One of the best ways to prevent others from accessing your personal or confidential information is to password protect files and folders. If you are using a Windows 10 computer, you may store a lot of content on it, such as photos, videos, financial documents, etc. These are the main targets of malicious intent, so you should protect them as basic security steps.
Windows has a native encryption function that allows you to protect documents from snoopers, but you can use third-party encryption software to obtain truly confidential information.
Follow the instructions 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.
2. Select Advanced.
3. Next, click “Encrypt contents to secure data” and click OK.
4. Click Apply to begin the encryption process.
5. You’ll get a pop-up asking if you want to encrypt only that folder, or the folder, sub folders and files.
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.
Once you have backed up the key, your files or folders will be protected by the encryption key associated with your Windows user account. This way, anyone else trying to access a file or folder will only see the messy text, not the actual contents of the file or folder, regardless of whether they are accessing it from a different user account or deleting their hard drive.
After the file or folder is encrypted, you can click the details next to the check box to view detailed information about available recovery programs and encryption certificates.
Note: If necessary, you can reverse the encryption by going back to the properties, opening the advanced properties and unchecking the “Encrypt content to protect data” box.
It is also important to note that this method is not for advanced security of your files or folders, but if you are using a shared PC and do not want other user accounts to access certain files or folders, it will come to practical use .
Using Windows BitLocker
The first method of password protecting files or folders is not strong enough, because you have to remember to lock the account every time you leave the computer.
To solve this problem, you need stronger protection, which can be obtained by enabling the BitLocker feature in Windows. Although BitLocker is only available with Professional and Enterprise editions, it provides full disk encryption to give you peace of mind.
There are two steps to using BitLocker: configure 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.
2. Click Action.
3. Click “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.
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.
6. Select “Dynamically expanding” for storage to adjust as you save files and click OK.
7. Right-click Disk 2, then select “Initialize Disk.”
8. Check Disk 2 and select Master Boot Record (MBR). Click OK.
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.
10. Use “Assign the following drive letter” to choose a drive letter, then click Next.
11. Next to File system, select NTFS.
12. Next to Allocation unit size, click Default.
13. Next to Volume label, type a name for the drive.
14. Check “Perform a quick format,” and clear “Enable file and folder compression.”
Click Next and then click Finish to create a virtual hard disk you can password-protect with 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.”
2. Click on BitLocker Drive Encryption.
3. Select folder_vault drive under Fixed data drives.
4. Next, Turn on BitLocker and check “Use a password” to unlock the drive.
5.. Create a password for protecting the folders within the drive and click Next.
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.
7. Click “Save -> Next,” select “Encrypt used disk space only,” and click Next.
8. Select “Compatibility mode -> Next.”
9. Click “Start encrypting,” wait for the encryption to complete, and then click Close.
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.
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.
3. Click Unlock and access your files and folders.
You can lock them again by clicking “File Explorer -> This PC,” right-clicking The BitLocker drive is located under “Devices and Drives” and select “Eject.”
If none of the above methods work for you, you can also try using Cloak Encrypt to encrypt files without a password. Besides password protecting your files and folders, you can also encrypt your USB drive on Windows 10 PC.