Issues Resulting in Bitlocker Recovery Mode and Their Resolution

Issues Resulting in Bitlocker Recovery Mode and Their Resolution

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My name is Tanner Slayton and I am a Sr. Support Escalation Engineer for Microsoft on the Windows Core Team. I am writing today to shed some light on a common Bitlocker problem that we see.

* While you can accomplish most tasks via the Bitlocker Control Panel Applet, I am going to be using the manage-bde commands from an elevated command prompt.

Specific operations or actions will cause Bitlocker to go into Recovery Mode and ask you to enter the 48-digit Recovery Key. This can be caused by several things, and a complete list can be viewed here , but today I am going to go over the most common issues.

Scenario # 1:      When you are using a Laptop or Desktop computer and do not have the BIOS Boot order with the OS HDD listed as the first boot device. The reason for this is the boot device makes up part of the system measurement used by Bitlocker and this must remain consistent to validate the system status and unlock BitLocker. (I.e. if you have the DVD-ROM drive listed first and had a bootable media inserted, this can cause the system measurement to change.)  Some firmware will also treat PXE network boot as a change in boot order – even when the user does not choose network boot. Changing from a wireless to wired network can trigger a recovery event.  Putting the HDD first in boot order generally eliminates these issues.


o   Suspend Bitlocker drive encryption by typing "manage-bde -protectors -disable c:” from an elevated command prompt.

o   Go into the BIOS and change the Boot Order so the OS HDD is first in the list.

o    By default from most hardware vendors, the HDD is not the first boot device.

o    If you have a laptop with a docking station, make sure that it is plugged into the docking station, in order to make sure that the external devices presented by the docking station are present in BIOS.

o    Boot into the Operating System and run "manage-bde -protectors -enable c:"

Scenario # 2:      When you are either deploying a new system or encrypting the drive for the first time. You might pause the Bitlocker encryption process, in order to speed up the performance or while performing other tasks, so that encryption can run later or you need more than the 6 GB worth of free space to continue deploying the system.  When you run "manage-bde -pause c:" you are pausing the drive encryption of C:, but not the Bitlocker protectors on the system.

You might say to yourself, if I run "manage-bde -status c:" I see that the protection is off on that drive. The reason you see this is that the protection for the drive is not yet completed, but the clear text key still exists.

Volume C: []
[OS Volume]
    Size:                 37.17 GB
    BitLocker Version:    Windows 7
    Conversion Status:    Encryption Paused
    Percentage Encrypted: 3%
    Encryption Method:    AES 128 with Diffuser
    Protection Status:    Protection Off <--- Where it shows "Protection Off"
    Lock Status:          Unlocked
    Identification Field: None


o   When you need to pause the encryption, whether for performance or drive space reasons, you need to run "manage-bde -pause c:"

o   After encryption has been paused, you will want to run "manage-bde -protectors -disable c:"

o   Once you have completed your tasks and wish to start the encryption process again you can run "manage-bde -resume c:"

o   Once the encryption is complete, or if you have completed your tasks, you will then want to run "manage-bde -protectors -enable c:"

Scenario # 3:      The BIOS / TPM firmware are out of date on the systems.


o   Suspend Bitlocker drive encryption “manage-bde –protectors –disable c:

o   Update the BIOS on the system

o    If there is a TPM Firmware update, please follow the vendor installation instructions.

o   Reboot the Operating System and run “manage-bde –protectors –enable c:

Scenario # 4:      When you are installing additional language packs onto the system, and selecting the option to apply the language settings to all users and system accounts. This causes a locale change in the BCD (Boot Configuration Database), which Bitlocker with TPM interprets as a boot attack.


o   Suspend Bitlocker drive encryption “manage-bde –protectors –disable c:

o   Add language packs to the system and make any language settings.

o   Resume Bitlocker drive encryption “manage-bde –protectors –enable c:

Scenario # 5:      When you create or modify any of the partitions that reside on the O/S drive.


o   Suspend Bitlocker drive encryption “manage-bde –protectors –disable c:

o   Shrink, expand, or create any partitions on the drive.

o   Resume Bitlocker drive encryption “manage-bde –protectors –enable c:


I want to thank you for your time today and hope that this information was helpful.

Tanner Slayton
Senior Support Escalation Engineer
Microsoft Enterprise Platforms Support


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  • VERY helpful information. I would have thought Microsoft would post something similar to this. Thanks again for your work!

  • Hi, very good post. But these scenarios do not cover everything. What would you do in a case where bitlocker encrypts an external hard drive and stores the password on local system. And after doing that, it is unable to decrypt the external drive even when provided with right password or key? If you need more details, you can see my post here....I have had a disaster with it...and havent recovered :(

    Win 7 is a breeze of fresh air ... but having these problems is like having the golden (or blue ) days back!!

  • Also the article shows Microsoft is very short sighted when it came to Bitlocker and how recovery mode is triggered. Some companies need to leave the PXE boot enabled as not all users can be walked through the BIOS.  We dont have the budget to purchase say VPro from Intel to manage the BIOS and our machines are spread through 200+ remote sites.  If the machine needs to be reimaged we also cannot afford the shipping costs to send the machine back to a config lab for reimaging.  Instead we reinstall on site and leave the PXE boot enabled for just such a reason.  Here is where PCR10 does not make sense, PXE boot was enabled before bitlocker was enabled.  If you hibernate the machine then it sends Bitlocker into recovery mode but with PCR 10 disabled everything runs fine.  Very short sighted Microsoft!!!!!

  • I have encrypted my D: which size is 130 GB. After installation 3days it was working properly but now it is not booting and while the booting process it is asking for Bit locker recovery file. so pls help me.

    My id is

  • We have been deploying bitlocker for well over a year.  We do set HDD first in the bios under all boot orders but on our m91's a USB drive left in the USB port still throws a bitlocker code request, even after removing it from the boot order in the bios.  Anyone run into this?

  • Thanks for the post, solved my problem with the first scenario.

  • I am facing the issue with Bit locker where it is failing with error "The System cannot find the file specified"

    Can you please help me to get out of this?

    Thanks in advance.

    Mahadev Nitture

  • How about this cause: I have two 64 GIG USB sticks from the same manufacturer and had both Bitlockered.  Things where fine until today when writing to one of the USB sticks failed.  It now reports "no media" and a dialog that says "Please insert a disk into Removable disk (E:)" appears if I try to view it.  OK, fine, maybe the USB stick actually failed.  However when I remove that USB stick, reboot, and try the other (almost unused) USB stick it asks for the Bitlocker password and refuses to accept it.  If I try to give it the full recovery key it also refuses that.  

    It appears that the failure of one USB stick has caused a different stick (of same brand) to be unusable.  Other USB sticks, both clear-text and bitlockered, still work. The second USB stick does NOT report no media, it is purely a bitlocker issue with that one.

  • Scenario 5?

    Laptop lcd is shattered, need to move the bitlocker hard disk into another chassis. System continually prompts for recovery key. How do you move a disk to another computer (same model, TPM enabled) permanently?

  • @Eric

    1) After you enter recovery key and boot, suspend Bitlocker

    2) Activate and then take ownership of the TPM

    3) Resume Bitlocker and reboot and confirm you are longer prompted for recovery key

  • Hi there,

    Does anyone encounter the Bitlocker recovery mode wont able to trigger? I disabled TPM and run the -forcerecovery command to trigger the Bitlocker recovery screen unfortunately it goes to WPE command prompt.

    I am using Lenovo Helix T510 4349-BF6 running on Windows 8 Enterprise Edition build 9200 (64-bit).

    Any input is highly appreciated.

    Thank you.

  • I'm looking for assistance on Panasonic Toughbook models CF-52 and CF-53 and their docking station. When bitlocker is enabled while docked, they go into recovery mode undocked. Suspending and resuming protection works for subsequent undocked boots. When redocking, recovery mode is triggered again. Again, suspending and resuming protection will resolve for subsequent docked boot. Once the laptop is undocked, recovery mode is triggered again. I've tried disabling option 0 and 2 in the verification profile in group policy as recommended in another article, but it has had no effect. Any insight that can be provided would be greatly appreciated.

  • Hi,

    We have windows 7 x64, every month after patching we are seeing 100 -200 odd cases where bitlocker gets into recovery mode, machines are always different and once we provide a recovery key it works fine.

    However it is becoming a pain.. Any suggestions will be helpful.


  • What about the installation of Windows Updates and when the machine reboots after configuring BitLocker is asking for the BitLocker Recovery Key?

  • First I want to thank you for your great and useful articular.
    I have some question and I hope you could assist me:)
    I am trying to check the logs to see the changes in Boot Configuration Database but not sure which log if any? are you able to advice me which log I could check on windows 7 64 professional. also if there are log that could show when and why the bit locker was targeted?
    Thanks in Advance