How to encrypt files and folders in Windows 10 [EASY GUIDE]

Ivan Jenic
by Ivan Jenic
Troubleshooting Expert
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  • Encrypting your most important files is not only extremely useful but also easier than you'd think.
  • You have several methods to password-protect your documents, including an inbuilt Windows tool.
  • For more guides on the same topic, see our dedicated File Encryption section on the website.
  • Looking for a particular step-by-step guide? We've probably got it covered, so do a quick search in our How-To Hub.
Encrypt files and folders in Windows 10 quick and easy

Encrypting a certain file or folder is probably the best way to keep it safe, so only you can access that file or folder.

Microsoft’s developers decided to keep the built-in encryption method in Windows 10 similar to the previous method.

Still, it’s good from time to time to go through the file encryption methods available in Windows, but not exclusively.

How can I encrypt files or folders in Windows 10?

1. Use a dedicated encryption tool (recommended)

If you think that Windows’ own encryption tool isn’t good enough for your files, you can try with some third-party encryption software.

Actually, a right third-party tool is an even better choice than EFS, because it offers more options, so you’ll be able to keep your files as safe as possible.

There are a lot of free encrypting tools out there, but the best way is to get a premium software. It has many more features and it is a priority when it needs support from developers.

A first recommendation would be WinZip. You’ve probably heard of it since it’s currently the most popular file encryption and compression tool.

As a matter of fact, the program offers more file management options, including sharing, compressing, and backing up files.

The encryption option allows you to zip your files with certified 128 or 256-bit AES encryption, keeping your files safe from unwanted eyes.

Plus, with WinZip, you can create read-only PDFs and add watermarks to deter copying.

Other notable features of WinZip include finding, opening, editing, moving, and sharing the files stored on PCs, networks, or cloud services.

The tool can be fully integrated with Dropbox, G-Suite, or OneDrive.

WinZip

WinZip

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2. Use the built-in Encrypted File System

encrypt files windows 10

  1. Right-click on the file/folder you want to encrypt and go to Properties.
  2. On the General tab, click Advanced.
  3. Under the Compress and encrypt attributes section, click on Encrypt content to secure data.
  4. Click OK and close Properties.
  5. Choose Apply changes to the folder, subfolders, and files.

That’s that, your folder is now encrypted and its text is shown in green color.

All subfolders and files of the encrypted folder are encrypted as well, but if you want to change that, repeat the process above, and choose to Apply changes to this folder only instead of Apply changes to this folder, subfolders, and files.

The EFS (Encrypted File System) is probably the fastest way to encrypt your files and folders in Windows 10 (and any other version of Windows since XP).

This is a very simple encryption tool, and you’ll make your files protected in a couple of minutes, with just a couple of clicks.

But before we show you how to encrypt your files with EFS, we have to warn you that you’ll be able to access the encrypted file only with the login of the account you encrypted the file with.

Other user accounts (if with administrative permissions) won’t be able to access it. Thus, make sure to remember or write down the password somewhere, or your file will stay locked forever.

You may also choose to protect your files before they can be accessed with a good VPN tool. We strongly recommend Private Internet Access VPN to secure your data.

It protects your PC from attacks while browsing, masks your IP address, and blocks all unwanted access to your computer.

Private Internet Access

Private Internet Access

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How to back up your encryption key

  1. Click on Back up your encryption key popup.
  2. Choose Back up now.encrypt files windows 10 4
  3. Follow the instructions from the wizard.
  4. Enter and re-enter your password.Certificate Export Wizard windows 10 5
  5. Choose a place to which you’ll save your certificate and give a name to your encryption backup file.encrypt files windows 10 6
  6. Click Next, and Finish.

Usually, Windows will offer you an option to back up your encryption key right after you create it.

If you’re looking to encrypt a USB flash, we’ve got a list of the 12 best software solutions that will help you secure your files in no time.


Problems with encrypting your data on Windows 10? Check out this guide to solve them.


3. Use Microsoft Office

  1. Open the Office file you want to encrypt, and go to File.
  2. Under Info, click on Protect document.encrypt files windows 10 1
  3. Choose Encrypt with password.encrypt files windows 10 2
  4. Enter your password and press Enter.
  5. Re-enter your password, and click OK.Microsoft Office document 10 3

Your Office document is now encrypted, and you’ll have to enter a password you set before to access it.


As you can see, there are a couple of methods to keep your files safe, so it’s completely up to you which one you’ll use. If you have some questions or comments, just reach for the comments section below.

Editor’s Note: This post was originally published in September 2015 and has been revamped and updated in July 2020 for freshness, accuracy, and comprehensiveness.

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  • My encryption option is grayed out. what versions of windows 10 is encryption available on? also if i have a version that doesn’t support encryption, what are some 3rd party alternatives?

    • Windows 10 uses a gpt partition table, Veracrypt rightly so does not support gtp.
      Follow my videos on youtube regarding this (asidscript) and you can convert your OS from GPT to MBR and then you can FDE your system using Veracrypt. Questions??? Email me. Email address in all my videos.
      Regards
      Dan

  • Hi,

    i followed method 1 above ie using Windows EFS, to encrypt a file on my
    PC desktop. After that I saw a small yellow peglock at a corner of my
    excel file icon on my desktop. When I double-clicked the file it just
    opened without asking me for a password. When I sent the file to
    another user of a different PC. He could also simply open the file
    without a password. So what is this encryption for?

    Now whenever
    I create a new excel file and saved it WITHOUT creating an encryption,
    somehow it also have a small yellow peglock at the corner of its icon on
    my desktop. Does this mean this new excel file is also auto encrypted?
    Why is this so? I also created and saved a new word file WITHOUT
    creating an encryption and also the same encryption peglock appeared at
    the corner of the file icon on my desktop. So now it seemed every new
    file I create also has the peglock thing.

    PLEASE HELP ME on HOW
    TO reset/disable this encryption setting so that all my new files will not have
    this yellow peglock thing now and in future.

    Thank you
    emigu