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Guide: How to Lock Files/Folders in Windows 10 Natively
Recently my boss asked me to lend him my external hard drive (for reasons that cannot be explained). I felt a little uncomfortable because it had some personal things in it that I didn’t feel comfortable sharing. Of course I had the opportunity to tell the true reason, but I didn’t want to appear rude. So I fired up Google to find some quick ways to lock up the files on Windows.
Lock them, secure them | Shutterstock
Turns out there’s no way to do that without the help of a third-party app. Luckily I had an internet connection so I downloaded a simple app for this and transferred the drive knowing my personal items were safe. But what if you are stuck in a similar situation without access to the Internet? There is a popular script floating around the internet that makes it look like you are locking a folder, but in reality it hides the folder and is not an effective method at all. So today we’ll see four ways you can cleverly hide your stuff natively in Windows without any outside help (somewhat).
1. Lock a file in Windows
Before we move on to the different methods, it is important to understand how encryption works in Windows. If you encrypt a file / folder in Windows, you can easily open, transfer or email it and it will still open on the receiving end. So you may be wondering what the use of encryption is then? The answer is that the encryption key (which is generated when you encrypt something for the first time) is tied to your account, more specifically to your password. So when you log in to your account, all encrypted files will be decrypted on the fly and available in the normal state. But if someone physically steals your drive or creates a new account on your PC, he / she will not be able to access it. There are also some limitations of encryption, it’s just available to users of the Pro edition and only works on the NTFS partitionNow let’s see the basic steps to encrypt a file or folder in Windows.
Step 1: Any file or folder can be encrypted in Windows, provided the above conditions are met. Right-click on the file> Properties> Advanced button on the General tab> check the Encrypt content to secure data.
Step 2: Click OK and the file name will turn green or a lock symbol will appear depending on the Windows version. You can add other users who can access the file by clicking Details button as shown in the screenshot above and by clicking Add.
Cool Tip Encryption isn’t just for Windows, it’s important on all platforms. about coding for Mac, iOS and Android.back to menu ↑
2. New user account and file permissions
If someone wants to use your PC or your laptop you can just create a new account for them and change the permissions on the files and folders that you are not allowed to view. Let’s take a look at the step-by-step process.
Step 1: Go to Control Panel> User Accounts, click Manage Another Account> Add Someone Else to This PC. Make sure the new account you are creating is not an administrator account, otherwise this whole process will be pointless as an administrator account can override all permissions regardless of file or folder.
Step 2: Once you have set up the new account up, pool all your files and folders in a single folder. This makes managing permissions for different files easy. Right-click the folder> Properties> Security tab, click the operation buttonA new window will open.
Step 3: In the new window, click Add … button to add the new user to the list. Another window will open where you need to enter the exact account name and then click Check Names.
If the account is not listed up, click Advanced…> Search Now, which will list all accounts on the PC. Select the account and click OK in both previous windows to return to the permissions window.
Step 4: After adding the account in question, check the Full Control box under the Deny column and finally click Apply to save.
Now if someone tries to access those files, they will get the error Access Denied. For added effect, give your folder a technical name, such as Windows System Files or Admin Files, to make it look like real system files. The above process can also be done in reverse, ie setting the permissions for the files in the new account so that the files cannot be accessed in the original account. This way, someone does not become suspicious of why they are getting a new account to use. But notice the Admin account clause I mentioned earlier.back to menu ↑
3. Zip & Lock files
This method actually requires a third party app, 7-Zip to work. But 7-zip has become the de facto apps for managing compressed files for Windows, it should always be on everyone’s PC. If you have WinRar it will work too.
Step 1: Merge all your files into one folder as you cannot add files after 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 may keep the default as is. Under Encryption, enter the password of your choice, without which anyone can access them. Finally, click OK and you are done.
Note: Due to the way archives work, one can open the archive and see the file names and file type. Only when they try to open or extract the file are they prompted for a password. So if you don’t want your, oh let’s say collection of documentaries to be searched, add them to a zip file first and then add the zip to the archive.back to menu ↑
Change file extension
This method is one of those simple things that you would be surprised not to know before. Used in conjunction with zip files, it will be effective for most users. And this is also one of the few effective methods for this Home edition users because their Windows has no encryption or Bitlocker.
Step 1: As usual, put all your stuff in one folder. Create a new zip file as shown in the screenshot below.
Step 2: Right-click on the zip file and change the .zip extension to something else. Again, try to avoid popular extensions and call the file something technical. If you cannot see the .zip extension, then enable the setting by going to Control Panel> Folder Options> uncheck the Hide extensions for known file types option. It is a good idea to turn this option back ON to confuse someone further.back to menu ↑
4. Create and hide a new partition
If you have enough free space on your hard drive, you can create a free partition and dump and then hide anything you want to lock.
Step 1: Create a new partition by using the guide here or here.
Step 2: Copy all your stuff to the partition. From here, Windows Pro edition users can just use Bitlocker or encrypt the content (if the partition is on an external hard drive) and Windows Home edition users can hide the partition by following the next step.
Step 3: Go to Control Panel> Administrative Tools> Create and format hard drive partitions> right click on the partition you created in step 1> Change drive letter and paths…. In the new window, click on Delete.
It will show a warning, accept it. Now your partition is not visible in My Computer or anywhere in Windows. Of course, a smart user can figure this out and unhide the partition using the method shown in the next step. To prevent this from happening, change the permissions for the partition as described above.
Step 4: To bring the drive back, go to Control Panel> Administrative Tools> Create and format hard drive partitions> Change drive letter and paths… again. In the new window, click Add to assign a letter to the drive.
Another method is to create the new partition in Linux formats (ext2 or ext3). But that requires an external app, but it’s also one of the easiest ways to hide something. To create an ext3 you can use one of the main partition managers available. This ext3 partition will not be visible in My Computer and to read or transfer the files stored on it you will need an ext3 partition reader. I would recommend this excellent open source app. Other alternatives are, of course, just a Google search away.back to menu ↑
So what’s your method?
The above methods are usually for locking access or hiding files without any outside help. When you get out and about, there are tons of solutions available, some open source, some proprietary. If you have other methods, please share with us via comments.
ALSO SEE: How to Protect your Windows 10 PC from unknown threats with Shade Sandboxback to menu ↑
How to Lock Files/Folders in Windows 10 Natively: benefits
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