key, and in this guide, you will learn how and why you should do it. BitLocker is a security feature available on Windows 11 Pro, Enterprise, and Education editions that allows you to use encryption on a drive to protect your data from unauthorized access to your documents, pictures, and any data you may have on the device.

Usually, you have to enable BitLocker manually. However, it can come pre-configured from the manufacturer, and Windows 11 may also turn on the security feature automatically during a clean installation on laptops and tablets, and in these cases, you won’t have a backup of the recovery key. Although it’s convenient to use BitLocker for its security benefits, it also causes nightmares if something happens to the system and you’re not able to access the drive.

Recently, I configured a laptop with multiple installations to have access to different versions of Windows 11 from the available channels in the Windows Insider Program, and suddenly, one day, I turned on the laptop only to find the “BitLocker needs your recovery key to unlock your driver because Secure Boot policy has unexpectedly changed” message. However, I wasn’t even aware that the drive was encrypted. So, I looked into the recovery keys I backed up in the past, but I couldn’t find the one to unlock the device. Since the purpose of BitLocker is to protect the data on the drive, it’s (almost) impossible to bypass the protection with the recovery key.

Since the laptop didn’t have any personal files, I decided to wipe out the system and start from scratch. However, since you can always come across unexpected issues with your computer, it’s always recommended to check and back up the BitLocker recovery keys while you still have access to the system.

This guide will walk through the steps to back up your BitLocker recovery keys on Windows 11.

Backup BitLocker recovery key on Windows 11

To create a backup of the BitLocker recovery key on Windows 11, use these steps:

  1. Open Settings on Windows 11.

  2. Click on System.

  3. Click the Storage tab.

  4. Under the “Storage management” section, click on Advanced storage settings.

  5. Click the “Disks & volumes” setting.

    Disks and volumes

  6. Click on the hard drive with the Windows 11 installation partition.

  7. Click the Properties button for the “C” drive.

    Driver volume properties

  8. Click the “Turn off BitLocker” option.

    BitLocker open settings

  9. Under the “Operating system drive” section, click the “Back up your recovery key” option.

    Back up your recovery key

  10. Choose the option to export the BitLocker recovery key. For example, “Save to your Microsoft account.”

    Save to your Microsoft account

  11. Continue with the on-screen directions (if applicable).

  12. Click the Finish button.

Once you complete the steps, the system will export the recovery key, which you can then use to unlock the drive after a computer failure or unexpected changes in the Secure Boot settings.

If possible, choose an option, such as the one to save the key to your Microsoft account, and then run the wizard again and select a different option, such as export to a file or print the recovery key to have multiple ways to recover.

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