And if so, is it considered safe to store and encrypted wallet on a unencrypted drive?
I know there is a process to lock and unlock accounts with a password, but how difficult is it to brute force the unlocking process?
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Yes, they are encrypted, geth uses AES 128. AES is a good algorith for encryption, until quantum computers arrive it should be safe against brute force attacks.
More plausible attacks are using a malware, phishing, fake wallets.