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5+ Ways To Password Protect And Encrypt Files On Windows

May 31, 2022
Author
Inkit Team

Going the extra step to password protect or encrypt your files on Windows is a great way to keep critical and sensitive data safe.

If you are using Windows OS, you can use its inbuilt features or other third-party tools to encrypt or protect your files or folders with passwords. 

Wondering how to protect your sensitive files on a Windows computer?

Below, we’ll cover all the ways to password protect, encrypt, and secure your files and documents on Windows - no matter their format. No matter your Windows version, whether it’s Windows 7, Windows 10, or Windows 11.

Read on to learn:

  • How Does Password Protection And Encryption Work On Windows?
  • How Can I Password Protect My Files And Documents On Windows?
  • How Can I Password Protect My Folders On Windows?
  • How Can I Hide A Folder On Windows?
  • What Other File Protection Tools Can I Use To Restrict Access To My Files And Documents On Windows?
  • How Can I Password Protect My PDF Documents With Adobe Acrobat?

How Does Password Protection And Encryption Work On Windows?

Password protection on Windows involves using a series of characters to make a word that locks or restricts access to specific files or folders to only authorized persons. 

The series of characters work together in the specified format to restrict access so that only people with the combination can open the specific file or folder.

When encrypting your files and folders on Windows, you can use:

  • Numbers.
  • Lowercase or upper case alphabet letters.
  • Other special characters (e.g. “!”, “@”, “#”, etc).

Encryption involves an algorithm key or a code hiding data and restricting access to files or folders. This way, you can conceal the data in a folder or file in an unreadable format, so that it can only be decrypted by someone with a specific passcode to the folder or file.

You can choose to password-protect or encrypt your files if you share a computer with other people that you wouldn't want to be privy to the information therein. Password protection also helps create security around the files you share with others, as they can only be accessed by recipients who have the password to open them.

How Can I Password Protect My Files And Documents On Windows?

The process of creating the password on Windows is uncomplicated and allows you to protect either individual files or multiple files at a time. 

Windows uses your admin username and password as the password to your file. 

Here’s how to password protect your files:

  • Open Windows Explorer on your computer.
  • Please scroll to the file you wish to password protect and right-click on it.
  • On the pull-down menu that appears on your screen, click on Properties.
Windows Explorer properties tab
  • On the dialog box, click on the General Tab.
  • Click on the Advanced button on the lower right side of the dialog box.
Open the advanced settings from the Secret Properties tab
  • Tick the Encrypt Contents to Secure Data checkbox on the dialog box.
Secure your data by encrypting your contents
  • Click OK to complete the password protection process.
  • Windows automatically uses your username and password to protect your file.

How Can I Password Protect My Folders On Windows?

If the version of Windows you have running on your computer is compatible with password creation, you can create a password for your folder the same way you would for an individual file. 

However, if you have Windows 8 or 10, you will need to compress or zip your folder before password protecting it. 

To compress or zip a folder on Windows:

  • Open Windows Explorer and select the files you wish to save in a folder.
  • Once selected, click on Send To and select Compressed Folder.
  • Name your newly compressed folder by following the provided prompts.

To password-protect your folder on Windows:

  • Right-click on the folder.
  • On the pull-down menu that appears, click on the Properties option.
properties settings to protect folders
  • On the pop-up window, select the Advanced option.
open the advanced settings
  • Tick the Encrypt Contents To Secure Data checkbox on the Advanced Attributes window.
Advanced Attributes tab to encrypt your files
  • Click on the OK button.
  • On the main window, click on the Apply option.
  • On the Confirm Attribute Changes window on your screen, choose if you need to Apply Changes To This Folder Only or the Apply Changes To This Folder, Subfolders, and Files options.
when applying changes to your changes, you can either apply them to all folders or just one
  • Click the OK button to apply the changes.
  • You can backup your password or encryption key and retrieve it in case you forget it and have no access to your folder.

How Can I Hide A Folder On Windows?

You can choose to hide a folder out of sight of unauthorized persons instead of password protecting it. 

Hiding a folder takes it out of the visibility of other users. It works to keep a folder private and mitigate the risk of the file being deleted by mistake by an unknowing party.

Here's how you can hide your folder from unauthorized sight on Windows:

  • Open Windows Explorer on your computer and select the folder you wish to hide.
  • Right-click on the folder, then on the pull-down menu, select Properties.
access the secret file properties to hide it
  • Select the General tab on the window on your screen, then tick the Hidden checkbox.
change the attributes to hidden to hide your folders
  • Click on the Apply option to hide your folder.
  • On the Confirm Attribute Changes window that appears on your screen, choose if you wish to Apply Changes To This Folder Only or Apply Changes To This Folder, Subfolders, and Files option.
when applying changes to your changes, you can either apply them to all folders or just one
  • Click OK to hide the folder completely.

What Other File Protection Tools Can I Use To Restrict Access To My Files And Documents On Windows?

The Home version of most Windows programs do not have password protection and encryption features. 

Luckily, if you are running a Home version of Windows and need to password-protect your files, you can use Microsoft Office to encrypt individual files.

Here is how you can encrypt files with Microsoft Excel, Microsoft Word, or Microsoft Powerpoint:

  • Open the program containing the file you wish to password protect.
  • Browse to select the specific file and click Open to open it.
  • Open the File tab on the top menu.
  • On the pull-down menu, select Protect Document.
  • In the options provided, click on Encrypt with Password.
  • Create a password you can remember and retype it to verify.

Other than using a password to protect your files and folders on your computer, you can use encryption software to restrict access to your files and folders. 

Windows operating system has in-built encryption software and is also compatible with other third-party encryption software to give you more robust protection for your data.

You can also use third-party encryption software to encrypt your files and folders on Windows:

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BitLocker

BitLocker is a complete disk encryption tool inbuilt into the Windows operating system. 

It allows you to encrypt partial or full disk drives at any given time. It also allows you to activate its BitLocker Drive Encryption so that whenever you add a new file, it is encrypted automatically.

To activate BitLocker on your Windows computer:

  • Press the Windows key + X to open the Power User menu.
  • Click on the Control Panel and select the System and Security option.
  • Select Bitlocker Drive Encryption.
  • Click on the Turn On BitLocker option.
Turn on BitLocker's drive encryption
  • Create a password of your choice and click on Next to complete the process.
  • Your files and folders will now be automatically encrypted and can only be opened using the password you've created.

AxCrypt

AxCrypt is an open-source program that allows you to restrict access to specific files on your Windows computer. 

AxCrypt offers you a free version and a paid option with cloud storage capabilities. It also encrypts files in different languages, offering you 128 bit or 256 bit AES encryption security for your files.

To encrypt your file using AxCrypt:

  • Install AxCrypt on your Windows Computer.
  • Go to File Explorer on your computer and right-click on the specific file you wish to encrypt.
  • On the context menu, click on AxCrypt and select the Encrypt option.
steps for encryption using AxCrypt
  • Create a passphrase or password of at least 22 characters on the encryption window provided.
create a passphrase and use it to encrypt your files
  • Verify the passphrase and click OK on the lower left side of the window.
  • Your file is now encrypted and has an AxCrypt shield icon to indicate the same. 
how an AxCrypt encrypted file looks like
  • You will now be required to input the passphrase you created to open the file.

7-Zip

7-Zip is another open-source encryption software that you can use to password-protect files in Windows. It also offers you strong AES-256 encryption security for your files, requiring you to create a strong password from the start.

To encrypt a file using 7-Zip:

  • Install the 7-Zip encryption software on your computer.
  • Navigate your document folder to find the specific file you wish to encrypt and right-click on it.
  • On the pull-down menu that appears, select the 7-Zip option.
encryption using the 7 zip program
  • Click on the Add to Archive option on the side window on your screen.
  • In the Add To Archive window that opens up on your screen, change the name of the archive to one which you can remember easily.
  • Change the format of the archive to the Zip option.
steps to zipping a document
  • On the lower right side of the window, change the encryption method to AES-256.
  • Next, create a strong password of at least 8 characters, containing lower and uppercase letters, numbers, and special characters.
  • Reenter the password to verify it.
  • Select OK to complete the encryption process.
  • Your file is now password-protected, and you will have to input the password to open it.
enter the password to open the zip encrypted file

How Can I Password Protect My PDF Documents With Adobe Acrobat?

What if you want to password protect PDF files specifically?

If you wish to add a password to a PDF document before sharing it with others, you can do so with Adobe Acrobat.

Here’s how:

  • Open the PDF document you wish to password protect using Adobe Acrobat on your computer.
  • On the top menu on your screen, click on Tools.
  • On the pane that appears on the right side of your screen, click on the shield icon labeled as Protect.
protecting a document using Adobe Acrobat
  • Click on the Protect Using Password option on the panel that appears on top of your document.
protect your document with a password
  • On the small window that appears on your screen, select if you'd like to protect against unauthorized viewing or editing of your PDF document.
  • Type your desired password and retype to confirm its strength and applicability in the provided spaces.
  • Click on the Apply button on the right side of the window to apply the password to your PDF document.

Conclusion

A big responsibility is attached to password protecting or encrypting your files and folders. 

You will need to keep your passwords or encryption codes in memory for when you need access to the information yourself or when you need to grant access rights to others. 

Therefore, you must create passwords that are not only strong but also easy for you to remember. You can also write them down in a separate location or back them up in one location that others cannot access easily. 

Now, if you’re looking for more information about password protection and encryption, consider also reading:

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