How To Password Protect Folder Contents

by Rod Dunne on July 21, 2010

in Articles, Security

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Windows comes with several ways of its own to password protect folder contents that are simple and easy to use. Here we’ll look at the four approaches intended for Windows 7, Vista and XP computers, and explain why some users opt for using software/freeware to safeguard folders and files.

Third Party Software

Many PC owners choose to use software to password protect folders and their contents for several reasons. Many do not wish to use Microsoft’s own proprietary way of locking documents (e.g. using NTFS) while others prefer to use applications that can password protect a folder on USB drives, external devices, network folders etc. See our post on USB flash security for more information.

These are valid reasons to use other tools to password protect files but if you just need to lock local hard drive folders then the free options may suit you just as well.

How To Password Protect A Folder:Windows 7 and Vista Users

Windows 7 and Vista use user and group authentication to protect folders. This facilitates very fine-grained security access to folders by user, group and folder.

  • Open up a Windows Explorer and go to the folder you wish to password protect.
  • Right click the folder and choose ‘Properties’. Go to the ‘Security’ tab and click the edit button (a pop-up window will appear)
  • To password protect folder contents, first choose a user in the section ‘Group and User Names‘. Then under the ‘Permissions for Users‘ section you can pick and choose which functionality to allow/deny for this user.
  • For full denial of services for a user, check the ‘Deny‘ column check-box in the row labeled ‘Modify‘ to auto-select all the denial check-boxes. Hit apply for this to take effect.
  • The folder is now password protected against access by the designated user/group.

How To Password Protect A Folder: A Simple Folder Lock

This is a basic approach to use in XP computers that are using the NTFS file system format (as most are). The approach stops other Windows users on the computer and network from being able to access folders that have a public access setting by default.

  • Open up a Windows Explorer and go to the folder you wish to password protect.
  • Right click the folder and choose ‘Properties’. Go to the ‘Sharing’ tab.
  • To password protect folder contents, select the ‘Make This Folder Private’ check-box and hit the ‘Apply’ button. If you do not use a password to log on to Windows, then you will be asked to enter one for securing/locking this folder. Otherwise, the password is the same as your Windows one.
  • The folder is now password protected.

How To Password Protect A Folder: Using Zip Features

Since XP was released, all operating systems now display zip files as directories when viewed in the Windows Explorer. This is a usability feature (to help you view the zip contents) but it also means you can start to password protect folders using proprietary zip technology.

This is useful as it works across operating systems and devices (drives, memory sticks, etc.) and be incorporated into your computer backup options (zip up documents to back up, password protect the zip then copy it to CD/DVD/external storage for safekeeping).

  • Open up a Windows Explorer and go to the folder/zip you wish to password protect.
  • Double-click the folder to open it in WinZip. If you have another zip-reading device then this will be opened.
  • In WinZip, select the File > Add A Password menu-item. You will be prompted for a password to enter. Click OK to password protect files and sub-directories of the zip folder.
  • The folder/zip is now password protected.

How To Password Protect A Folder: Encryption and Password Protection

This final approach will password protect a folder and encrypt all its contents and sub-directories in one single action.

  • Open up a Windows Explorer and go to the folder you wish to password protect.
  • Right click the folder and choose ‘Properties’. On the ‘General’ tab, select the ‘Advanced’ button.
  • In the pop-up that opens it is possible to compress or encrypt attributes.To password protect folder contents and encrypt all documents select the check-box option marked ‘Encrypt Contents to Secure Data’ and hit OK. As before, you should only be prompted for a password if none is used when you log in.
  • The folder is now password protected and encrypted.

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