How to encrypt any file or folder: on Windows, Mac

How to encrypt any file or folder: on Windows, Mac

File encryption can improve the security of your files and folders and make them inaccessible to intruders without a decryption key. Here's a quick guide about encrypting any files, folders, and drives on your Mac or Windows computer.

How to encrypt your files and folders on Mac?

If you have a Mac from late 2017 or later (with a T2 security chip or Apple silicon), then your system drive contents are encrypted by default. However, you can still add an extra layer of protection. Simply enable the FileVault tool to make it harder to get to the information required to decrypt your Mac drive. Here's how to use FileVault:

  • Go to the Apple menu > System Preferences > Privacy & Security > FileVault.
  • Select to turn it on and choose your preferred way of unlocking the system disk (through iCloud, recovery key, etc.)
  • You can also encrypt external drives with a password. Go to Finder, right-click on the drive you want to encrypt, select Encrypt, and pick a password.

Note: If the encryption option is unavailable, you must wipe the drive and reformat it using the Disk Utility tool. Open the tool, click View > Show All Devices > Erase. Give the drive a name, choose the encryption option and pick a password.

How to encrypt your files and folders on Windows?

You can encrypt your files on Windows without any additional software as well. However, there are differences between Windows Pro and Windows Home editions. Windows Pro users have a powerful tool for encryption – BitLocker. If you have a Home version, you can use a more basic alternative – a device encryption tool. To use it, navigate to Settings > Privacy & Security > Device encryption

There you can view if your system drives are successfully encrypted. No one can access them without a decryption key if they are encrypted. You better switch the toggle to On to protect your files if they are not encrypted. 

If you'd like to encrypt your external drives or a USB stick, you can upgrade your Windows to the Pro version and use BitLocker. Otherwise, you can also use a third-party tool. If you have access to BitLocker, right-click on the drive you'd like to encrypt, select Show more options > Turn on BitLocker, and set a password.

What are the third-party encryption tools?

You can use third-party encryption software if none of the above isn't suitable for you. Try VeraCrypt or NordLocker for Mac, Windows, and Linux.

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