‘There are two types of encryption:

one that will prevent your sister from reading your diary

and one that will prevent your government’

Bruce Schneier

We believe you know too well how easily your personal information becomes a coveted target for someone with malicious intent. If you neglect to secure your important files and folders against unauthorized access, they will most likely become easy prey for those who have something against you or professional criminals who make their profits from selling their victims’ sensitive data on the black market. That is why it is really important to exercise some prudence and make sure nobody can access what is meant to remain secret.

If you have your own reasons to keep prying eyes at bay, data encryption is certainly the technology that might save you a lot of sweat and tears: by encrypting your files and folders, you can rest easy knowing that only you can see the things that you wish to stay hidden. The good thing about data encryption in Windows 10 is that it is quite an easy procedure to carry out. We will walk you through all the steps you have to perform in order to protect your documents and directories.

How to encrypt sensitive data in Windows 10 with Encrypting File System?

If How do I encrypt a document in Windows 10? and How to encrypt a certain folder on Windows? are the questions that have brought you here, then you are lucky: we know exactly what to do to encrypt files in Windows 10. The only proviso is, you have to be a Win 10 Pro, Enterprise, or Education user to be able to use the method we are going to describe below.

Encrypting File System (EFS) is a simple and efficient tool to encrypt your data in Win 10. EFS allows you to encrypt individual files and folders on your computer for them to remain inaccessible for other users.

That said, before you proceed with this method, we strongly advise you to consider the following:

  1. The files that have been encrypted with EFS are not 100% safe. They can be accessed by professional hackers or just tech-savvy people. The point is, Windows puts an unencrypted version of your encrypted file in its temporary memory, where it can be obtained by a person other than the user who encrypted it.
  2. A file encrypted with EPS gets decrypted when migrated to a Fat 32 or exFAT drive or sent via email or through a network. So, keep in mind that a criminal may try to move such a file on the sly in order to break its encryption.
  3. Make sure to back up the data you wish to encrypt in case things go south. For example, you may lose your encryption key. Besides, the encryption can go wrong and make the item totally inaccessible.
  4. It is important to properly keep your encryption keys. Do not store them in plain text – otherwise, accessing them is a piece of cake for anyone good at data stealing.
  5. Keep your PC protected from malware. A lot of users have fallen victim to keyloggers – these are powerful surveillance tools that make a formidable weapon in the hands of hackers. Keyloggers are designed to track your keystrokes, and cunning criminals therefore use them to steal away your keys, passwords and other sensitive data. Hackers utilize malware as a means to install keyloggers on your computer without you being aware of that. Now you see why you need a powerful anti-malware tool on duty 24/7 – even the best encryption technology will turn out worthless if a malicious intruder finds its way into your system. To keep your PC safe and secure, we strongly advise using Auslogics Anti-Malware. This mighty yet easy-to-use product is an accomplished malware killer: it detects and eliminates even the most sophisticated and formidable threats.

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Below you will find 2 ways to encrypt your data with EFS on Windows 10:

Encrypt a certain file or folder with EFS (via Advanced Attributes)

  1. Locate the folder (or file) you wish to encrypt.
  2. Right-click on it and select Properties.
  3. Navigate to the General tab and click Advanced.
  4. Move down to Compress and encrypt attributes.
  5. Check the box next to Encrypt content to secure data.
  6. Click OK and Apply to save the changes.
  7. If the item you are encrypting is a folder, choose between “Apply change to this folder only” and “Apply changes to this folder, subfolders and files”.
  8. Apply and save your changes.

Now only those who are signed in with your user account can access the folder or file you have just encrypted.

We also recommend you to back up your encryption key (this backup will prove extremely helpful if you lose the key in question):

  1. After encrypting your file or folder, you will see the Back up your encryption certificate and key pop-up window. Select the Back up now (recommended) option.
  2. Click Next to proceed.
  3. Agree to create your certificate by clicking Next.
  4. Accept the file format you are offered by default and click Next to continue with the backup process.
  5. Check the box next to Password.
  6. Enter and confirm your password. Then click Next.
  7. Name and save your backup.
  8. Complete the backup process.

If you wish to decrypt a file or folder encrypted with EFS, follow the instructions you used for the encryption process, but this time uncheck Encrypt contents to secure data.

Encrypt your file or folder with EFS, using Command Prompt

Another way to encrypt your data with EFS is by using the Command Prompt utility. Here are the steps you should follow:

  1. Open Search and type cmd. Press Enter.
  2. Right-click on the Command Prompt option and choose to run it as an administrator.

Here is how to encrypt a certain folder on Windows 10:

  1. If you want to apply changes to a certain folder, copy and paste the following into the Command Prompt window: cipher /e “here type the actual path of the folder you would like to encrypt”.
  2. If you want to apply encryption to a certain folder and all the files and subfolders it contains, here is the command you should use: cipher /e /s:”type the full path of the folder that is going to be encrypted”.
  3. Remember to press Enter after inputting one of the commands above.
  4. Close Command Prompt once you are done.

This is how to encrypt files in Windows 10:

  1. Open an elevated Command Prompt window on your computer (scroll up to see how).
  2. Type the following: cipher /e “here input the full path of the file you want to encrypt”.
  3. Press Enter. Wait for the encryption process to finish and exit the Command Prompt window.

Encrypt your files with Microsoft Office

Office documents often contain important data that you may wish to store securely on your computer. So, if you want to encrypt a Microsoft Office file, here is how you can do that:

  1. Open the file you would like to encrypt with an appropriate Office app.
  2. Go to File and click Protect Document.
  3. Select Encrypt with password.
  4. Input your password and press Enter to proceed.
  5. Then re-enter your password.
  6. Click OK.

Now you know how to encrypt files and folders in Windows 10. If you have any questions regarding the topic of this article, do not hesitate to post a comment below.