How to Encrypt a Folder

To password protect your files and folders in Windows, you need to use a third-party program because most versions of Windows do not have built-in method of encrypting files and folders. In this guide I will be highlighting all the steps to successfully encrypt files and folders in most Windows distributions.

It is important you create a backup of non-password protected files before password protecting your documents. This is really important in the event when the password is lost and you need to access your documents.

Tips to consider when encrypting or password protecting files and folders

There is no absolute file protection. There exist many tools, utilities, and instructions on how to break the most common encryption types and passwords on files. The protection methods I will discussing will definitely protect your files from most of the users who might be trying to access them without your permission. For sensitive data use a proven commercial software to protect data and files.

You should consider backing up all your files, even those protected by passwords. This is because a password protected file or folder can still be deleted. The other option is to use a program that protects files from being deleted by requiring a password to do so.

Always back-up a copy of the non-password protected files and folders. This is important in case you forget the password. Attempting to break the password can take a lot of time and there is no guarantee it will be successful in the end.

Read: 10 free encryption software tools for Windows and Mac.

How to encrypt files and folders in Windows Vista, 7, 8, and 10

For Windows Vista, Windows 7, Windows 8, and Windows 10 there is no built-in features for password protecting files or folders. In that case, a third-party software program is used for this purpose.

The following are steps to follow in order to encrypt a file or folder:

  1. Select the file or folder you want to encrypt.
  2. Right-click the file or folder and select properties.
  3. On the general tab, click the advanced button.
  4. Check the box for the “Encrypt contents to secure data” option, then click OK on both Windows.

In case you are unable to select the “Encrypt contents to secure data” option and it’s also grayed out, then you are likely running a Home edition of Windows. The other reason could be the hard drive where the files are located is not formatted as NTFS which is a requirement for this encryption feature.

How to encrypt files and folders in Windows XP Professional

To encrypt files on Windows XP Professional, the computers needs to have two or more accounts associated with it.

  1. Select the file or folder you want to encrypt.
  2. Right-click the file or folder and click properties.
  3. On the general tab, click the advanced button.
  4. Check “Encrypt contents to secure data” option.
  5. Click apply and then OK.

You will note that you’re not prompted to enter a password when encrypting a folder in Windows XP Pro. But, the other users accounts on the same computer will not have access to files contained in the encrypted folder.

You can also use TweakUI utility that enables one to show the “Encrypt option” in the context menu. Here are the steps using TweakUI.

  1. Open TweakUI.
  2. In the TweakUI window, select Explorer.
  3. In the right side of the window under settings, locate Show “Encrypt” on the context menu and check the box. The option is often before Prefix “shortcut to” on the new shortcuts and above Show “view workgroup computers” in the Netplaces.

If you’re missing the “show Encrypt on the context menu” in the TweakUI, the reason is because you are probably running a lower version of TweakUI. You need to uninstall the old version and download the latest version.

How to encrypt files and folders in Microsoft Windows XP Home edition

  1. Select the file or folder you want to encrypt.
  2. Right-click the file or folder and click properties.
  3. Click the Sharing tab.
  4. Check the box “make this folder private”.
  5. Click apply and then OK.

At times “make this folder private” is grayed out. To work around this problem, your Microsoft Windows XP Home edition has to meet the following minimum requirements.

The hard drive must be formatted in the NTFS and not FAT32 File system.

The folder you’re attempting to encrypt is your personal folder. For example, if your name is Chris, you must encrypt the following folder, or folder within it.

C:\Documents and Settings\Chris\

By default you cannot encrypt any folders outside of this folder.

Other tips for protecting your files and folders in Windows

Files and folders less frequently used should be password protected by creating an archive of built-in using a compression tool. The advantage of this is that when creating an archive you’re required to encrypt the contents by providing a password.

Windows ME and Windows XP come with their own compression utility which can be used to compress and password protect files.

Both Windows Vista and Windows 7 include a compression utility but password protection for the compressed files is not possible without the use of a third-party software tool.

When a file is compressed, users can still view a listing of the files in the compressed file. If you want both your file names and the contents to be hidden, move all the files into a single folder and password protect that folder.

Tools used to password protect files and folders that are frequently accessed

  1. 7-Zip is a free file and folder zipping utility that provides the ability to password protect zipped files and folders.
  2. AxCrypt is also a free encryption tool that enables users to encrypt all files within a folder and requires a password to view to contents of the folder.
  3. Folder Guard is a paid password protection software that enables one to password protect files, folders, and Windows resources.
  4. Protect Folder is also a commercial software program that enables one to password protect folders.


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