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Password Protect Your Folders
We all have secrets and sensitive information, which are best kept safe from prying eyes. When you keep such information on your computer, you may want to learn how to password protect folders in Windows 7, Vista, or XP.
Password protecting folders in Windows operating systems is possible, although it's not a necessarily a straightforward process. The right course of action depends on various aspects that will be analyzed in this article.
Quick answer: "You can't natively password protect folders in Windows 7, Vista, XP. This operating system relies on password protection at the user level, rather than on individual folders."
You can, however, password-protect specific folders indirectly; or you can use one of the following two workarounds to make sure your information remains unavailable to anyone who doesn't know the password.
Indirect method of password protecting folders in Windows 7, Vista, XP.
To ensure you're the only one who can access the contents of a folder, you can't just choose a folder at random and set a password. This isn't a native option in Windows (although it can be achieved with third-party software – we'll get there towards the end of this article).
However, you can protect any folders that are stored inside your "My Documents" folder, so they can only be accessed from your user profile. As long as your user profile is password-protected itself, no one will have a chance to pry into your secure files.
To use this method, first you should make sure that your user profile is password-protected. If not, just go to Control Panel » User Profile and make the necessary adjustments.
After making sure your user profile is password-protected, you have to keep all the sensitive data in a folder inside your "My Documents" folder. Then, you just have to right-click on the folder you want to protect, and choose "sharing and safety" and tick the box "make this folder private". That's it!
Just remember this method only works for folders inside your "My Documents", and to ensure your folder is indeed safe, you should log out from your user profile when you're away from the computer.
Workaround 1: Keep files you want to protect in a compressed folder.
Even though Windows doesn't allow setting a password to protect a specific folder (it relies on a different authentication method, via user profiles), it does allow setting a password for a compressed folder.
A compressed folder is kind of like a storage box, where you can put other files and folders. As a bonus, the files in the compressed folder will actually take up less room on your hard drive (hence the name).
You can keep compressed folders stored anywhere you like on your computer, and as long as you've set a password when creating the compressed folder, you'll be the only one who can access its contents.
To create a compressed folder, just select any files and folders on your hard drive, right-click your selection, and choose the option "send to » compressed folder".
Once the compressed folder is created, you just have to open it (double-click). Once you're inside, open the "File" menu and choose "Add a password". That's it! Just make sure to remember the password, because if you lose it you won't be able to get access to those protected files and folders.v
Workaround 2: Protecting folders in Windows 7, Vista, XP with third-party software
If you want a simple and elegant way of protecting folders anywhere on your hard drive, you can use third-party software. Most of these programs aren't free, but there's usually a trial version available that you can use to determine whether a program is right for you.
There are various such programs, and some of the most popular ones which you may want to consider, include:
Folderlock: This is one of the most comprehensive and full-featured applications available for folder protection. It's fast, easy to use, and includes advanced encryption to make sure no one can possibly access your private files and folders. It works great in Vista and Windows 7, and it's regularly updated with new, useful features.
Folder Password Expert: This application is a bit older and doesn't feature as many options as the newer folder protection programs, but many people still rely on it to keep files and folders secure under XP. Some users have reported it doesn't work properly with Vista or Windows 7.
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