Nowadays, the computer has a very important place in everybody’s life, as a personal gadget used for a lot of different things. Everything is digital and it is stored on a computer’s hard-disk or on a cloud system, offering you easier access to your favorite data.
Computers have become the place where you hold pictures, documents, favorite music and everything else in the same place. While storing may include regular data, random and even useless information, people may also keep important stuff, such as wedding photos, work documents, projects and others.
Have you ever thought about protecting critical data with a password? Taking into consideration that all information could be vulnerable to hackers or to unauthorized persons, this is a rather obvious procedure. Another reason to encrypt data can appear in case somebody else also uses that computer and you don’t want them to have access to private pictures, videos or documents.
Keeping files protected is important
So, if you have confidential data or just personal photos that you want to be locked with a password on your Windows or Mac computer, you should add an additional layer of protection by following these tactics:
On a Mac
For Mac users, it’s very simple to lock-down confidential data by encrypting a folder without any additional tools. How to do it? Just follow the five steps guide and your private data will be protected.
- Open Disk Utility by going to the Applications Folder and then through Utilities.
- Once inside, go under “File” and select “New”.
- Here, choose “Disk Image From Folder” and browse for the preferred folder which you want to be encrypted.
- After choosing it, click “Image” and a new menu will pop-up with three possible options: to read/write the image, only to read it or to encode it. If you choose only “read”, you will not be able to add other files into that image.
- Choose “Save” and type your password. It is very important to let unchecked the “Remember password in my keychain” option to be sure that other people that use that computer will not be able to open it.
And that’s all! Now you have a password protected .dmg file which you can access with only a double click. The image will be mounted in Finder and after that, you will just have to write down your password to explore the files. When you are done, don’t forget to unmount the encrypted folder to be protected again.
In contrast to Mac operating system, Windows lacks features to encrypt or password protect files. The single possibility to make this happen is by installing third-party applications specialized in the matter. Whether it’s an archiving application or an encryption one, there are some good options to choose from.
The simplest way is to use a free archiving program, such as 7-ZIP or WinRAR which gives options to password protect any zipped files and folders, but the time lost by decompressing and compressing again it may represent a big disadvantage. So, we are going to suggest some other third-party applications that can protect files and folders in a much easier way.
The first suggestion is TrueCrypt, which creates virtual encrypted disks within files and mounts them as real disks. It seems like random binary data for other software when it’s not mounted and it cannot be accessed without the TrueCrypt program and password. Developers have put security on top by implementing a lot of interesting features in TrueCrypt, such as plausibly deniable encryption, on-the-fly encryption/decryption, hidden volume, hardware acceleration and others.
One of the most interesting features is on-the-fly encryption/decryption which basically uses RAM to decrypt files while they are copied or read. Practically, when you want to open a video from your encrypted disk, you double click on it and the media player begins loading a small portion of the video. While the small portion is playing, another one is loaded into RAM to be decrypted so that you will not have to wait until the whole process is finished.
Another interesting feature is the plausibly deniable encryption which may help when you are constrained to tell somebody the password to your TrueCrypt volume. Basically, this application permits you to set two different passwords for two different versions of a volume. Both will decrypt the same volume, but if you enter the first one it will show a dummy set of files while entering the second one will show the real package. This may seem an extreme feature, but for security fans may represent a well-founded reason when they are choosing an application of this type.
All in all, TrueCrypt is free and has lots of interesting options combined with a user-friendly interface.
Hot to use TrueCrypt
For starters, we will create a TrueCrypt container that can encrypt any files moved inside it. In general, the container could also be used for entire partitions or drives.
- Launch the application and from TrueCrypt’s main window, click on the Create Volume button.
- Choose the first option to “Create an encrypted file container”.
- Now pick if you want to create a standard encryption volume which only applies a password on top of files or, go for a hidden container.
- Using the “Select File” button, browse to a desired location where you want to save this container. Assign it a name and then click Save. Pay caution, as selecting an individual file will cause TrueCrypt to erase that file and save a container instead.
- Now that we managed to create a container, move all files that need encryption inside it.
Protected Folder is created by IObit and serves to protect your favorite files and folders by making them inaccessible and completely invisible to others. This application has a simple interface because it has all options and settings placed in plain sight. The program also supports drag and drop features which may come in handy when adding files to your encrypted volume.
For protection measures, this software has three big options when encrypting folders and files: hiding data in every Windows file manager, deny read and deny write access. For example, if you choose to deny write access, nobody will be able to copy, delete and change its name or even to move it to another location.
The program uses Windows Kernel level protection that works even in Safe Mode, which gives a fully secured way to protect files on Windows. Furthermore, every file can be automatically encrypted with just one right click directly from Windows Explorer and without the need of starting the program manually. Another good thing about Protected Folder is that it cannot be uninstalled without a proper password.
A major step back of Protected Folder is the price, $19.99, which may seem a little bit too much for some users. The good thing is that the developers are letting you try it for free and the evaluation is not restricted to a certain period of time, but you will have only 20 tries to use it.
Folder Lock is one of the best options of encryption applications that are on the market. The word simplicity characterizes this application, because its developers tried and succeeded to make it so user-friendly and intuitive that everybody could use it.
Once installed, it will ask for a master password which will be used from now on to access your favorite data. The application has two main features: Encrypt and Lock, which are useful for power users and also for casual ones. While the encryption solution is more secure, the lock solution is quicker, so that all depends of the users and what they really want.
Security is very important for this program so that your personal files will be encrypted with a 256-bit AES Encryption. This algorithm is one of the best solutions used nowadays for protection because it offers maximum security.
Folder Lock also offers portability so that lockers can even be burn on a CD or copied on a USB stick. Lockers can be emailed as attachments and the person who you are sending them will not be able to open them without your password. If you want your files to be untouchable, you can choose the option “Locked & Hidden” which will not allow to rename, delete, move or to access those files without a password.
Two interesting options of this program are Auto Protect and Auto Shutdown. These permits you to set a number of five incorrect password tries until the program will lock or shut down for preventing unauthorized access.
The good thing is that Folder Lock is also available for iPhone and iPad for $3.99 while the Windows application costs $39.95. It’s a big price, but developers have included a free 5-days trial (or 24 opens). Moreover, there’s a dedicated section on the website that shows you how to use the program.
Another application you should take a look at is AxCrypt because it is a free program that offers password protection and strong encryption features. The nice thing of it is that it is integrated with Windows so that when you want to encrypt a file, just right-click and select “Encrypton” under AxCrypt sub-menu.
Also, for AxCrypt the security is very important because it offers a 128-bit AES Encryption which will protect all data and use unique data encryption keys for every file. In addition, when you modify a file or a folder, it will re-encrypt by itself saving a lot of time.