Maybe it’s a birthday shopping list you want stored away from prying eyes, perhaps you want to keep your office documents extra safe in case your laptop is stolen. Whatever the case, the easiest way to get protected is by encrypting the relevant files and folders.
Some programs like Microsoft Word and Excel already offer this functionality. To encrypt whole folders or individual files, you can download a free piece of software. Read on for our step-by-step guide.
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1) Create the perfect password
An encrypted file is only as secure as the password protecting it, so don’t go using ‘password’ or ‘123456’ to keep your personal documents safe. As a general rule the best practice is to think of your password as a ‘passphrase’ composed of multiple words, numbers and symbols. Follow our step-by-step guide to creating the perfect password for more details on what make the perfect password.
2) Encrypt your Office documents
Adding a password to any Word document is easily done. Just click on the File tab at the top of the screen, then Tools > Protection and Encrypt with password. Then it’s just a matter of typing in your chosen password.
3) Encrypt PDF documents
PDFs are similarly hassle-free to encrypt. Select View > Tools > Protect > Encrypt with password. You’ll even get a colour-coded indicator to show the strength of your password.
4) For everything else, use BitLocker
Do you still have files you want encrypted that we haven’t covered? If you are currently using Windows 8.1 then you’re in luck as Microsoft’s operating system comes with its own encryption software called Bitlocker. Don’t feel left out if you have a Windows 7 machine either, as Bitlocker is also available as a free download.
Bitlocker works by creating an encrypted segment on your hard drive – think of it as having a safe built into your wall. Any folders and file you place in the secure partition are locked away from those who doesn’t have access. The process to create the partition is relatively straightforward once you get the hang of it – use Microsoft’s extensive guide to find out how.