How To Protect Your Sensitive Documents In Windows 7

Do you ever have a confidential document that you don’t want others to see? How do you protect it from creeping eyes? While there are many tools in the market, both free and paid, that allow you to encrypt your files and folders, we are not going to discuss about them today. Instead, we will talk about the built-in encryption function in Windows (available since Windows 2000). The tool that we are referring to is EFS (Encrypting File System).

Note: The EFS uses a certificate to store your encryption detail. It is important to backup your certificate in an external drive in case your current PC crashes and you lose the certificate. Once you lose the certificate, you won’t be able to open the encrypted files anymore.

For the example, we are going to use a folder with the name “Important Files“. Right click the folder and select “Properties“:

efs-properties

Click “Advanced“:

efs-click-advanced

Select “Encrypts contents to secure data” and select OK:

efs-advanced-attributes

You can either just apply the attribute to a folder or apply it to all subfolders and files as well. In this case, I will apply the encryption to any children object, as files or subfolders:

efs-confirm-attribute-changes

That’s it. As you can see, it is very easy to encrypt a file/folder.

Now, most of you will start asking “where is the encryption key and how do I back it up?

Backing up your encryption certificate

Windows store all the encryption detail in a certificate. This certificate acts like a key to your safe. If you lose your certificate (the key to safe), you won’t be able to access your files anymore. That’s why you need a backup file.

Go to the Start menu. Using the search function, type “manage encryption” (without quotes). Select “Manage file encryption certificates“:

efs-search-manage-encryption

A window appears. It shows information about what you can do with the utility. Press Next:

efs-manage-certificates

Select the certificate you want to backup. In this case, there is only one:

efs-select-certificate

Select the location to backup your certificate and enter a password to protect the file. It is very important that you copy this file to other device, and of course that you remember the password:

efs-backup-certificate

Now, the program allows you to associate this certificate to previously encrypted files. In this case, as we are creating a backup copy, just press Next:

efs-update-encrypted-files

The utility will show a message with information, just press Close. Done!

efs-backed-up

For those who are looking to encrypt your USB drive, check out the Bitlocker to Go

Have you ever use Encryption File System before? Do you think is a handy feature or do you prefer something like Bit Locker?