We do almost everything on our computers now. Whether it be for work, school, or hobbies, we rely on these tools to tick off tasks on our to-do lists. But it can get tricky when you’re constantly on the go. Thieves or hackers can compromise your computer.
You may be considering taking preventive measures for additional security for your files, but knowing how to lock your files properly can be tricky. Creating password-protected files is possible, keeping them safe from prying eyes and hackers.
It pays to know how to do it properly, as you don’t want to use measures that won’t fully protect your data and information. When they fall into the wrong hands, hackers and scammers can use them for crimes, including identity theft.
For this reason, we’ve scoured the web for authoritative sources on computer security and looked into the personal experiences of other people through forums and independent sites.
So read until the end and discover the best tip we found is effective in keeping your computer files secure! Don’t miss out on that crucial tip, or you could use insufficient measures to secure file folders.
Let’s dive in!
Password-protecting your Windows folders
If your computer runs on the Windows operating system (OS), you can’t password-protect your folders—you can only encrypt them. However, you can encrypt and password-protect individual files.
How to password-protect files on Windows
Password-protecting individual Microsoft Office files on Windows also entails encrypting them. Here’s how you can do so:
- Step 1: Open the Microsoft Office file. Locate the “File” selection on the menu, then go to “Info,” then “Protect Document,” and finally, “Encrypt with Password.”
- Step 2: Enter the password you want. It can be up to 15 characters long. Then, you can save the file.
How to encrypt folders on Windows
Here’s how you can encrypt your folder on Windows:
- Step 1: Go to the folder you wish to protect and right-click on it.
- Step 2: From the drop-down menu, select Properties and click on the General tab.
- Step 3: After this, select “Advanced,” then “Encrypt” to secure your file. Make sure to click the OK button.
- Step 4: Enter your username and password, and you’ll be good to go.
How to protect a folder using encryption software like 7-Zip
If you’re using Windows 8 and Windows 10, you may be wondering, “Why can’t I password-protect a folder?”
You can’t password-protect your files on these versions, so it’s best to use third-party software like 7-Zip. It’s a free and open-source software used on any computer.
You can easily compress and encrypt your files through this platform, offering you advanced tools that divert even brute-force cyber attacks.
Passwords will still come into play, so here’s how to encrypt a folder on 7-Zip:
- Step 1: Download and install 7-Zips’ latest version.
- Step 2: Select 7-ZIP from your Windows directory, which you can access via the file manager.
- Step 3: You’ll be directed to the software’s control panel after installation. From here, select the folder you want to encrypt.
- Step 4: Click on the “Add” button, and then choose your compression preference. We highly recommend that you choose the highest level and then set the method to “AES-256.”
- Step 5: For better organization, it’s best to name the file you’re encrypting.
- Step 6: Go to the Encryption section and create a password for encryption—make sure to click “OK” to save the changes.
Encrypted ZIP files are secure because hackers won’t be able to read them unless they know the password you set.
Password-protecting your Mac folders
Can you lock folders on Mac with passwords? Fortunately, the answer is yes.
You can password-protect and encrypt your Mac folders and enhance their security by following these steps carefully:
- Step 1: Use Spotlight Search and look up “Disk Utility.”
- Step 2: Once Disk Utility is open, navigate the menu and select “File,” then “New Image,” and “New Image from Folder.” Afterward, choose the folder you wish to password-protect.
- Step 3: Pick an encryption option—it lets you choose either 128- or 256-bit. Either choice is secure, but 256-bit encryption takes a little longer to decrypt when you try to open your file.
- Step 4: Place the password you want, and remember it well. To enhance its security, never make it the same password as your computer.
- Step 5: You can select “Read/Write” as the password-protected folder’s image format if you want to edit the files later. Once you’ve selected a format, select “Save” to complete the process. This will encrypt and password-protect your folder and convert it into a “.dmg” file.
- Step 6: Check the DMG file if it contains the folder and its contents. You can then delete the original, unprotected folder once everything works.
Password-protecting your Google Drive files
Given that your Google Drive files exist within Google’s servers, it can be rather difficult to find other suitable ways to add protection.
Google employs its own encryption, so unless you’ve explicitly shared your files through Google’s shareable links, no one will gain access to them.
However, if you want to add another layer of security, this method may help you out, but remember to do this before uploading any files on your Drive.
Use Microsoft Office To Password-Protect Documents
As mentioned, the best thing you can do is encrypt your document before uploading it to Google drive. If you wish to upload a Word, Excel, PowerPoint, or PDF file, you can use Microsoft Office.
Here’s how to encrypt a file on Microsoft Office:
- Step 1: Go to the file or folder you want to encrypt and right-click on it.
- Step 2: Click on Protect Document, and then select Encrypt with Password.
- Step 3: Enter your password, but ensure that you remember or store it in a safe place. Losing your password means losing access to your files forever.
- Step 4: Once done, you can now upload your files to Google Drive.
Password protection and encryption: Is there a difference?
Password protection pertains to using various characters—letters, numbers, and other special characters—combined to protect files. It’s a security measure that protects both information, keeping it safe from unauthorized use and view.
Encryption pertains to converting data into “gibberish,” which essentially renders the information useless to anyone but the authorized user.
There’s a way to combine both methods, however, now called password encryption. For instance, you can use a password to unlock a file, but gaining access to the data within the files will still be impossible unless you’ve been named an authorized user.
Why do you need to password-protect files?
Given today’s digital infrastructure, it’s essential to take necessary precautions to protect our online identity. With everything so convenient and shareable, it’s no surprise that hackers and criminals run rampant, just looking for opportunities to strike.
These criminals can easily hack unsuspecting users, and as a result, they lose all their data—including online bank accounts and other sensitive files.
By password-protecting your files, you provide an extra layer of security that will deter any hacker from using your files.
Password-protected files are also encrypted, meaning that any data that hackers extract won’t be accessible. If it’s inaccessible, it doesn’t have any value to criminals. And if it doesn’t have any value, your files will remain safe and away from fraudulent activities.
Protecting your files and passwords: What can you do?
Apart from the things listed above, there are other steps you can take to protect your files and passwords fully.
1. Create backup files
If you lose access to your passwords, you lose access to everything—especially when you’re using encryption software.
To preserve your files, make it a habit to back them up regularly. You can do this through the following:
- A physical external storage device
- OneDrive, iCloud, or Google Drive
2. Don’t use weak and generic passwords
“When creating a password, never use something easy to guess like your birthday, favorite vacation spot, or anniversary,”
Aalap Parekh, an IT specialist from Advantis Global, shares.
“Make it hard to guess, relatively long, contain special characters, numbers, and a combination of uppercase and lowercase.”Advantis Global, shares.
To Parekh, weak and common passwords are easy to hack. Hackers use special tools that crack generic passwords within seconds, so protect your files and devices using long and unique passwords.
3. Use anti-malware software
This is perhaps the best and a rather unusual tip we can give—ensure to use anti-malware software at all times. Apart from creating passwords, encryption, and backing up files, we need to go back and realize that hackers don’t only try to gain access to files—they also want to wreak havoc.
They can do so by sending you malware; the only way you can protect your computer is to build a strong, protective barrier against them. That said, keep your anti-malware software regularly updated.
It’s also best to take steps to prevent malware in the first place.
Tom Speros, enterprise account director at computer security company Yubico, shares:
“The best protection from malware […] is the standard preventive advice: install and maintain a quality, updated antivirus program, be cautious […] by staying away from suspicious websites, [and] be careful about what email attachments you open.”
Password-protected files should become standard practice not just for us but for everyone on the internet. We rely on our digital spaces to work, have fun, and study—so it only follows that we ensure our activities remain safe and secure.
Now that you’re more informed, make sure to keep these tips in mind. If you start early, you can reduce the risks!