When it comes to password protection, locking or encrypting files and folders in Windows 10, we have little choice but to rely on third-party encryption software. Creating a batch script with a password in a text file to secure a folder (as suggested in a surprising number of articles elsewhere) is certainly not the best way to proceed, due to extremely weak security.
To password protect and securely encrypt a folder, you can use compression software such as WinRAR or WinZip. In addition to using third-party software, Windows 10 also has several built-in encryption tools, such as EFS and BitLocker, which can be used to encrypt files, folders, or an entire drive.
This guide shows 4 different ways to secure, lock or encrypt files, folders or an entire drive in Windows 10, with or without a password. Choose the one that suits you best.
Protecting a folder with a password in Windows 10 using WinRAR.
The easiest solution to secure your archives is to password protect them with compression software like WinRAR or WinZip. The disadvantage of this method is that you have to decompress the file every time you want to open it.
In this guide we will use WinRAR. Follow these steps to drop password-protected (possibly encrypted) files or folders using WinRAR on Windows 10.
- Download and install WinRAR from www.win-rar.com.
- Right-click one or more folders you want to compress and select Add to Archive.
- In the Archive Name and Options pop-up window, click the General tab and then click Set Password.
- Enter the required password twice (once for confirmation).
- You can enable the Encrypt file names option if you also want to encrypt your folders (*see below for what this option does).
- Finally, click OK to confirm the compression.
To extract and unlock the folder, double-click the RAR file, enter the password you set earlier, and then click OK to unlock the folder. Once you can browse the files and folders in a RAR file, you can extract some or all of the files to any location.
If you select the option Encrypt file names, WinRAR will not only encrypt the file data, but also all other sensitive parts of the archive, such as the file name. B. File names, sizes, attributes, comments, and other blocks. This ensures a higher level of safety. If you want to prevent third parties from drawing conclusions about you or the content from meta files, you can enable this feature. Without a password, the list of files in the archive encrypted with this option cannot be viewed either.
WinRAR has a 40 day trial version that you can use for free. However, the free trial period seems to go on forever, even after the 40-day trial period. At the end of the trial period, the purchase prompt will begin in the window asking you to support and purchase the software for additional functionality. You can just close the window and keep using the free features, which is more than enough for casual users. If you like the software, you can of course buy it to help the developers.
How do I password protect or lock a folder or drive without software?
If you want to password protect and lock your hard drive in Windows 10 without using any software, you can use the built-in Windows hard drive encryption program called BitLocker. This allows you to encrypt and password protect the entire drive when you want to unlock it.
If you want to encrypt only certain files or folders, you can use the Windows Encrypted File System (EFS) feature to encrypt multiple files or folders so that no other user account or PC can access them.
The BitLocker and EFS features are only available on Windows 10 Pro.
Using Windows BitLocker
Follow these steps to password protect and lock your drive in Windows 10 with BitLocker.
- Search for and open BitLocker in the Windows 10 search bar.
- Select the drive you want to encrypt and click the down arrow to the right of the drive. Then click the Enable BitLocker button next to the player.
- To add a password, select the Use password to unlock disk check box and enter the desired password.
- When you are asked how you want to save the recovery key, choose the option that is right for you. This recovery key is your backup key in case you lose your password.
- In the next screen, titled Choose the amount of your disk to encrypt, choose the option that best describes the status of your disk – encrypt only the used space (faster and better for new computers and disks) or encrypt the whole disk (slower but better for already used computers and disks).
- When asked which encryption mode to use, select New encryption mode if you want to use the player only on devices running Windows 10 version 1511 or later, or select Compatible mode if you want to use the player on devices running an earlier version of Windows.
- Finally, click the Start Encryption button to start encryption. This may take some time depending on the size of the files and folders on the disk.
- Once BitLocker has finished encrypting the drive, restart the PC.
The encrypted drive remains unlocked until you restart your computer after the encryption is complete. You must restart the computer to lock it. The drive must be locked when the PC boots up. To unlock the player, double-click it and enter the password you set earlier.
Each time you turn off and restart the unit, the encrypted disk is locked. It can only be unlocked by users with administrator rights. Additionally, once the drive is unlocked, it remains unlocked to all user accounts for the duration of the session until you restart the computer. It is therefore better to reboot the PC (instead of logging out) if you want to switch to another user account that should not have access to the locked drive.
Always make sure you have a backup copy of the encryption key in case you lose your password or Microsoft account. Files cannot be decrypted without an encryption key.
To disable BitLocker for a particular drive, you must first unlock it using the password for that PC. Then right click on the drive and select Manage BitLocker.
In the BitLocker window, select Disable BitLocker next to the locked drive.
Using Windows EFS (Encrypted File System)
When you encrypt a file or folder with EFS, other user accounts or other computers cannot access it. The feature has no way to unlock the password. A user account that does not have an encryption key simply cannot open the file.
To encrypt a file or folder in Windows with EFS
- Right-click the file or folder you want to encrypt and select Properties.encryption
- On the General tab, click the Advanced button.Windows 10 Advanced Encryption Properties
- In the Advanced Attributes window, in the Compress or Encrypt Attributes section, select the Encrypt content to protect data check box. Then click OK.
- At the next prompt, select Apply changes to this folder, subfolders, and files if you want to encrypt everything in the folder.
- Click OK to start the encryption process.
After the request, you can try to log in with another user account and open the files. If done correctly, encrypted files or folders will have a lock icon on the thumbnail and will be inaccessible. A message should appear on the screen It looks like you do not have permission to view this file. Error Check permissions and try again if the user account cannot access the encrypted file.
The EFS encryption key is associated with the user’s account. This means that if the file is encrypted by the administrator’s account, other user accounts on the same computer cannot access the file. Even if you move the hard drive to another computer, it remains inaccessible without the account’s decryption key.
However, files and folders encrypted with EFS are automatically decrypted when they are moved to a Fat32 or exFAT drive, or when they are sent via email or other forms of sharing. When a software or program like Outlook needs to access encrypted files, Windows first decrypts the files and then sends them to Outlook.
In addition, compressed files or folders (such as Zip or Rar files) cannot be encrypted with EFS. To encrypt these files, they must first be extracted.
File protection with OneDrive Personal safe
You can also try using Microsoft OneDrive Personal Vault to protect your folders. The personal vault is a secure vault on OneDrive that can only be accessed with strong authentication methods such as fingerprint, face, PIN or with a code from the Microsoft Authenticator application or SMS messages.
The OneDrive Personal Vault can be used with a limited number of folders. If you need more storage, you’ll need to subscribe to one of the paid plans.
Finally, we want to emphasize that no matter what type of encryption or password protection is used, there is always a risk that it will be compromised. If your data is very personal and valuable, consider hiring an encryption specialist.
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