Want to make sure only the intended people read your MS Word document which contains some sensitive information?

If that’s the case, you’ll want to add an extra layer of security to your Word files by encrypting them with password protection.

Below, we will share 5+ ways you can encrypt your Word documents and all the different ways you can protect a file against editing or viewing.

The latest version of Microsoft has many great features that help secure documents. And the methods we’ll cover below work for MS Word 2013, Word 2016, Google Docs, and more.

There are quite a few ways you can encrypt a file to restrict access to editing or viewing it.

Keep on reading and follow the steps below to learn all the ways you can encrypt your Word documents.

Here’s what you’ll learn:

  • 3 Types of Password Protection You Can Add To a Word Document
  • 7 Ways to Encrypt and Password Protect Word Documents (Word 2010, 2013, 2016, and More)
  • How to Remove Password Protection From A Word Document?

3 Types of Password Protection You Can Add In Order to Encrypt a Word Document

Microsoft Office offers different security options that you can use according to your requirements. 

Before we cover the practical steps on how to encrypt your Word documents, you should know that there are a few ways you can protect your document content.

That is to say, there are a few types of document protection you can apply to your Word docs.

These protection types are as follows:

  • Password to open the document - To prevent unauthorized people from opening the document.
  • Modification restriction - To allow certain users to open the document, but without them being able to edit or modify its content. This includes both types to prevent format editing and content editing.
  • Read-only mode - This protection type is similar to the modification restriction method. With this protection layer, authorized people can read the content but cannot make any changes. 

Below, we’ll teach you how to encrypt your documents with these methods in mind.

7 Ways to Encrypt and Password Protect Word Documents (Word 2010, 2013, 2016, and More)

Below, we will share the step-by-step guide for different encryption and password protection methods

The protection methods we will cover include:

  • Adding a read-only mode to an MS Word document.
  • Adding a layer of password encryption.
  • Restricting content editing of a Word file.
  • Restricting format editing.
  • Adding a digital signature.
  • Enforcing Word document protection.
  • Marking a Word document as final to prevent further editing.

Depending on your version of MS Word (Word 2010, 2013, 2016, etc.), the steps might vary a bit.

But as you’re about to see, the principle and the steps are still mostly the same.

Now, let’s take a look at each step in detail.

1. Marking MS Word document as read-only

The read-only lock ensures that the recipient of the document can open the Word file but not edit it. 

Here’s how to mark an MS Word document as read-only:

  • Open the File from the top left corner of the document.
  • Go to Info and click on the Protect document option. It will show the security options. 
  • Select the Always open read-only option. 
  • Now save and close the document. 
  • Reopen the File again, and it will show the flash message to inform that read-only mode.
  • Click yes to open the document and get access to the read-only File. 
how to protect a word document with a password

This makes it easy for users to share the data and keep it protected in its original form. 

If you press no in the flash message box, it will take you to edit mode as you are the author. 

But the unauthorized person is not able to open the editable mode. 

However, it is easier for the other persons to check the data you want to share. 

2. Adding password encryption to MS Word

If you want an added layer of extra security, password encryption is the perfect solution. 

Only the author can open, read and edit the password-encrypted document. 

Keep in mind though, there is no way to recover the document if you forget the password. 

Now, here’s how to add password encryption to MS Word:

  • When you enter the content, go to file at the top left corner.
  • Now click on the INFO option, and it will lead you to another page.
  • Here you will find the Protect Document option. Click on it and choose you will get a list of security options.
  • Click on the Encrypt with a password.
encrypting document and adding password
  • Now, there appears a dialog box that demands the password. Ensure that you enter your password carefully and note it somewhere in case you forget it.
create a password you'll remember
  • Save the document for checking the password. Reopen the File, and it will demand the password to enter or access the document. 

Now no one can see your document unless you share the password. 

If you want to remove the encryption, it is also straightforward. 

But it is only possible when you know the password as the Word document will demand to open and remove it. 

Once you remove the password, anyone can easily open, read and edit it. 

So, the next time you’re sharing the document with a colleague, make sure you trust them and that you note the password as well.

What happens if you DO forget the password though?

In that case, there are still some methods to try and unlock the document. 

See our full guide on what to do if you forgot your password for 7 ways to unlock a document.

3. Restricting MS Word content editing

The format editing method is a way to protect the document format and keep it final. 

However, the restricted content editing helps to prevent the data from being original after sharing with multiple people. 

Here’s how to restrict content editing in a Word document:

  • Go to the File option from the left corner. Click on Info and then protect the document.
  • Open the restriction editing, and it will show a pane on the right side of the document.
  • Now click on “allow only this type of editing in the document” under the editing restriction option.
how to restrict content editing without the password
  • It will show the drop-down menu to choose the four options. 
  • Select and turn on Track Changes in the document. It will restrict all others from making any change.
  • Enable comments that allow readers to comment on your document but are unable to make changes.
  • The filling in forms allows the reader to fill the form that the authors create for readers and don’t make any modifications to the content.
  • No changes, but the read-only option is similar to the read-only mode. It will not allow the reader to comment or modify the content.

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4. Restricting MS Word format editing

The restricted format editing is another great feature of Microsoft word. 

With the format editing restriction security option, you can share your document so that the recipient can read the document but not edit it.

So, while it’s not exactly encryption, it gets the job done just as well.

  • Click on the File at the top left corner of your document.
  • Go to the info option and land on the next page.
  • Click on Protect Document and then choose the Restrict editing option.
how to protect the document from format editing
  • Click on it, and your document starts showing the restricted editing pane on the right side of the screen.
banner that will pop-up with all the restriction options
  • Here, you can get permission from two options, including format and editing restrictions.
  • Now check on the styles that you want to limit. Click on the “limit formation to a selection of styles.” Click on the settings, leading you to a dialogue box. 
  • It will show some default styles that you can keep. Now change the options to the recommended minimum or change it to none. If you are a beginner and now sure about the right setting, it is advisable to click on the recommended minimum option. 
how to limit formatting

You will also have the other three formatting options. 

It gives an option to allow autoformat to override the formatting restrictions, block theme or scheme switching and block quick style set switching. It is not mandatory to select these options. 

So if you don’t want to restrict, then click OK and close the dialogue box.

5. Adding a digital signature to protect an MS Word document

Another way to encrypt a Word document is by adding a digital signature.

What’s a digital signature?

Essentially, it's a way to "approve" a document or assist in its verifications.

You can add a digital signature online, with Adobe, or other third-party applications. 

It’s just as easy to edit, create, or remove signatures from PDF documents without printing or scanning them.

For more information on digital signatures and PDF documents, be sure to see our full guide on how to add a signature block to a PDF.

Now, here’s how to add a digital signature to MS Word to encrypt its content:

  • Go to file and open Info settings.
  • Click on the protected document and select Add a digital signature
how to add a digital signature
  • For creating a digital signature, you need to have a signing certificate. 
  • Click on Yes at the flash message, leading you to the Microsoft support page. Find your digital ID.
  • Click on “Add or remove a digital signature in office files.” find more about digital signatures by scrolling down the page. 
  • Now that you have a digital ID, return to the file page, and open Add a digital signature option. 
  • Fill in the opened fields and click on the Sign option. Ensure that you confirm your Digital signatures and then click OK. 

6. Enforcing protection to an MS Word File

Once you set everything, then you are ready to apply your settings. Now move to the third option in the restriction editing part. 

applying all the changes to the word file
  • Click on the “yes, start enforcing protection.” It will open a dialog box that demands the password.
enforcing protection on a word doument
  • Type and retype your password. Click OK and save the document. 
  • Reopen to check the editing controls from the home ribbon. 

7. Mark as final to disable further editing

Mark as final is the last option to protect your document format and content from editing. 

Here’s how to apply the “mark as final” encryption to a file:

  • Go to the File option from the top left corner, open the Info and select the protect document option. 
  • Choose the Mark as final option, and your document is finalized. 
  • Save and share the document with your readers.
disable further editing

Marking a Word document as final is an easy process that helps users disable any further typing, editing, and format changes capabilities.

Depending on the type of encryption or protection you want to apply, this can be a great option.

How to Remove Password Protection From A Word Document?

Finally, what if you want to remove the password protection we just applied above?

It’s pretty straightforward.

Below, we’ll show a simple process for when you know the password of the Word document. 

Here’s how to remove password protection from an MS Word document: 

  • Open the File by inserting your password to access it.
  • Go to the top left corner and click on File. 
  • Click on Info and then Protect document menu
  • Select the encrypt with password option that will open another dialogue box.
  • Clear all your current passwords. Click OK.

If you need an even more detailed breakdown on how to unlock a Word document, see our full guide on 5+ ways to remove a password from a Word document.


Hope this guide to encrypting Word documents was helpful!

Now, to sum up, let’s go over some of the most frequently asked questions on password encryption:

  • How do I encrypt a Microsoft Word document?

Encrypting an MS Word document is simple. If you’re looking for that extra layer of security, here’s what you need to do:

  1. Open your document. Go to File -> Info -> Protect document -> Encrypt with password.
  2. Then, type in a custom password to confirm it.
  3. Finally, save the Word document and open it again to make sure the password is set correctly.
  • What does it mean to encrypt a Word document?

Encrypting a Word document essentially means that anyone who opens the document will need to enter a password before they can view its content. As we covered above, you can add different types of encryption and password protection - from only being able to read the document content to needing a signature to access the file.

  • Does password protecting a Word document encrypt it?

Yes, password protection is a security feature by Microsoft to protect user documents (Word, Excel, Powerpoint, etc.) with a custom-set password. That is to say, the contents of the document are protected with modern encryption, and only people who know the password will be able to access it.

Now, if you’re looking for more info on password protecting and encrypting your work documents, you also might want to read:

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