Originally published at: http://www.howtogeek.com/193649/how-to-make-bitlocker-use-256-bit-aes-encryption-instead-of-128-bit-aes/
Windows’ BitLocker encryption defaults to 128-bit AES encryption, but you can choose to use 256-bit AES encryption instead. Using a 256-bit AES key could potentially offer more security against future attempts to access your files.
I recall reading somewhere that to take full advantage of 128-bit AES encryption, the password needs to be 22 characters (or thereabouts) -- and much longer than that to take full advantage of 256-bit encryption.
If the above is correct (that very long passwords or phrases are required) -- then not only are people using AES 256 not meaningfully safer, but using shorter passwords won't get then even that bit of "non meaningful" incremental safety.
The real reason for most uses of encryption? Well all it has to do is stop the guy who finds or stole your laptop etc. from taking a peek at it before he sells it down the alley for $40 for some drugs. Then stop the dodgy buyer looking before a hacked copy of Windows 7 is installed over the top. That kind of thing.
Generally its not there to thwart a top govt. agent coming down through your skylight on a wire Mission Impossible style to steal your secrets.
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