In this article, we will learn to encrypt files on Windows. Before proceeding further, lets us understand the meaning of encryption. Encryption is a term that refers to the process of securing data. It is the process of converting text, speech, or video into ciphertext. It is a way of scrambling data so that only authorized parties can understand the information. If you wish to upgrade to Windows 11, you may go through this article on Can my PC upgrade to Windows 11? and How to install or upgrade to Windows 11?
Only authorized users with the coding and decoding keys will be able to access the data sent between the sender and the receiver. In technical terms, it is the process of converting human-readable plaintext to incomprehensible text, also known as ciphertext. In simpler terms, encryption takes readable data and alters it so that it appears random.
Encryption requires the use of a cryptographic key: a set of mathematical values that both the sender and the recipient of an encrypted message agree on.
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Table of Contents
Before you start
Before you start altering your files, there are some tips you need to keep in mind.
- One can decrypt any file if he is savvy enough, or well-financed foe. You might want to find a paid solution if your files are truly valuable.
- Files encrypted using the below methods can still be deleted, so you might want to have a backup on a secondary location.
- If you lose your encryption passwords, you have lost your encrypted files forever. Therefore, I would suggest you to read this article on Best Free Password Managers in 2022 and choose the best password manager for you. Doing this will ensure the safety of your files.
- Keep an unencrypted backup of the file on a physical drive somewhere safe where it will not be found.
- The encryption approach is not a complete security solution. Because hackers can access them, you should protect your data with a strong password and cryptographic keys.
Ways to encrypt files and folders in Windows:
In Windows, there are several ways to encrypt files and folders. We will start with the ways that come standard with the Windows operating system. Following a few basic configuration steps, You can use these right away
Aside from that, there are a variety of software solutions that give a high layer of protection for database encryption on our computer system.
1. Microsoft Office Document Protection
If we need to encrypt any MS Office documents to secure them from unauthorized access, we may use this method, which is quite simple to do. This approach can be used to encrypt any filed document, including MS Excel, MS PowerPoint, MS Office, and so on. Once you encrypt a file this way, you will need to reopen it in Microsoft Office. You will not be able to open it in Google Docs, Adobe Reader, or LibreOffice.
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. Enter the password and again enter the same password to confirm the correct password then click the 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. Encrypt Files on Windows using Encrypting File System (EFS)
It is a built-in encryption program for Windows that encrypts files and folders on NTFS discs. Instead, then encrypting the entire drive, EFS allows you to manually encrypt specific files, folders, and directories. Only the user who encrypted the file will be able to access it once he or she logs in to the system.
Windows will generate the encryption key during this operation, which will be automatically encrypted and kept locally on the PC. Since this technique is not completely safe, we will need to use a strong password to log in.
Warning: Step 8 is time-sensitive, so make sure to click the “Back up your file encryption key” prompt after confirming attribute changes in step 7. Missing that prompt means you will need to start over again.
1. Right-click on the file or folder you wish to encrypt right-click on it.
2. Click ‘Properties’ selection at the bottom of the menu
3. Click Advanced under the General tab
This will bring up a second pop-up window entitled Advanced Attributes.
4. Check ‘Encrypt contents to secure data
If you are using a home version of Windows that does not support EFS, this line is grey.
5. Click OK
6. Click Apply
7. Choose how extensive you want the encryption to be
8. Make sure to click the ‘Back up your file encryption key’ pop-up message before it disappears
If you miss the pop-up message, you will need to restart your machine and try again.
The computer creates an encryption key using an encryption certificate provided by Microsoft. Now that your file or folder is encrypted, you will not need a password to access it other than the password you use to sign in to your Windows profile when you turn the computer on.
3. Bit-Locker is the third option.
Starting with the Windows Vista operating system, it is a type of encryption tool that is developed for Windows editions but not for Windows home editions. It can encrypt whole volumes of data stored on a hard disc or an external device connected to the computer.
Specifications and operation:
It employs the AES encryption technology, which employs cipher block chaining mode with keys of 128 and 256 bits.
Bit-Locker is a tool that uses a Trusted Platform Module (TPM) chip to provide encryption not only at the software level but also at the hardware level.
If you do not have the TPM installed on your operating system, you can encrypt your files and folders using the Bit Locker software.
Divide the file into two volumes so that Bit-Locker can encrypt the entire volume. One boot partition is for the operating system. The other one is unencrypted and will thus boot the operating system. The encryption procedure begins after the completion of division.
You can use Bit-Locker in several different encryption modes. Use the TPM hardware mode to defend the OS from physical attacks and boot malware. The TPM chip encodes the key used for disc volume encryption, and it is only given to the OS when the CPU is booted lucratively.
The USB key mode is the other option. In this mode, the user puts a USB drive into the computer that contains the login key, allowing the computer to boot the Bit Locker-protected operating system. The start-up key should also include the CCID cryptographic codes. You can use these in tandem to ensure the authentication of key.
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