Want to keep a folder secure? Here’s how to password protect it

Brandon Widder
Digital Trends
how to password protect folder windows mac os x apple microsoft l
how to password protect folder windows mac os x apple microsoft l

weerapat/123RF

Everyone has their secrets. Whether you want to shield your Christmas list from the prying eyes of nosy children, or merely keep your tax records hidden, there are plenty of reasons for seeking password protection for the private data housed within your PC. After all, you wouldn’t want little Timmy finding out you purchased him a newfangled Cozmo robot before the big reveal — where’s the fun in that?

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More: Protecting your PDFs with a password is easier than you think, and you don’t even have to pay

Unfortunately, neither Windows or MacOS Sierra feature native utilities designed for adding password protection to folders. There are a handful of workaround methods for doing so on both operating systems, however, each of which is relatively easy to understand, quick to implement, and freely available. One requires third-party encryption software and the other a built-in disk utility, but both will render your folders inaccessible to the average user or snoopy passerby. No batch-script tampering or premium folder-lock utilities required. Here’s how to use them.

Adding password protection to folders in Windows

As previously mentioned, most popular versions of Windows are utterly devoid of any folder-specific protections. You might be able to rename, share, optimize inner content, and manually specify who can access a folder, but adding a password requires a third-party archiving utility or some form of compression software. For our purposes, this guide will rely on the ever-so-popular 7-Zip, an open-source zip compression utility that’s readily available for free courtesy of Russian developer Igor Pavlov. You’ll be required to decompress the folder before use, but that’s a small price to pay for password protection.

Step 1: Download, install and launch 7-Zip

Navigate to the 7-Zip download page and select the download link corresponding to your desired version of the archival software. Alternatively, select your desired version of 7-Zip from the table below, or simply download the latest standard executable file. Afterward, when in the installer, select your desired destination folder for the utility and click the Install button in the bottom-right corner of the window. Click the Finish button when done and launch the program.

Step 2: Open the folder in 7-Zip

Once opened, locate the folder you wish to password protect within the main 7-Zip interface. To do so, peruse the resulting folder directly, highlight said folder, and click the green addition sign in the upper-left corner of the application. Alternatively, drag and drop the folder anywhere within the main 7-Zip interface.

Zip open
Zip open

Step 3: Adjust settings and set password

Ignoring the bulk of presets in the resulting pop-up window, select zip from the drop-down menu directly beside the Archive Format option to ensure the folder remains compatible on computers without 7-Zip installed. Then, enter and re-enter your desired password for the folder in the text fields located on the right-hand side of the window, directly beneath the Encryption section. Click the OK button when finished and allow the utility to create a compressed, encrypted duplicate of the folder you wish to password protect.

Add Password Zip
Add Password Zip

Step 4: Remove the original folder

Once the password-protected folder has been created, delete the original folder so it can no longer be accessed. There’s no need to have two instances of the same data, especially since the original folder will remain unprotected. Test to make sure the resulting file is password-protected before doing so, however. You may still be able to view file and folder names, but extracting the files will require your users to enter your designated password when prompted. Feel free to breathe a sigh of relief.

Password Protected Windows
Password Protected Windows

Adding password protection to folders in MacOS

Like Windows, MacOS lacks the native ability to add password protection to folders, but what you lose in convenience you definitely gain in security. You might be able to rename, share, and tag a particular folder, but adding a rudimentary password will require you to create an encrypted disk image through the operating system’s native Disk Utility application — an application that comes pre-installed on nearly all Mac devices. Once created, you’ll be able to access the folder as a mounted virtual disk, allowing you to edit, add, and delete content after entering a designated password. Any changes you make while the disk is mounted will automatically become both encrypted and password-protected upon dragging the disk to the Trash.

Step 1: Launch Disk Utility

Navigate to the the MacOS Sierra Disk Utility within the Applications folder, or search for the application using Spotlight. The latter feature is accessible by clicking the icon depicting the magnifying glass in the right-hand side of the taskbar. Afterward, launch the program.

Open Disk Utility
Open Disk Utility

Step 2: Create a new disk image

Once opened, click File in the application toolbar, select New from the resulting drop-down menu, followed by Disk Image from Folder. Then, locate the folder you wish to password protect by perusing the resulting folder, highlighting said folder, and clicking the Image button in the bottom-right corner of the window. Alternatively, search for the folder using the search bar in the upper-right corner and click the Image button in the bottom-right corner of the window.

Create Image Disk Utility
Create Image Disk Utility

Step 3: Adjust settings

Once you’ve tagged and named the resulting files, select read/write from the drop-down menu directly right of the Image Format option, followed by 128-bit AES encryption from the drop-down menu directly right of the Encryption option. Afterward, choose your desired save location and click the Save button in the bottom-right corner when finished.

New Image Disk Image
New Image Disk Image

Step 4: Set password

When prompted, enter and re-enter your desired password in the text fields in the middle of the pop-up window. Afterward, uncheck the box directly left of Remember password in my keychain and click the OK button in the bottom-right of the window.

Password Folder
Password Folder

Step 5: Remove the original folder

Once the password-protected disk image has been created, delete the original folder so it can no longer be accessed. There’s no need to have two versions of the same data, especially since the original folder will remain unprotected. Test to make sure the encrypted disk image is password-protected before doing so, however. You may still be able to view the folder name, but extracting the files will require you to enter your designated password when prompted. Then, breathe a deep sigh of relief.

Protected Disk
Protected Disk

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