How to Password Protect a Folder

How much sensitive information do you store on your computer? Your photos, work-related projects and documents, and other files you wouldn’t want anyone to lay their eyes on. Did you know that you can encrypt such folders and protect them from prying eyes, whether it is someone using your computer or a hacker? Find out how to password-protect your folders in Windows and Mac.

How to password-protect a folder in Windows 10

There are a few ways you can protect your files and folders in Windows 10.

1. Encrypting File System

One of them is a built-in Windows tool — Encrypting File System (EFS). Unfortunately, this method doesn’t protect your files if you share your device with someone else, as the encryption key is tied to your Windows account. As long as you are signed in, whoever is using your computer will be able to view your files. But it will protect your data if someone with a different user account tries to access it, or if someone gets physical access to your hard drive.

Here’s how to encrypt your folder with EFS:

  1. Right-click on a file or folder, and select Properties.

  2. Click Advanced...

  3. Check the box next to Encrypt contents to secure data and click OK > Apply.

  4. If you’ve never used this feature before, it should prompt you to copy and save your encryption key. If it does, move to the next step. If it doesn’t, find your certificate by following these steps:

    a. Type “certificate” into your search bar and select Manage user certificates.

    b. Expand the Personal folder and click on Certificates.

    c. Here, you might see a couple of certificates. Look for the one that states Encrypting File System under Intended purposes. Right-click on it and then select All tasks > Export…

  5. You should see Welcome to the Certificate Export Wizard pop up, click Next.

  6. Select Yes, export the private key and click Next.

  7. Check Include all certificates in the certification path if possible.

  8. You’ll be prompted to create a password for your security key. Check the box next to the password and enter your chosen password twice. Choose an encryption algorithm. We recommend AES256-SHA256. Click Next.

  9. Name your file. Get as creative as you wish here. We suggest not calling it the Encryption key for folder X and storing it on your computer. Click Next.

  10. Before you finish, you’ll be able to review what you’ve chosen, where the file will be saved, etc. When you do, click Finish.

  11. Now find the file on your computer and move it somewhere safe, like a USB or NordPass secure vault.

2. 7-Zip

You can also password-protect files and folders with third-party apps like 7-Zip that compress your files. You’ll have to download the app first and then follow these instructions:

  1. You’ll first need to compress the folder. Right-click on the folder you want to compress and select 7-Zip > Add to archive

  2. Under Archive format, choose zip.

  3. Under encryption, type in the password you want to use to protect your folder and choose the encryption method. We recommend choosing AES-256.

  4. It may take a couple of minutes if the folder is large, and you’re done! You have a locked folder.

How to password-protect a folder in Mac

You can encrypt and password-protect a folder on Mac by turning it into a disc image file. Macs have a built-in technology that allows you to do so — just follow the instructions:

  1. Open the Applications folder. Choose Utilities and then Disk Utility app.

  2. In the top menu bar, click File and select New Image, then choose Image from Folder

  3. Select the file or folder you want to password protect and click Choose.

  4. If you wish, change the name of your file in the pop-up window. Then choose the encryption algorithm — we recommend using 256-bit AES encryption.

  5. A new window will pop up, where you’ll be prompted to create a password. Enter the password twice and click Choose. Make sure you keep this password somewhere safe, or you won’t be able to access your files.

  6. Click the drop-down menu under the Image Format and choose read/write.

  7. Click Save. It may take a few moments for the app to create a disk image. Click Done.

  8. Your original folder is still stored on your computer. Check that you can access your encrypted files, then delete the original folder.

What if I forget my password?

In most cases, if you forget your encryption key or a password that protects your folder, you won’t be able to access your files. You can avoid such situations by keeping your passwords and other secure notes in a password manager, like NordPass.

NordPass stores your sensitive information in an encrypted vault, which is also protected by zero-knowledge architecture. This means that your passwords can’t be accessed neither by snoopers and hackers, nor by NordPass employees. With NordPass, you’ll also be able to access your passwords whenever you need them as you can use it on desktop, mobile, as a browser extension, and even offline. All you need is to remember your Master Password — the key to your NordPass vault.

Keep your passwords safe and organized. Store them in NordPass.

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Monica Webster
Verified author
Monica is the spirit of our content team. Her bubbliness and creativity sparkle her articles. She loves to investigate various security related problems and bring useful tips to readers. When she is not writing about technology, she explores art.
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