This tutorial explains various methods to Encrypt and Decrypt Files and Folders in Windows 10 Operating System:
In this tutorial, we will explore how to encrypt files and folders on Windows 10 operating system so that our confidential and personal data will remain secretive and will not be disclosed to anyone even in the worst scenario, even if an unauthorized person gets access to the system.
So, here we will look into the steps to follow to encrypt the files with the help of examples and screenshots. There are some in-built encryption tools available in each of the operating systems to provide initial encryption and security to files and folders.
To provide a high level of security and encryption to the entire volume of the hard-disk and system and to securely transmit the encrypted data via e-mail or cloud networking, we can use some software tools to ensure the high-quality encryption process.
What You Will Learn:
What Is Encryption
Encryption is the phenomenon of encoding the message bits or files which can be in the form of text, voice, or video in some other form known as ciphertext. A certain group of people having the decoding key of the ciphertext for converting it into the original data can only understand this form.
In this way, the data exchange will take place between the sender and the receiver in the coded form, and only some authorized users can access the data who have the coding and decoding key.
Key points to ensure before starting to encrypt files and folders in Windows:
- Before encrypting files, please make sure you have the backup files in the original format and are stored offline at some secure physical location.
- Decide and separate the files and folders you want to encrypt.
- The encrypted files will lose their encryption if we send it over other networks through e-mails. Thus one should take the Windows permission to protect the encryption of files, otherwise, they can be deleted during transmission.
- The encryption method is not a full-proof security tool. Hackers can hack them, thus you should use the strong password and cryptographic keys to protect the data.
How To Encrypt Files And Folders
Let us see the methods to encrypt files and folders in Windows 10 OS:
There are different methods to encrypt files and folders in the Windows 10 operating system. Here we will first discuss the methods that are in-built in the Windows operating system. These can be used easily by following simple configuration steps.
Apart from this, there are various software tools also available which provide a strong layer of security for encryption of the database on our computer system. We will explore those tools later in this article.
The basic in-built tools available for Windows are:
- MS Office Document protection
- Encrypting File System (EFS)
#1) MS Office Document Protection For Windows 10
If we need to encrypt any of the MS Office documents to protect it from unauthorized access, then we can use this method, which is very easy to apply. One can use this method to encrypt any of the file documents like MS Excel file, MS Power Point file, MS Office, etc.
Steps are as follows:
#1) First, open the document which you want to protect or encrypt.
#2) Go to the File Menu and then select the encrypt document option as shown in the figure below.
#3) Then there appears a dialog box asking to enter a password to protect the document as shown in the figure below. Enter the password and again enter the same password to confirm the correct password then click OK button. Now the document is protected, and this completes the process of protecting the file.
#4) If you try to open the document then it will first ask for the password and then only you can read or can make changes in the document. In this way, one can encrypt the MS office document and protect it from unauthorized access.
#2) Encrypting File System
It is a built-in encryption tool for Windows, which is used to encrypt files and folders on the NTFS drives. EFS support to encrypt the individual files, folders, and directories manually instead of encrypting the overall drive. The encrypted files will be available only when the user who encrypted the file log in to the system.
In this process, the Windows will generate the encryption key and it will be automatically encrypted and stored locally on the PC. This process is not 100 percent secure thus we need to use the strong password for login.
Steps to encrypt files on Windows 10 Operating system using EFS:
#1) In Windows, first select the file or folder you want to encrypt and right-click on it.
#2) Now from the menu options, select the Properties option as shown in the figure below.
#3) Select the Advanced button from the menu option of the dialogue box. Next will appear the Advanced Setting Attributes dialog box. In this, select and checkmark the ‘Encrypt contents to secure data’ option and click the OK button as shown in the figure below. Then click on Apply.
#4) At this point, if you had selected to encrypt a folder containing one or more files than a confirmation dialog box will appear asking to confirm the changes and ask for encrypting all the files on the folder or some particular files. Select the option ‘Apply changes to this folder, subfolders, and files’ and then click OK.
#5) A pop-up message dialog box will now appear which displays the option to back up your file encryption key and certificate. If it disappears, then you can also find it from the notification area of your OS.
#6) Plugin the USB device onto your PC on which you want to take the backup. Then click the ‘Backup now (recommended)’ option as shown in the below image. Then click next to carry the process further.
#7) Click Next to generate the certificate as shown in the figure below.
#8) Now checkmark on the file format .PFX to export the files and then again click on Next as shown in the image below.
#9) Now the password dialog box will appear. Enter the password and again enter the same password to confirm the password and then click the Next option to continue as shown in the screenshot below.
#10) Open the USB device, then enter the name for the key to be exported and then click Save. Now the file will be saved with the extension .PFX in your USB device. Click on the Next option to finish the process and then click the OK button. Now you can safely remove the USB device and put it in some safe place.
One can use any of the storage devices like DVD, portable hard disk, etc. for taking back-up.
Steps to decrypt files and folder in Windows 10 OS:
To decrypt the files and folders, we need to follow the same steps mentioned above until step #4 and uncheck the dialog box of ‘Encrypt content to secure data’. Then the files can be readable again. The passwords and backup should be kept at a safe location so we can easily retrieve it when needed to decrypt the files.
It is a kind of encryption tool which is designed for Windows editions but not for Windows home edition starting with Windows Vista OS. It offers the encryption for entire volumes of the data present on the hard disk or external device inserted in the computer.
Features and working:
- It uses the AES encryption method of having cipher block chaining mode with 128 and a 256-bit key.
- Bit-Locker is a tool that offers encryption not only at the software level but also at the hardware level by using a Trusted Platform Module (TPM) chip.
- If you don’t have the TPM installed at your OS, then you can also encrypt the files and folders by using the in-built Bit Locker at the software level.
- To allow the Bit Locker to encrypt the entire volume on the disk, it should be partitioned into two volumes. One boot partition is for the OS and the other one is kept unencrypted and thus will boot the OS. After the partition is done the encryption process starts by configuring the USB keys.
- There are various encryption modes in which we can operate the Bit Locker. To protect the OS from the physical attacks and boot malware, the TPM hardware mode is used. The key which is used for the volume encryption of the disk is coded by the TPM chip and is given to the OS only when CPU is booted lucratively.
- The other mode is the USB key mode. In this mode, the user inserts the USB device into the computer which is having the login key which enables the computer to boot the OS protected by the Bit Locker. For the proper authentication process, the startup key should also be provided with the CCID cryptographic codes, which are used in combination so that the key should not be stolen for unauthorized access.
- After the system is booted successfully using these modes, it needs to be used with the EFS to provision the further encryption of the files on the running OS system.
Thus the Bit Locker alone is not a powerful tool for encryption, as malicious viruses and boot managers can easily attack it. Thus it is suggested to use some external software tools.
#4) Encryption Tools For Windows 10 OS
There are various tools and software available in the market for encryption of files and folders in Windows OS, but here we will understand here some popular tools only.
The WINZIP tool is used to encrypt the data on the computers like PC, laptop, and server into a compress folder file with extension .zip with password protection so that it provides high-level data security for the confidential data files.
- Any kind of files like image or video file with the extension (.png,.jpg, etc.) along with MS office files can be encrypted using this method. We can encrypt almost every kind of file format using this method.
- The encryption processes used are the AES encryption method of 128 bits and 256 bits. The numbers denote the size of the encryption key, which is used to encrypt the data.
- It can perform other operations also other than encrypting files like achieve, compress, and manage files.
Now let’s see the steps for encryption of data files:
Step 1: Open the WINZIP and from the action panel click ON the encrypt option.
Step 2: Now drag down or browse the files you want to encrypt and compress into the center pane named as Newzip.zip as shown in the figure below.
Step 3: Now add the password to protect the file when the dialog box appears for entering the password and re-enter the same password to confirm as shown in the below image.
Step 4: Click on the OK button. Then the dialog box appears asking for complete the compress procedure. Click OK and save the changes to complete the encryption as shown in the below screenshot.
This completes the process of WINZIP encryption. We can perform other operations also using the WINZIP tool like converting the MS Office file into PDF format and reducing the size of the data file or image file so that it can be easily sent over e-mail, etc.
Price: WinZip 24 Standard: $35.34
Official URL: WINZIP
#2) Crypto Expert
Crypto-Expert tool is a far more powerful, secure, and reliable data security tool than the other built-in encryption tools of Windows 10 OS. Thus it is very popular in use and also very easy to use.
- It provides a secure vault for all the data present on your computer, hard disk, or laptops with fast on-the-fly operation.
- The tool provides security for all kinds of data stored in the PC like various kinds of MS Office documents, PowerPoint files, image files, audio files, video files, and email backup data files.
- The encryption method used here is AES encryption with 64-bit and 256 encryption key algorithms, 3DES, CAST, and Blowfish method.
- It can easily take the secure data backup using a USB drive and the only thing we need is the password to unlock the vault and after taking the backup immediately lock the vault. The vault can be of an unlimited size which can be more than 10GB and the user can create multiple secure vaults to secure data.
- The vault can also be shared with remote end PC via LAN by providing the far-end user the unlock keys and it can’t be accessed without the password.
- In case of theft of the system, the data will remain secure and no unauthorized person can access the secured personal data as the vault will appear as a normal driver to the Windows platform.
Price: Crypto Expert 8: $59.95
Official URL: Crypto Expert
#3) Vera Crypt
This software supports on-the-fly encryption methodology which signifies that the encryption of the data inclusive of data files, folders, free space, metadata, image and multimedia files, email backup, etc. is done automatically before the whole data is saved and also automatically decrypted before it is downloaded on any device without the interference of any external user.
Thus no data can be read and decrypted without having the correct combination of the password and the encryption keys by anyone accessing the PC or system.
- The data files are saved on the Vera Crypt volume and can be copied from there by the drag-and-drop method on the local PC and can be saved on the RAM by using the correct password and keys. The same is applied for the decryption process as well.
- The Vera crypt software never stores the data requested from the Vera Crypt volume to be copied or open on the local system on the local disk.
- But it stores only the part of the entire file which is requested to view or read on the RAM temporarily as only available for users to read for a while. Thus when we close the file and switch off the Windows OS, then the data will be removed from memory and again become encrypted.
- To make them accessible, we need to enter the correct password and keys again and again. In this way, this is a widely used security software for Windows for encryption of sensitive and personal data.
- The encryption key ciphers used by this software are AES, Serpent, and Twofish. The Vera crypt also provides encryption flexibility, as it can accomplish the process in partitions by using the virtual partition method.
- Also, it makes itself self immune to newly introduced software into the system which can be a virus or malware attack to the security system.
- Apart from Windows, it also supports the MAC and Linux OS.
Official URL: Vera Crypt
#4) Ax Crypt
It is a very lightweight software and easy to install and use. It is a multilingual software encryption tool that can operate with many languages like French, German, Italian, Spanish, and Russian, etc.
- It uses 128 bit and 256 bit AES encryption method for security purposes.
- It also offers cloud storage services to transfer the confidential and personal data securely over the cloud network to the remote end server, which is connected on the cloud network through a third party.
- The software automatically creates Ax Crypt folders on the cloud network to transfer and share data securely. We can just transfer the data by a double click on them and can save them by using the same.
- The best feature is that the software secures each of the unique files of a folder individually and also looks out for new files being added to the folder of the computer or system. When any new file is added, it will also secure it automatically and individually.
- Also, using this software, several files can be selected and secured at a time by one click only.
- It is also having the password management feature so that the user manages it accordingly. Also, it can share the encryption keys to other users, and then the encrypted files can be viewed by other users in the network, but they should have a different password.
- It supports to encrypt data files of larger like more than 2GB with metadata retention feature,
- It is compatible with all versions of Windows OS and also with android smartphones. In this way, these features make it popular in use.
Official URL: Ax Crypt
The basic purpose of this tutorial is to understand the various methods available to encrypt the confidential data and files or folders present on the Windows Operating system to provide high-level security to the data volume.
There are three in-built methods to encrypt the files and folders on the system which we have seen above with the help of various examples and screenshots.
Apart from these options, we can use some software tools also to perform these actions which are designed for this specific operation only and provide some enhanced and improvised security features and storage and sharing features apart from the basic encryption process.
Four of such tools we have explained above with the help of screenshots and also shared the official URL so that one can download them if needed and can also get deep knowledge regarding them.
Also read =>> How to encrypt emails