4 Native Ways to Lock Files and Folders on Windows 10
Recently, my boss asked me to lend him my external hard disk (for undisclosed reasons). I felt uncomfortable because it contained personal data that I didn’t want to share. Naturally, I could have explained the situation, but I wanted to avoid appearing rude. Therefore, I turned to Google to find efficient methods for securing files on Windows.
Turns out there is no way to do that without an external app. Fortunately, I had an internet connection so I downloaded a simple app and handed over the drive knowing my personal stuff was safe. But what if you’re stuck without internet access? There is a popular script floating around the internet that makes it look like you’re locking a folder, but it just hides and unhides the folder and is not effective. So today we will see four ways to cleverly hide your stuff natively in Windows without external help (somewhat).
1. Locking a File in Windows
Before we discuss encryption methods, let’s first understand how encryption works in Windows. When you encrypt a file or folder in Windows, you can still access it, transfer it, or mail it, and it will open normally on the receiving end. One might question the use of encryption in this case. However, the encryption key, which is generated when you first encrypt something, is associated with your account and password. So, whenever you log into your account, the encrypted files are decrypted in real-time and become accessible. On the other hand, if someone steals your drive or creates a new account on your PC, they will be unable to open those encrypted files. It’s important to note that encryption is only available for Pro edition users and works exclusively on NTFS partitions. Now, let’s review the basic steps to encrypt files or folders in Windows.
Step 1: Files or folders in Windows can be encrypted if the above conditions are met. Right-click on the file, select “Properties”, click on the “Advanced” button under the “General” tab, and check “Encrypt contents to secure data.”
Click on OK and the filename will turn green or a lock symbol will appear depending on Windows version. You can add other users who can access the file by clicking the Details button and clicking on Add.
Encryption is essential on all platforms, not just Windows. Check out the benefits of encryption on Mac, iOS, and Android.
2. New User Account & File Permissions
If someone wants to use your PC or borrow your laptop, create a new account for them and change the permissions on the files and folders they’re not allowed to view. Here’s how:
Step 1: Go to Control Panel > User Accounts, click on Manage another account > Add someone else to this PC. Make sure the new account you create is not an admin account because admin accounts can override all permissions regardless of files or folders.
Step 2: After setting up the new account, gather all your files and folders into one folder. This simplifies permission management for multiple files. Right-click on the folder, select Properties, and go to the Security tab. Click the edit button to open a new window.
Step 3: In the new window, click the Add… button to add the new user. Another window will open where you enter the account name and then click Check Names.
If the account doesn’t show up, click on “Advanced… > Find Now” to see all accounts on the PC. Select the account and click “OK” to return to the Permissions window.
Step 4: After adding the account, check the “Full Control” box under “Deny” and click “Apply” to save.
If someone tries to access those files, they will receive an Access denied error. To enhance the deception, name your folder something technical like Windows System files or Admin Files, so that it appears to be system-related. You can also reverse this process by setting permissions for the files in the new account, preventing access from the original account. This approach reduces suspicion about the creation of a new account, but remember to be cautious about the Admin account clause mentioned earlier.
3. Zip & Lock Files
This method requires a third-party app, 7-Zip, to work. However, 7-Zip has become the go-to app for managing compressed files on Windows and should be present on every PC. If you have WinRar, it will also work.
Step 1: Pool all your files into a single folder because you can’t add files once the archive is created. Right-click on the folder and select “7-Zip > Add to archive…”
Step 2: A new window will open with options to customize. You can keep the defaults. Under Encryption, enter a password of your choice, which is necessary to open the files. Finally, click “OK” and you’re done.
Note: Archives work in a way that reveals filenames and file types when opened. However, a password is required to open or extract the files. To ensure privacy, add your collection of documentaries to a zip file and then add the zip file to the archive.
Changing File Extension
This method is surprisingly simple and effective, especially when used alongside zip files. It is particularly useful for Home edition users who do not have encryption or Bitlocker on their Windows.
Step 1: Put all your belongings in one folder and create a new zip file, as shown in the screenshot below.
Step 2: Right-click on the zip file and change the extension to something else. Try to avoid popular extensions and give the file a technical name. If you can’t see the .zip extension, enable the setting by going to Control Panel > Folder Options and uncheck the Hide extensions for known file types option. It’s recommended to turn this option back on to further confuse someone.
4. Make a New Partition & Hide it
If you have enough free space on your hard disk, you can create a partition. Then, copy your desired files to the partition and hide it.
Step 1: Create a new partition as instructed.
Step 2: Copy all your files to the partition. Windows Pro users can use Bitlocker or encrypt the contents (if the partition is on an external HDD), while Windows Home users can hide the partition.
Step 3: Access the Control Panel > Administrative Tools > Create and format hard disk partitions > right click on the created partition in Step 1 > select “Change Drive Letter and Paths …” > click on remove in the new window.
A warning will appear; accept it. Your partition will then be invisible in My Computer and other areas of Windows. However, tech-savvy users can still make the partition visible again using the method outlined in the next step. To prevent this, modify the permissions for the partition as explained earlier.
To make the drive visible again, navigate to Control Panel > Administrative Tools > Create and format hard disk partitions > Change Drive Letter and Paths. Click on Add in the new window to assign a letter to the drive.
One method is to create a new partition in Linux formats, such as ext2 or ext3. This requires an external app but is a simple way to hide something. To create an ext3 partition, you can use any major partition manager. The ext3 partition will not be visible in My Computer. To access the files stored on it, you will need an ext3 partition reader. I recommend using this open-source app. Other alternatives can be found through a Google search.
So, Whats Your Method?
The methods mentioned above primarily lock access or hide files without external help. There are various solutions available, both open source and proprietary. If you know of any other methods, please share them with us in the comments section.
As Fred Humiston, the author behind Twothirds.us, I focus on providing practical and easy-to-follow guides and solutions for a variety of technical issues that people commonly face.
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