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How to password protect folders in Windows

If you store a great deal of personal or confidential information on your home computer you may be wondering how to protect that information from others. You may have personal documents that you’d like to keep private from family or roommates or you might be concerned about the security of financial information in the event that your computer is stolen or illegally accessed.

Windows 7, XP and Vista doesn’t offer native password protection to folders, but provides the security using the authentication (password at login). But there are workarounds to protect your folders. Options for protecting your information include converting to a compressed folder, encrypting your folder, setting which users can access the files or hiding them. You can also download third party software that will help you to create password protected folders, such as Folder Lock.

To create a compressed folder, first right click on your desktop or in a folder and choose “New”, then “Compressed folder”.  Create a name for your new folder and press enter. Open the folder by double-clicking. Open Windows Explorer and select the folder you want to protect. Right click on these files and drag them into the new compressed folder. Release the mouse button and choose “Move here.” In the compressed folder window choose “File” and then “Add a password.” Type your password in both boxes and then click “Ok.”

To encrypt your folder you will right click on the folder and click “Properties.” Click the “General” tab and choose “Advanced.” Select the “Encrypt contents to secure data” check box and click “Ok.”

To specify which users can access your files or to hide them you can right click on the folder and choose “Properties.” Under the first tab you can select “Hidden” which will make the folder invisible to others but not inaccessible. Under “Security” you can change which users can access your folder, but if you are not an administrator you may not be able to change all user privileges.

Regardless of which method you use to protect your files you should make a backup copy in case you lose your password. No method will ever be 100% effective, if someone really wants to view your files there are ways to get around password protection. But your information will be protected from most average users you may be sharing a computer with.

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