How to Encrypt Files, and Drives on Windows 10

One of the perfect methods for protecting your privacy is to encrypt important information on your PC. If you need to give your personal information to somebody or if you want to be sure no one can see the stuff on your PC who accesses it. As a user of Windows 10 you have many options to encrypting the information. In this article we will give you methods to encrypt individual files, folders or entire disk drives. Each method has its own pros and cons; hence we will cover them too. Therefore, in this way you can learn better for which type of encryption you will need. Before we move ahead here are few things to keep in mind.

  • This article only tells you about the Windows 10 operating system.

  • If you want to encrypt a file and share it with someone and need them to give your password, do not send them that password using the same way that you send them the file. For instance, if you think to mail them the file, it can be a huge security risk to also give them the password. Ideally you should give them the password on the phone, or a secured messaging app. Or if possible, send them through a different email provider.

Now let us discuss when you should use three types of encryption that you can use:

  • Individual file Encryption.

  • Folder Encryption.

  • And hard drive or disk Encryption.

Individual File Encryption

As the name goes Individual File encryption is for encrypting a single file at a time. Each file contains its own password or a key.

Individual file encryption is the best option for the files you want to share or save in the cloud. Users of Windows 10 can encrypt individual files using a 7- zip tool. However, you can also Encrypt individual Microsoft Office files from within the apps.

Folder Encryption

Next one is folder encryption. This solution includes encrypting everything that you saved in a folder. Keys or Passwords are assigned to the folder and not individual files.

Encryption of folders is a great organizational tool. For instance you can always create a different encrypted folder for every member of the family. Give them only the folder and password, therefore each member will have their privacy on the same device.

Please note that storing a file in the encrypted folder will not prevent you from also encrypting single files.

Hard Drive or Disk Encryption

Disk or hard drive Encryption will protect the entire drive at once. However, to use the device which is encrypted you will need to put the password when you login, otherwise nothing will show up.  

This way of encryption is a good option for defense in case of theft.

You can still choose folder level encryption and single files encryption to an encrypted disk or drive.

Managing Password and file Encryption

Before we discuss file encryption in detail, we need to tell you something important about passwords. You need to use good password manager safety.

You might wonder what it is? Well, if you forget your password for an encrypted file, then you might lose them for good. A nice or good password manager is critical. We have seen many options, having 1Password, LastPass, and so on.

Look at our guide for the best password’s managers, for the top suggestions and step-by-step information. Therefore, now we shall start the specific detailed methods below:

How do we Encrypt files and folders using Windows 10

The options for encrypting folders and files in windows 10 also depend on the version of windows 10 you use. In Windows 10 Pro they give an in-built encryption tool which is EFS Encrypting File System.  However, any user of Windows 10 can use third party apps like 7-zip for folder encryption.

Apart from these options, Microsoft office has basic file locking features and so does Adobe Acrobat.

How do we Encrypt files and folders with Encrypting File System (EFS)

The Encrypting File System comes with the Professional version of Windows 10. It is the advanced feature of the Windows File Explorer. It makes sense because if you use it carelessly EFS can leave you with folders or files you can never access.

EFS does the Encryption work in the background which includes automatic creation of File Encryption Key (FEK). Beside the Lock symbol that you can see in the File Explorer next to the file that is encrypted, there is no easy method to tell if the file is encrypted with EFS.

However, EFS has its own quirks that many users don’t feel ideal to choose.  Knowing what these quirks are will help you decide whether you should be choosing EFS or not for Windows 10.

  • EFS will only work on drives which you format with NTFS.

  • If you select to move the EFS encrypted file to a disk which formats with FAT32 or exFAT, it will become decrypted.

  • If you select to move an EFS encrypted file throughout a network, if you send it in an email, it will be decrypted. 

Here’s how you Encrypt Files and Folders with EFS

  1. Open the Windows File Explorer and navigate on to the file or folder you wish to encrypt.

  2. Now right click on that file or folder you want to encrypt.

  3. Select Properties from the menu that appears.

  4. Under the General Tab of Properties, click the Advanced button.

  5. From the Advanced Attributes dialog box, set the Encrypt contents to a secure data checkbox.

  6. Now click OK till you return to the document window.

That is all you need to be doing from now, the files will appear encrypted to everyone other than the user who encrypt it.

How do we Encrypt Folders and Files with 7-zip

7-zip is a program which is freeware for file compression it can also encrypt files and folders by AES-256 encryption. If you want to use 7-zip to encrypt files and folders you should know that it creates the encrypted copy of files and folders. Therefore, the original, unencrypted files and folders do not change. 

How to encrypt files and folders in Windows 10 using 7-zip

  1. Firstly, right click on the file or folder you want to encrypt.

  2. Select 7-zip in the folder that you see, then Add to Archive…. This will open the Add to Archive Window.

  3. In the Archive section enter the name for the Archive you are to create.

  4. Select zip in the Archive format list.

  5. Enter a strong password in the Encryption section.

  6. Select AES-256 in the Encryption Method List.

  7. Click OK. This will create the encrypted archive file, which will appear in the same folder.

How would you encrypt Microsoft Office Files on Windows 10

Some applications now have the option to encrypt types of files they use themselves. For example, Microsoft Word is able to encrypt word files, Adobe Acrobat will encrypt PDF files.

  1. Select File then Info. With that document that you want to encrypt.

  2. Select Protect Document, from the Info window.

  3. Choose Encrypt with Password, from the menu that you see.

  4. Put in the Password you wish to use, in the dialog box.

How do we Encrypt Hard drives in Windows 10

When we talk about encryption of disk in Windows 10, Microsoft provides a tool that is BitLocker Device Encryption and it does what it says.

This sounds good but still there are some drawbacks using BitLocker.

  • If the BitLocker Device Encryption is not installed already, it can be a really long process to install and configure.

  • BitLocker has its own capabilities which depends on what hardware has built on its motherboard.

  • As Discussed above BitLocker will only work on Windows 10 Professional and Enterprise systems

However, there is a good alternative that is available. That is VeraCrypt which is good to use.

How to install VeraCrypt

  1. You need a standard USB drive for it. Find a good USB drive and format it as FAT32 so it is ready to use.

  2. Also, you will need a program that will unzip the files. We recommend 7-zip.

  3. Go on to the VeraCrypt download page and install it for Windows.

  4. Launch the setup program and select all default options that you see on Set Wizard.

  5. After some time VeraCrypt will show a message “VeraCrypt has been successfully installed.”

  6. Select OK and close the Wizard, then Finish to complete the process.


Encryption of files and folders is the best way to protect your privacy from others. In this article, we discussed methods that Windows 10 users can apply to encrypt individual files, folders or drivers. However no one can assure that your data is 100% safe from any attacks, the simple methods can still be good options.

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