Login passwords are certainly good and important to use wisely, but if someone has physical access to your computer and knows what they are doing, they are easily bypassed. Whole disk encryption when used properly cannot be bypassed. It is truly the best approach for completely protecting all the data stored on your computer.
Whole disk encryption makes all the data on your computer completely unreadable without knowledge of the proper decryption key. This decryption key must be carefully guarded just as you would a key to a vault or safe deposit box. If the key is lost, there is really no way to access the data (that after all is the point of whole disk encryption). This key is not a physical key, but is rather a string of characters, much like a password, only a lot longer.
If you have a Mac and are running OS X 10.7 (Lion) or later, you have a built-in encryption tool called FileVault.
If you have Windows Vista or 7 Ultimate or Enterprise or Windows 8.1, then you also have a built-in encryption tool called BitLocker.
If you have other operating system versions, TrueCrypt used to be my free go-to encryption software of choice, but about a year ago the developers stopped supporting it, plus there were some other issues discovered about it. A new group of developers started with the same source code, addressed the issues, and created VeraCrypt, which is now pretty much recognized as the successor to TrueCrypt. There are many other choices available as well, both free and not free.
The process of encrypting your whole disk takes many hours and must be done very deliberately and carefully. You should begin by creating a system image of your current disk should the encryption fail and you need to recover your original system. Next, you will install (if not already on your system) the encryption software and then launch it. It will in general take you through a set of steps involving assigning or asking you for a decryption key, creating a recovery cd or usb key, and encrypting your entire disk. After this process is successfully completed, whenever you boot your computer, you will be asked for the decryption key. Do not be concerned about performance impact to the operation of your encrypted computer – it is negligible.