Everyone has their secrets. Whether you want to shield your Christmas list from the prying eyes of nosy children, or merely keep your tax records hidden, there are plenty of reasons for seeking password protection for the private data housed within your PC. After all, you wouldn’t want little Timmy finding out you purchased him a newfangled Cozmo robot before the big reveal — where’s the fun in that?
Unfortunately, neither Windows or MacOS Sierra feature native utilities designed for adding password protection to folders. There are a handful of workaround methods for doing so on both operating systems, however, each of which is relatively easy to understand, quick to implement, and freely available. One requires third-party encryption software and the other a built-in disk utility, but both will render your folders inaccessible to the average user or snoopy passerby. No batch-script tampering or premium folder-lock utilities required. Here’s how to use them.
Adding password protection to folders in Windows
As previously mentioned, most popular versions of Windows are utterly devoid of any folder-specific protections. You might be able to rename, share, optimize inner content, and manually specify who can access a folder, but adding a password requires a third-party archiving utility or some form of compression software. For our purposes, this guide will rely on the ever-so-popular 7-Zip, an open-source zip compression utility that’s readily available for free courtesy of Russian developer Igor Pavlov. You’ll be required to decompress the folder before use, but that’s a small price to pay for password protection.
Step 1: Download, install and launch 7-Zip
Navigate to the 7-Zip download page and select the download link corresponding to your desired version of the archival software. Alternatively, select your desired version of 7-Zip from the table below, or simply download the latest standard executable file. Afterward, when in the installer, select your desired destination folder for the utility and click the Install button in the bottom-right corner of the window. Click the Finish button when done and launch the program.
Step 2: Open the folder in 7-Zip
Once opened, locate the folder you wish to password protect within the main 7-Zip interface. To do so, peruse the resulting folder directly, highlight said folder, and click the green addition sign in the upper-left corner of the application. Alternatively, drag and drop the folder anywhere within the main 7-Zip interface.
Step 3: Adjust settings and set password
Ignoring the bulk of presets in the resulting pop-up window, select zip from the drop-down menu directly beside the Archive Format option to ensure the folder remains compatible on computers without 7-Zip installed. Then, enter and re-enter your desired password for the folder in the text fields located on the right-hand side of the window, directly beneath the Encryption section. Click the OK button when finished and allow the utility to create a compressed, encrypted duplicate of the folder you wish to password protect.
Step 4: Remove the original folder
Once the password-protected folder has been created, delete the original folder so it can no longer be accessed. There’s no need to have two instances of the same data, especially since the original folder will remain unprotected. Test to make sure the resulting file is password-protected before doing so, however. You may still be able to view file and folder names, but extracting the files will require your users to enter your designated password when prompted. Feel free to breathe a sigh of relief.