TrueCrypt: yet another organically grown user interface

Published by marco on

Updated by marco on

I use TrueCrypt at work to encrypt/protect the volume where I store source code for various customers. It generally works pretty seamlessly and I don’t even notice that I’m working on an encrypted volume.

The other day, Windows started complaining in the Action Center that my drive needed checking because errors had been discovered. At first, I thought that it was referring to my system drive—which is not encrypted—and I rebooted Windows to let it do its thing.

Windows was back up and running relatively quickly and I wondered whether it had even checked the drive at all. The little flag in the Action Center was gone, though, so all was well.

My TrueCrypt drive doesn’t auto-mount, though. When I mounted it a while later to do some work, the little flag popped up immediately and I realized that Windows was complaining about that drive rather than my system drive.

Windows’s advice to “reboot to fix the problem” wasn’t going to work because there is no way that Windows can access the TrueCrypt-encrypted drive early in the BIOS/boot process. So I went to the properties for that volume and tried to scan it using the standard system tools.

No dice. Windows claims that it can’t check that volume.

Weird.

If it can’t even check that volume, then where does Windows get off telling me that the volume has errors? Had Windows noticed—after several months—that it was incapable of checking that drive and decided to nag me about it, even though it can’t offer any solutions? As a longtime Windows user, this didn’t strike me as especially unlikely.

I got advice from a more savvy TrueCrypt user that it offers its own file-system check-and-repair tools. So I fired up the main window for TrueCrypt, which appeared as shown below.

 TrueCrypt main window

O-K. Now how do I check my volume? Volume Tools makes sense. Click.

 TrueCrypt volume tools popup

Nope. My initial intuition was wrong. How about “Tools” in the menu? Click.

 TrueCrypt Tools menu

Strike two. Some commands are repeated from the “Volume Tools” popup and there are some other things, but “Check” and “Repair” aren’t here either.

How about the “Volumes” menu? Click.

 TrueCrypt Volumes menu

Strike three. Again, there are a few volume-related functions, but not the ones I’m looking for. Maybe my colleague was wrong when he said that there were check/repair tools? Maybe they were dropped from the TrueCrypt software? I’m losing faith here.

Wait, I have one more idea. How about if I right-click the volume in the list?

Click.

 TrueCrypt Volume context menu

There it is.

Cue relief mixed with disappointment that this is yet another user interface that is wildly inconsistent and utterly unintuitive. It doesn’t have to have a groundbreaking UI, but it could at least follow some basic guidelines. A few hours of work would suffice, I think.

I ran the check, which found no errors and repaired nothing. Windows has not complained about errors since. Very reassuring.