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Encrypt a Windows folder

Updated: 2017-11-30

Encrypting folders and files is a way to protect them from unwanted access. Encrypting files in a folder protects them if someone should steal your computer, or when you dispose of a hard drive. It is important that preparers consider what happens.

Encrypting File System (EFS) is a feature of Windows that you can use to store information on your hard disk in an encrypted format. Encryption is the strongest protection that Windows provides to help you keep your information secure.

Encrypting a folder on your hard drive

  1. Right-click the folder or file you want to encrypt, and then click Properties.
  2. Click the General tab, and then click Advanced.
  3. Select the Encrypt contents to secure data check box.
  4. Click OK, and then click OK again.

Encrypting a folder in Windows 8

Backing up your Encrypting File System certificate

The first time you encrypt a folder or file, an encryption certificate is automatically created. You should back up your encryption certificate. If your certificate and key are lost or damaged and you don't have a backup, you won't be able to use the files that you have encrypted. 

If you encrypt data on your computer, you need a way to recover that data in case something happens to the encryption key. If your encryption key is lost or damaged and you don't have a way to recover your data, the data is lost. You will also lose data if you store your encryption key on a smart card and the smart card is damaged or lost. 

To make sure you can always access your encrypted data, you should back up your encryption certificate and key. 

To learn how to do this, read this help topic from Microsoft: 
Back up Encrypting File System (EFS) certificate

If more than one person uses your computer, or if you use a smart card to encrypt files, you should also create a file recovery certificate. 

For more information, see the help topic from Microsoft:
Create a recovery certificate for encrypted files.

Removing encryption from a folder on your hard drive

  1. Right-click the folder or file you want to decrypt, and then click Properties.
  2. Click the General tab, and then click Advanced.
  3. Clear the Encrypt contents to secure data check box.
  4. Click OK, and then click OK again.