Software Windows

How can I find the BitLocker recovery key?

black and grey keys
Under lock and key: find your BitLocker passcode (Photo by George Becker on Pexels.com)

BitLocker is Microsoft’s disk encryption solution for Windows devices. It’s a convenient way to protect data should your machine end up in the wrong hands. When activated, Windows generates a 48-digit recovery key, which can be used to unlock a drive when things inevitably go wrong. If you’ve misplaced this vital information, here is how to find the BitLocker recovery key on your PC.

Why do I need a BitLocker recovery key?

Once BitLocker has been configured, most PCs will never mention the words recovery key again. Usually, the BitLocker security information is stored within a Trusted Protection Module (TPM) which does all the cumbersome work of authentication during the login process. However, if the TPM detects a change in certain low-level software or hardware configurations whenever it boots, it may prompt the user to re-validate their security credentials by requesting the BitLocker recovery key for the machine.

Basically, if you’ve lost the BitLocker recovery key, you’ve got a problem.

Where to find the Bitlocker recovery key in Windows

There are a few places to find the BitLocker recovery key on a machine.

BitLocker drive encryption screen

The easiest way is to open the Start menu, searching for ‘BitLocker’. Select, Manage Bitlocker from the options and the Control Panel will load. This works in Windows 7, 8, 10 & 11. Select Back up your recovery key.

backup BitLocker recovery keys options

You can save the key to your Microsoft Account (but only if you’re signed in with one), save it to a file or print it out. You can choose as many options as you like.

Alternatively, open the Start menu and type ‘CMD’ to find Command Prompt and select the option to Run As Administrator. In the box that appears, type:

manage-bde -protectors C: -get
BitLocker recovery key in command prompt

Be sure to modify C: if your encrypted drive has a different designation. The command will pull the BitLocker recovery key from the machine, displaying it as ‘Password’. We’ve highlighted, but obscured, the code in red).

BitLocker recovery keys in Microsoft account

If you access Windows with a Microsoft account, there’s a good chance that your BitLocker key is stored there. To find it, visit https://account.microsoft.com/devices/recoverykey and log yourself in with the same Microsoft account used to log into the machine.

Why I haven’t I got BitLocker?

The simplest explanation is that your hardware or software doesn’t meet the requirements. BitLocker comes in two variants, Drive Encryption and Device Encryption.

Drive Encryption is the most common variant and is only available in the Professional, Enterprise and Education versions of Windows. Most home PCs have the aptly named Home edition, which can have BitLocker if the hardware supports the Modern Startup standard, reserved for small touchscreen devices. If you don’t have one, it’s possible to upgrade from Windows Home to Windows Pro. It’s not a free, but we can help you here too. See our guide: How do I get the best price on Windows 11 Pro?

BitLocker is simple way to keep your data safe. Over the years, I’ve seen many people lock themselves out because they’ve lost their recovery key. Take action now and when your TPM asks for the code, you’ll know where it is.

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About the author

Lee Grant

I can normally be found attacking things with screwdrivers in my small computer repair business or writing a column for PC Pro magazine.

I am also trying to solve a mystery involving David Bowie.

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