Find out if Microsoft stores encryption recovery keys in the cloud

Martin Brinkmann
Dec 30, 2015
Windows
|
10

A recent The Intercept article reveals that Microsoft is storing device encryption keys in the cloud under certain circumstances automatically.

Device Encryption is a built-in encryption feature that became first available with Microsoft's Windows 8 operating system. The core difference between Device Encryption and Bitlocker is that Bitlocker is configurable while Device Encryption is not.

Furthermore, full Bitlocker functionality is only available in Pro and Enterprise editions of Windows while Device Encryption is available in all.

Device encryption is enabled automatically if the computer has the required encryption chip and if a Microsoft account is used to sign-in to the computer. If that is the case, the encryption key is stored in the cloud automatically. If the computer is not connected to a Windows domain, it is sent to Microsoft, and if it is, will be stored on company servers instead.

Windows users who choose not to create Windows accounts during setup or afterwards, won't have device encryption enabled.

There is no way to prevent Windows from sending the encryption key to the cloud if the computer matches the requirements.

Why keys are backed up in the cloud

You are probably wondering why Microsoft backs up keys in the cloud automatically. The answer to that is convenience, as users can make use of the key backed up in the cloud to regain access to files on the system. This can be the only way if no local backup of the key exists.

Microsoft could however handle this differently. For instance, it could provide users with an option to back up the key locally or in the cloud, something that Apple does for instance.

Check up on cloud stored encryption keys

bitlocker recovery keys

While you cannot prevent Windows from transferring keys to the cloud, you can check using your Microsoft Account to find out if keys are saved in the cloud, and delete them if that is the case.

  1. Load https://onedrive.live.com/recoverykey in your browser of choice.
  2. Log in to your Microsoft Account to access the service.
  3. Microsoft lists all recovery keys stored under that account on the page. If you get "You don't have any BitLocker recovery keys in your Microsoft account" it means that no keys are stored. This is the case for instance if the computer has no encryption chip, or if a local account is used to sign in on the PC.
  4. Otherwise, you may delete the recovery key on the site. It is suggested to back up the key before you do so.

To be on the safe side

bitlocker

Microsoft noted that the encryption key and backups are deleted when users deleted them on the Recovery Key page.

While that is reassuring, it is suggested to create a new encryption key locally instead and save it locally as well to make sure no one can decrypt data on the drive using the old encryption key.

While local access is needed for that, it is better to be safe than sorry later on.

  1. Tap on the Windows-key, type bitlocker and select the Manage BitLocker result to open the BitLocker Drive Encryption settings.
  2. Select "Turn off BitLocker" next to the operating system drive. This will decrypt the drive which may take a while depending on its size and performance.
  3. Once done, select "Turn on BitLocker".
  4. Windows will prompt you to back up the recovery key. You can select to save it to a file, or to print the recovery key. Don't select Microsoft Account as it will end up in the cloud again if you do.
  5. Select to encrypt the entire disk including empty space on the next page.
  6. Select yes when asked to run the BitLocker system check afterwards.
  7. Reboot your PC.

BitLocker will start to encrypt the drive in the background afterwards. It is suggested to check the Microsoft Account again when the process completes to make sure the new recovery key is not listed there.

Summary
Find out if Microsoft stores encryption recovery keys in the cloud
Article Name
Find out if Microsoft stores encryption recovery keys in the cloud
Description
Find out if Microsoft stores disk encryption recovery keys in the cloud, how to delete these keys, and how to generate new ones.
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Comments

  1. Dan Donx said on January 15, 2023 at 10:29 am
    Reply

    What mental age of reader are you targeting with the first sentence? 10?

    Why not write an article on how to *avoid* upgrading from W10 to W11. Analogous to those like me who avoided upgrading from 7 to 10 for as long as possible.

    If your paymaster Microsoft permits it, of course.

  2. Dexter said on January 15, 2023 at 11:14 am
    Reply

    5. Rufus
    6. Ventoy

    PS. I hate reading these “SEO optimized” articles.

    1. cdr said on January 15, 2023 at 3:32 pm
      Reply

      I used Rufus to create an installer for a 6th gen intel i5 that had MBR. It upgraded using Setup. No issues except for Win 11 always prompting me to replace my local account. Still using Win 10 Pro on all my other PCs to avoid the bullying.

  3. sv said on January 15, 2023 at 6:40 pm
    Reply

    bit pointless to upgrade for the sake of upgrading as you never know when you’ll get locked out because ms might suddenly not provide updates to unsupported systems.

    ps…. time travelling?
    written. Jan 15, 2023
    Updated • Jan 13, 2023

    1. Martin Brinkmann said on January 16, 2023 at 5:49 am
      Reply

      This happens when you schedule a post in WordPress and update it before setting the publication date.

  4. Anonymous said on January 16, 2023 at 8:24 am
    Reply

    Anyone willing to downgrade to this awful OS must like inflicting themselves with harm.

  5. basingstoke said on January 16, 2023 at 11:18 am
    Reply

    I have become convinced now that anybody who has no qualms with using Windows 11/10 must fit into one of the following brackets:

    1) Too young to remember a time before W10 and W11 (doesn’t know better)

    2) Wants to play the latest games on their PC above anything else (or deeply needs some software which already dropped W7 support)

    3) Doesn’t know too much about how computers work, worried that they’d be absolutely lost and in trouble without the “”latest security””

    4) Microsoft apologist that tries to justify that the latest “features” and “changes” are actually a good thing, that improve Windows

    5) Uses their computer to do a bare minimum of like 3 different things, browse web, check emails, etc, so really doesn’t fuss

    Obviously that doesn’t cover everyone, there’s also the category that:

    6) Actually liked W7 more than 10, and held out as long as possible before switching, begrudgingly uses 10 now

    Have I missed any group off this list?

    1. Heinz Strunk said on September 19, 2023 at 3:57 pm
      Reply

      You have missed in this group just about any professional user that uses business software like CAD programs or ERP Programs which are 99% of all professional users from this list.

      Linux doesn’t help anyone who is not a linux kid and apple is just a fancy facebook machine.

  6. ilev said on August 24, 2023 at 7:34 pm
    Reply

    Microsoft has removed KB5029351 update

    1. EP said on August 24, 2023 at 9:21 pm
      Reply

      only from windows update though
      KB5029351 is still available from the ms update catalog site

  7. Anonymous said on August 24, 2023 at 11:05 pm
    Reply

    1. This update is labaled as PREVIEW if it causes issues to unintelligent people, then they shouldn’t have allowed Preview updates ot install.

    2. I have installed it in a 11 years old computer, and no problems at all.

    3. Making a big drama over a bluescreen for an updated labeled as preview is ridiculous.

    This is probably another BS internet drama where people ran programs and scripts that modified the registry until they broke Windows, just for removing stuff that they weren’t even using just for the sake of it.
    Maybe people should stop playing geeks and actually either use Windows 10 or Windows 11, but don’t try to modify things just for the sake of it.

    Sometimes removing or stopping things (like defender is a perfect example) only need intelligence, not scripts or 3rd party programs that might mess with windows.

  8. john said on August 24, 2023 at 11:17 pm
    Reply

    Windows 11 was a pointless release, it was just created because some of the Windows team wanted to boost sales with some sort of new and improved Windows 10. Instead, Microsoft cannot support one version well let alone two.

    1. John G. said on August 25, 2023 at 12:08 pm
      Reply

      Windows 11 is the worst ugly shame by Microsoft ever. They should release with every new W11 version a complete free version of Starallback inside just to make this sh** OS functionally again.

  9. EP said on August 25, 2023 at 3:10 pm
    Reply

    motherboard maker MSI has recently released a statement regarding the “unsupported processor” blue screen error for their boards using Intel 600/700 series chipsets & to avoid the KB5029351 Win11 update:
    https://www.msi.com/news/detail/MSI-On–UNSUPPORTED-PROCESSOR–Error-Message-of-Windows-11-Update-KB5029351-Preview-142215

  10. EP said on August 29, 2023 at 7:32 pm
    Reply

    check out the following recent articles:

    Neowin – Microsoft puts little blame on its Windows update after UNSUPPORTED PROCESSOR BSOD bug:
    https://www.neowin.net/news/microsoft-puts-little-blame-on-its-windows-update-after-unsupported-processor-bsod-bug/

    BleepingComputer – Microsoft blames ‘unsupported processor’ blue screens on OEM vendors:
    https://www.bleepingcomputer.com/news/microsoft/microsoft-blames-unsupported-processor-blue-screens-on-oem-vendors/

  11. Leonard Britvolli said on August 30, 2023 at 10:33 pm
    Reply

    While there may be changes or updates to the Windows 10 Store for Business and Education in the future, it is premature to conclude that it will be discontinued based solely on rumors.

  12. sembrador said on September 5, 2023 at 9:32 pm
    Reply

    My advice, I left win 15 years ago. Now I’m a happy linux user (linuxmint) but there is Centos, Fedora, Ubuntu depending on your needs.

  13. EP said on September 6, 2023 at 11:55 am
    Reply

    motherboard maker MSI has recently released new BIOS/firmware updates for their Intel 600 & 700 series motherboards to fix the “UNSUPPORTED_PROCESSOR” problem (Sept. 6):

    https://www.msi.com/news/detail/Updated-BIOS-fixes-Error-Message–UNSUPPORTED-PROCESSOR–caused-BSOD-on-MSI-s-Intel-700-and-600-Series-Motherboards-142277

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