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For Mac users who encrypt external hard drives and USB flash drives, there may come a time when you want to remove the password protection and decrypt the external device. By decrypting an external drive, all data on the drive can be accessed without password verification, effectively disabling any protection on the destination external volume.
It’s important to remember that this process of decrypting external drives is completely separate from using FileVault encryption on a Mac for the internal drive. FileVault does not encrypt external drives, so decrypting an external drive in this way doesn’t decrypt FileVault either (although you can disable FileVault in a separate process if you want to for some reason).
How to Turn off encryption and decrypt external drives on Mac
This is the main method to turn off encryption and decrypt any external volume encrypted with the built-in encryption tools on modern versions of Mac OS X and macOS. This removes password protection from the target drive.
- Connect the drive or volume you want to decrypt to the Mac
- Select the external drive (from the hard drive or the Finder, or from the Devices menu in the Finder sidebar) and right-click on the drive icon, then choose ‘Decrypt Drive Name’ … ‘from the list
- Enter the password used to encrypt and lock the drive to unlock the contents and start the decryption process
- Decrypting the external drive may take some time depending on how big it is, you can check the status by returning to the right click context menu
- Once done, use the freshly decrypted disc as usual or remove it
Once the drive is decrypted, it has no protection at all, meaning it can be accessed or read without entering a password.
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