How to Password-Protect Files and Folders in Windows 10

Password Protect Files Folders Windows 10 Featured

One of the best ways of keeping others from accessing your personal or sensitive information is to password-protect files and folders. If you’re using a Windows 10 PC, you probably have much stored on it like photos, videos, financial documents, and more. These are prime targets for malicious intent, which is why you need to secure them as a basic security step.

Windows has a native encryption feature that lets you keep your documents safe from snoops, but you can use third-party encryption software for really sensitive information.

Follow along to learn how to password-protect files and folders in Windows 10.

Password-Protect Windows 10 Files and Folders

Using Windows Built-In Encryption

To do this, follow the steps below:

1. Open File Explorer and right-click on the file or folder you want to password protect, and then select Properties.

Password Protect Files Folders Windows 10 Folder Properties

2. Select Advanced.

Password Protect Files Folders Windows 10 Folder Properties Advanced

3. Next, click “Encrypt contents to secure data” and click OK.

Password Protect Files Folders Windows 10 Folder Properties Advanced Encrypt Contents Secure Data

4. Click Apply to begin the encryption process.

Password Protect Files Folders Windows 10 Folder Properties Advanced Encrypt Contents Secure Data Apply

5. You’ll get a pop-up asking if you want to encrypt only that folder, or the folder, sub folders and files.

Password Protect Files Folders Windows 10 Folder Properties Attribute Changes

6. The next prompt will ask you to back up the encryption key so you can use it to access your files or folders in case you lose access to them. Choose Back up now.

Password Protect Files Folders Windows 10 Folder Properties Backup Now

Once you’ve backed up the key, your file or folder is now secured with an encryption key tied to your Windows user account. This way, anyone else trying to access the file or folder will only see jumbled text instead of the actual contents of the file or folder, whether they’re accessing it from a different user account or removing your hard drive.

After the file or folder is encrypted, you can click Details next to the checkbox to view details about the available recovery procedures and encryption certificate.

Note: if you want, you can reverse the encryption by going back to Properties, opening Advanced Attributes and unchecking the “Encrypt contents to secure data box.”

It’s also important to note that this method isn’t for high-level security for your files or folders, but if you’re using a shared PC and don’t want other user accounts to access some files or folders, it’ll come in handy.

Using Windows BitLocker

The first method of password-protecting your files or folders isn’t strong enough because you need to remember to lock your account every time you’re away from your computer.

To resolve this issue, you need stronger protection, which you can get by enabling Windows’ BitLocker feature. Although BitLocker comes with the Pro and Enterprise editions only, it provides full-disk encryption for peace of mind.

There are two steps to using BitLocker: set up a virtual disk and then enable BitLocker.

Set up a Virtual Disk

1. Click Start and type “Disk Management” on the search bar. Click Create and “Format Hard Disk Partition” to open Disk Management.

Password Protect Files Folders Windows 10 Disk Management

2. Click Action.

Password Protect Files Folders Windows 10 Disk Management Action

3. Click “Create VHD.”

Password Protect Files Folders Windows 10 Disk Management Action Create Vhd

4. Click Browse to choose where you’ll store the virtual disk. Give the drive a name, for example Disk 2, and then click Save.

Password Protect Files Folders Windows 10 Create Vhd Browse

5. Next, go to the “Virtual hard disk size” section and choose the space you’d like reserved for storage based on the content you want protected.

Password Protect Files Folders Windows 10 Vhd Size

6. Select “Dynamically expanding” for storage to adjust as you save files and click OK.

Password Protect Files Folders Windows 10 Vhd Size Dynamically Expanding

7. Right-click Disk 2, then select “Initialize Disk.”

Password Protect Files Folders Windows 10 Initialize Disk

8. Check Disk 2 and select Master Boot Record (MBR). Click OK.

Password Protect Files Folders Windows 10 Initialize Disk Mbr

9. Click on the white space, and click New Simple Volume. Click Next and use the default settings for volume size, then click Next again.

Password Protect Files Folders Windows 10 New Simple Volume

10. Use “Assign the following drive letter” to choose a drive letter, then click Next.

Password Protect Files Folders Windows 10 New Simple Volume Assign Drive Letter

11. Next to File system, select NTFS.

Password Protect Files Folders Windows 10 Ntfs

12. Next to Allocation unit size, click Default.

Password Protect Files Folders Windows 10 Allocation Default

13. Next to Volume label, type a name for the drive.

Password Protect Files Folders Windows 10 Volume Label

14. Check “Perform a quick format,” and clear “Enable file and folder compression.”

Password Protect Files Folders Windows 10 Perform Quick Format

Click Next and then click Finish to create a virtual hard disk you can password-protect with BitLocker.

Enable BitLocker

Once you set up the virtual hard disk, you can treat it as a folder. Then set up BitLocker on the disk using these steps:

1. Open “Control Panel -> System and Security.”

Password Protect Files Folders Windows 10 Control Panel System Security

2. Click on BitLocker Drive Encryption.

Password Protect Files Folders Windows 10 Control Panel System Security Bitlocker Drive Encryption

3. Select folder_vault drive under Fixed data drives.

Password Protect Files Folders Windows 10 Bitlocker Drive Encryption Fixed Data Drives

4. Next, Turn on BitLocker and check “Use a password” to unlock the drive.

Password Protect Files Folders Windows 10 Bitlocker Drive Encryption Fixed Data Drives Turn On Bitlocker

5.. Create a password for protecting the folders within the drive and click Next.

Password Protect Files Folders Windows 10 Bitlocker Drive Encryption Fixed Data Drives Turn On Bitlocker Password

6. Click Save to a file and choose a location where the recovery key will be stored. Keep this file secure, because if you lose the recovery key or forget the password, you can’t recover your files.

Password Protect Files Folders Windows 10 Bitlocker Save To File

7. Click “Save -> Next,” select “Encrypt used disk space only,” and click Next.

Password Protect Files Folders Windows 10 Bitlocker Encrypt Used Disk Space

8. Select “Compatibility mode -> Next.”

Password Protect Files Folders Windows 10 Bitlocker Encrypt Used Disk Space Compatible Mode

9. Click “Start encrypting,” wait for the encryption to complete, and then click Close.

Password Protect Files Folders Windows 10 Bitlocker Start Encrypting

You can now use the virtual disk to password-protect your content.

How to Unlock Your Folders with a Password

To unlock your folders:

1. Open File Explorer and go to the folder_vault.vhd file. Double-click the VHD file to mount it.

Password Protect Files Folders Windows 10 Folder Vault Vhd Mount

2. Click This PC, and then double-click the drive under Devices and drives. In the sign-in page, type the password you used to lock the drive. If you forget the password, click “More Options -> Enter recovery key” and type the recovery key (48 digits) in the text file.

Password Protect Files Folders Windows 10 Folder Vault Vhd Mount Sign In

3. Click Unlock and access your files and folders.

Password Protect Files Folders Windows 10 Folder Vault Vhd Mount Sign In Unlock

You can lock them again by clicking “File Explorer -> This PC,” right-clicking BitLocker drive under Devices and drives and selecting Eject.

If none of the methods above work for you, you can also try Cloak Encrypt to encrypt files without a password. In addition to password-protecting your files and folders, you can encrypt your USB drive on your Windows 10 PC.

Elsie Biage Elsie Biage

My passion has always been to share every bit of useful information I find on tech, with the ultimate goal of helping people solve a problem.

One comment

  1. Top Corporate organizations understand the importance of digital safety in all ramifications. From online to offline safety, we should ensure that we put these tips into practice. Once again, thanks for drawing our attention to these things.

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