When we say we need to “password protect” a folder or file, in actual, we are referring to file and folder encryption which cannot be accessed by any unauthorized access without the right password. This guide is helpful for those who usually asks, how to encrypt a folder or file in windows OS?
Encryption is necessary for any device connected to the internet or other external devices like USB flash drives, as they are, more often than not, means to manipulate and steal your personal data. This guide will list various ways to file and folder encryption.
Use Encrypted Archives
Good old Windows XP allowed creating an encrypted file with .zip extension. But after the release of windows 7, we can only extract .zip file instead of creating one, at least not a password protected one.
To get this functionality of in windows 7 and onwards, you can install a third party free encryption software such as 7-Zip with 256-bit folder encryption and advanced functionality.
After you have finished installing 7-zip, you can create zip archive either by opening the program and clicking “Add” button or, by right clicking the file and folder you want to encrypt and selecting “Add to archive” from the 7-zip menu.
How to Encrypt Office Documents
Microsoft office allows you to encrypt Documents, Presentations, and Workbooks with a password. Microsoft office from 2007 onwards, comes with 128-bit AES encryption.
You can follow these official support pages of Microsoft Office 2007 & 2010, and 2013 onwards for complete step-by-step guide.
Windows OS Built-in File and Folder Encryption Options
Windows OS has its own built-in encryption features BitLocker and EFS (Encrypting File System) for file and folder encryption. But unfortunately, these options are available on “Professional” and “Enterprise” versions only.
BitLocker allows a user to encrypt entire volume of a hard disk drive, including USB flash drives. However, it requires a Trusted Platform Module (TPM) on your system, an advanced encryption feature built-in to your microchip.
If your windows does not support BitLocker functionality you can use an alternative software called VeraCrypt.
VeraCrypt, successor to TrueCrypt (as it has security issues), works the same as BitLocker. You can use VeraCrypt – apart from basic functionality like BitLocker – to create a small encrypted virtual volume inside your hard drive to put your personal data in it.
Encrypting File System (EFS)
EFS allows file and folder encryption like the archives. This is the most common option of folder encryption used by most people. To carry out files and folder encryption in different versions of windows OS follow these steps:
TIP: Before encrypting any file or folder, create a backup and write down the password in case you lose the password or folder.
Windows XP (Home Edition)
- Select the folder or file you want to password protect.
- Right-Click and select “Properties”.
- Click on the “Sharing” tab.
- Click on the checkbox “Make this folder private”.
- Select “Apply” and “Ok”
In case, if “Make this folder private” option is grayed out, make sure your hard drive is formatted in NTFS file system instead of Fat32 file system. You have the right to modify such file or folder in your user account.
Windows XP (Pro), 7, 8 and 10 editions
- Right-click on the folder or file.
- Select Properties.
- On General tab, click on the Advanced button.
- Click on Checkbox “Encrypt content to secure data”.
In case, if “encrypt content to secure data” options is grayed out, make sure you are on “Professional” or “Enterprise” editions of windows. Your filesystem is formatted as NTFS, as it the prerequisite for the encryption.
Things to remember
Always remember to backup your file or folder before making it password protected. Even though it is encrypted doesn’t mean it cannot be deleted (unless the encrypting software prevents it from deleting).
Save your password somewhere else on a file or notebook, just in case if you lost it you will have it written. Otherwise, you will lose your data unless you spend time recovering it.
There is no such software that could provide 100% security. There are numerous software, utilities and guides for how to break encryption on files. However, the encryption methods listed above does protect you from most of the people. If your data is much important and sensitive then you should opt for commercial encryption software.