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The best file encryption software in open source – group test

by Gareth Halfacree

Keeping your secrets secret is an important consideration, so we have taken the four most popular encryption systems and ordered Linux User’s chief group tester, Garath Halfacree, to do what he does best. Which is the ultimate option? Read on…

…and the winner is: TrueCrypt

While TrueCrypt’s somewhat thorny licensing terms mean that it’s not really suitable for the true free software advocate, for the average user it’s an easy package to recommend. The friendly GUI – while not the prettiest in the world – does a good job of making it easy to juggle even multiple encrypted devices, and the cross platform support is to be welcomed by anyone who wants to secure an external drive without losing the ability to plug it in to other computers when they’re out and about.

The performance is also impressive. To test each package out, we selected the default options in all cases – which included the use of the AES-256 encryption algorithm, generally considered to be one of the most secure around – and copied a single 256MB ‘large’ file and 500 128KB ‘small’ files multiple times, measuring the throughput each time. Taking an average, we were able to get a good overview of the performance penalty each package brought – and as the results graph shows, it was TrueCrypt that came out on top.

Although the software isn’t perfect, it’s certainly a good start for anyone looking to improve their privacy with a powerful encryption tool. For those with dm-crypt already provided in their distribution however as a whole-disk encryption option, however, LUKS may prove worth the learning curve.

The best file encryption software in open source - group test

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    • Joseph

      While LUKS may not have a GUI as such, that doesn’t mean that ease of use is really hampered in some distributions. For instance, when using openSUSE’s YaST configuration tool and its partitioner module, one need simply click a check box (and enter the desired password) and YaST handles formatting, setting up and encrypting the partition, and adding an FSTAB entry if needed. I just checked and it seems Ubuntu gives you an encryption option when using its partitioner but not during the install. openSUSE allows for encryption to be specified during system install as well.

      It’s also my understanding that TrueCrypt allows for full-disk encrypting a boot drive under Windows but not Linux. If that is still the case, then perhaps the recommendation would best be LUKS for setting up a system with full-disk encryption (especially if you’re installing a disto with a powerful installer like openSUSE’s) and TrueCrypt for other needs and cross-platform encrypting.

    • linux97

      The selling point for me (strange sounding since it is free) is the simple fact that Truecrypt will work cross-platform as long as it has been installed on other machines. That means that I can encrypt a thumb drive and use it on various machines; taking my encrypted files with me to work, home, wherever. I can also put a persistent linux on another thumb drive, along with truecrypt, and be assured I can use my encrypted files anywhere I am allowed to boot a computer.

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    • JDM

      TrueCrypt also has some very ambiguous origins and development and is increasingly hard to compile from source by an end user.

    • David

      Apparently there is a tool that makes it possible to use dm-crypt under windows. It’s called FreeOTFE ( and has the benefit of not having to be installed (thus not needing administrator priviligeous). This could actually make it even more useful than truecrypt for use with portable devices. This program is windows only and I don’t think there’s a similar program for MacOSX.

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    • aprogrammer

      Cool post but I was using russian ecryption instruction

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    • Markus

      Interesting how some articles at somehow the same time try to sell people the compromised TrueCrypt stuff to the people instead of LUKS and try to tell that the performance is way better.. ;)