How to password protect a folder
There are times when you would like a folder to be accessible by you alone. Financial information, personal documents, or work related files on your personal system sometimes need to be hidden from prying eyes. One of the ways to do this is to password protect the folder.
For the Windows section of this article we will answer a few frequently asked questions.
Can you put a password on a folder?
Well, Windows does not provide you with an option to simply password protect a folder, but it does provide you with some options that you can utilize to put a password on a folder.
In Windows you can encrypt a folder by following these instructions:
- Right-clicking it
- Select Properties from the menu.
- On the form that appears, click the General tab.
- On that tab click the Advanced button
- Select Encrypt content to secure data.
- Click OK.
An important downside to this method is that your Windows username and password will be used to encrypt and password protect the folder, so people logging in on the same account as you can still see the content.
It is also important to note that when the process completes, you’ll be prompted to back up your encryption key if you’ve never used the feature before. Click the recommended option on the notification and follow the prompts to make a note of your encryption key. You’ll need this information if you ever lose access to your encrypted files, so it’s important you take the time to back it up.
How do I password protect a folder in Windows 10?
For Windows versions later than Windows 7 there is also an option to send files to a compressed folder (a zip file) which you can password protect. This Send to option is usually faster than encrypting the content. But you will have to keep in mind that the option creates a duplicate, so you will need to delete the original once you’re satisfied the compressed version is complete and accessible.
How do I hide a folder?
Hiding folders is not an ideal solution, but we want to point out that it is available in Windows. It works like this:
- Right-click on the file or folder that you want to hide.
- Select Properties.
- Click the General tab
- Under the Attributes section, check Hidden.
- Click Apply.
Why is it not ideal? Anyone that has access to the system can check the option to Show hidden files, folders, and drives in the folder options.
Many advanced Windows users already have this option enabled, and you may forget to change the setting after you have accessed your hidden folder.
You can password protect folder contents using macOS and Disk Utility, a built-in utility on your Mac. This method will also encrypt the content.
- Open Disk Utility on your Mac
- With Disk Utility open, select File from the menu bar
- Then choose New Image -> Image from Folder.
- Select the folder you want to protect with a password
- Choose your encryption level: 128-bit, or 256-bit AES encryption
- Enter and verify the password for your folder (After you type the password into both the Password and Verify text boxes make sure to uncheck Remember password in my keychain, otherwise anyone logged into your account will still be able to access the data.
- Give the folder a name if desired
- Under Image Format select read/write from the menu
- Select Save
This creates a disk image holding the contents of the folder in encrypted storage. So, you’ll need to delete the original folder after verifying the disk image is complete and accessible.
Another important thing to remember is that this method only creates a fairly small—and fixed—amount of free space on the disk image, so if you want to make changes you’ll be dealing with a limited capacity. If you want a disk image with unlimited capacity, you’d be better off creating a blank image, and choosing sparse bundle disk image as the image format. If you create a 200 MB sparse bundle disk image, you can copy a 1 GB file onto it and it’ll resize to fit. However, it will not decrease in size if you were to delete that 1 GB file.
Third party software
It is not our place to make recommendations about software you can use to achieve the goal of password protecting folders, but there are several third party software packages for both Windows and Macs that are very good at compressing files and folders and providing the resulting compressed files with a password. If they are any good you will not need to decompress the entire folder before you can look at an individual file.
Just be careful not to download any potentially unwanted programs (PUPs) or one that is bundled with PUPs or adware.
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