How to Password Protect a PDF on Windows

Lock down your PDF files from unauthorized access!

by: - Last updated on: March 12th, 2021
Key Takeaways
  • PDFs let you present documents with text, images, and rich media. But since such documents sometimes contain sensitive information, password-protecting PDFs is necessary.
  • Password-protecting a PDF prevents unauthorized access, unauthorized editing, and unauthorized printing of its contents.
  • On Windows, you can password-protect PDFs using Microsoft Word and Adobe Acrobat. But if you need more control over encryption, there are third-party PDF encryption software.

PDF (Portable Document Format) is the most widely accepted file format for sharing documents, including images, text, and other information. Not just that, it can also contain rich media elements such as video. One of the best things about the PDF format is that you can create and access a (PDF) file on any device — irrespective of its operating system. This makes sharing documents with others convenient and comes in handy, especially in today’s time, when many people work from home. Since now, they can easily share documents over the internet with other people.

Password protect a PDF

However, alongside that convenience, PDFs also accompany a few concerns. These concerns primarily revolve around who can access your PDF file and whether or not they can alter its content or take prints. Fortunately, there is a way to secure a PDF and prevent it from unauthorized access and modification. And that is to password-protect (encrypt) your PDF before you send it across to someone. That way, only the people who have the password to your PDF can access it and edit its content or take a printout of it.

In this guide, we will lead you through the steps on how to password-protect a PDF on Windows. So if you are a Windows user, you can refer to the following methods to keep your sensitive PDF documents, with confidential information or otherwise, protected. However, if you use Mac, we have a guide on how to password-protect a PDF on Mac that you refer, to secure your PDFs.

How to Password Protect PDF on Windows 10

Microsoft Windows, unlike macOS, does not have a native utility that can help you password-protect (encrypt) a PDF document. So you need to use additional software to lock PDFs on Windows. Although there are many PDF protection software options, the ones we will use are the most popular ones, which many users might already be familiar with and have installed on their system.

Method I – Password Protect a PDF using Adobe Acrobat

Adobe Acrobat is a popular software for manipulating PDF files on Mac and Windows computers. It is available for free, and you can install it on your system from here.

Steps:

1. Open Adobe Acrobat and navigate to File > Open. Locate the PDF you want to lock (encrypt) and select Open.

2. Once the PDF is loaded, go to File > Properties.

3. In the Document Properties window, go to the Security tab and click on the dropdown button beside Security Method. And from the available options, choose Password Security.

Password protect a PDF using Adobe Acrobat

IMAGE: Adobe

4. Now, in the Password Security window, check the checkbox next to Require a password to open the document, and enter your password in the Document Open Password input field below it. Additionally, you can also check the checkbox next to Permissions and limit access permissions by setting up the permissions password. This will require a password when someone tries to modify the contents of your PDF.

Password protect a PDF using Adobe Acrobat

IMAGE: Adobe

[Note – You should always use different and strong passwords for accessing and modification of PDFs.]

5. Click OK in the Confirm Document Open Password window. When prompted, enter your password again.

6. Again, click OK on the Document Properties window.

7. Finally, save the PDF to apply changes by going into File > Save.

Method II – Password Protect a PDF using Microsoft Word

If you use Microsoft Word on your Windows computer for writing and editing documents, and you want to password-protect a PDF, you can do it instantly with Word and save yourself a few steps.

Steps:

1. Open Word and go to File > Open. Navigate to the folder that contains your PDF to open it.

2. When prompted with an alert to convert your PDF to an editable Word document, click OK.

3. Next, go to File > Save As and select Browse.

4. In the Save As window, click the dropdown button next to Save as type and select PDF from the options.

5. Give a name to your PDF and click on Options.

6. In the Options window, check the checkbox next to Encrypt the document with a password and click OK.

Password protect a PDF with Microsoft Office

IMAGE: Microsoft Forum (Stefan Blom)

7. Now, enter the password to encrypt your PDF.

8. Finally, hit OK to apply the changes. And on the next screen, select the location to save the PDF and click Save.

Moreover, if you already have a PDF (or a document file you want to convert to PDF), you can open it in Word and encrypt it directly.

Both methods listed above can be used to password-protect (encrypt) a PDF on Windows. However, between the two, the Adobe method offers slightly more advantages over the Word method. For one, it offers you the ability to set a permissions password that prevents anyone with access to PDF opening password to edit the contents of the PDF and take prints. And second, it uses a more secure encryption standard, 256-bit AES as opposed to 128-bit AES on Microsoft Word. Thus, making your PDFs way more secure and less susceptible to being decrypted using PDF decryption tools.

While both Microsoft Word and Adobe Acrobat methods work fine and offer enough security for general use cases, if you need more control over encryption and want to specify every permission explicitly, you need PDF software. Some of the best PDF encryption software for Windows you can use include PDFEncrypt, Wondershare PDFelement, and PDF Suite.

PDFencrypt advanced permission settings

IMAGE: PDFencrypt

Lastly, if you need to remove password protection (decrypt a password-protected PDF file at some time or want to remove its permission password), you can open it in Word or Adobe Acrobat and de-select the encryption option. Or, if you are using any of the third-party PDF modifying software, you can do the same from there as well.

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