Rick asked: “Wondering if there’s any software that can be installed on my laptop that would be able to encrypt it, so that if it’s ever stolen, someone can’t access my data on it.”
Rick, you might not need any software, Windows 10, Mac OS, and most versions of Linux already allow you to keep your hard drive automatically encrypted. To access your data, the thief would have to have your password, otherwise they’d get nothing.
Both Windows 10 and Mac OS allow you to track a stolen device, Windows 10 doesn’t let you lock the device or erase, Mac OS does, but that feature will probably eventually make it to Windows too.
If you would rather use a 3rd party solution, there are plenty of those too, look at Sophos or ESET, for example. What you will find, though, is that most 3rd party encryption solutions these days are marketed as enterprise tools, so that a company can manage many devices with one set of rules.
The encryption options you get with operating systems, are good though, and those are a good place to start if you want to secure your data for free, and without having to do have to do anything but turn the feature on once.
But let’s not be too hasty here. If you have sensitive data that you’re legally obligated to protect, then it makes sense to use an encrypted file system on your laptops certainly, and desktops maybe. But there is a price to pay.
File encryption systems dictate that any time information is written to the hard drive, it’s encrypted, and any time information is read from the hard drive, it’s decrypted. The result of this is overhead. You’re giving the computer sometime else to do at a time when speed is of the essence. We guarantee you this will have a dramatic influence on your computer’s performance.
As long as you understand, depending upon how powerful its CPU is and how fast its storage system is, there will be some degree of sluggishness and loss of response, then you can get what you want.
This is one of those “have the cake” or “eat the cake” situations, we’re afraid. Good luck.