Skip to main content

How to Password Protect Folders and Files in Windows 11 or 10

How to Password Protect Files and Folders in Windows 11
(Image credit: Tom's Hardware)

Windows 11 and Windows 10 both have solid built-in encryption, particularly if you use Bitlocker. However, encrypting your drive only protects against those who can't log in to your account on your PC. What about those that do? 

Let's say, for example, you have a family PC in the living room and  you leave it unlocked quite a bit. In an ideal situation, each family member would have their own account but maybe you don't do it that way. Or perhaps you have a pretty secure account that only you use, but you want to password protect a folder in order to get an added layer of protection.

There are several ways to lock down particular folders or even individual files. The cheapest and easiest of these we've found to password protect folders in Windows 11 / 10 is using Easy File Locker, a freeware app that gives you fine-grain control over what you protect. Here's how.

How to Password Protect Folders in Windows 11 / 10

1. Download, install and run Easy File Locker.

2. Select Set Password from the System menu.

Set Password in Easy File Lock

(Image credit: Tom's Hardware)

3. Enter a password and click Ok. Try to make it a secure one.

Enter password

(Image credit: Tom's Hardware)

4. Select "Add Folder" from the Files & Folders menu. If you just want to do this to an individual file, you can use "Add File" instead.

Add Folder

(Image credit: Tom's Hardware)

5. Choose your folder or file by clicking the "..." button to the right of the Path field.

Select File or Folder

(Image credit: Tom's Hardware)

6. Uncheck "Accessible." It will also uncheck Writable and Deletable. Somewhat counter-intuitively, these settings refer to how the folder / file behaves when it is locked. Therefore, if you don't uncheck these options, anyone will be able to read, write or even delete the files, even when they are locked.

Uncheck Accessible

(Image credit: Tom's Hardware)

7. Toggle Visible to on, if you want the file / folder's icon to be seen when locked. If Visible is off,  you won't even see the folder or file in Windows Explorer. It will be hidden. We recommend allowing it to be visible, just so you know where it is. Your settings would look like the image below. Either way, click Ok.

Toggle visible

(Image credit: Tom's Hardware)

8. Repeat steps 4 through 7 for any additional folders or files you want to password protect. You will see a list of all locked items in Easy File Locker. 

Easy File Locker list of locked content

(Image credit: Tom's Hardware)

At this point, you can close Easy File Locker and your files and folders will be locked, even from you. If you try to open one of your folders, assuming that you set it to remain visible, you will get a message saying that "Access is denied."

Access is denied message for locked folder

(Image credit: Tom's Hardware)

Unlocking Folders and Files in Windows 11 or 10

If you need to access the contents of a locked folder or file, you will need to temporarily disable the lock. Here's how.

1. Launch Easy File Locker. You will get a password prompt upon launch.

2. Enter your password.

Enter a password for Easy File Locker

(Image credit: Tom's Hardware)

3. Hit the stop button in the toolbar. This will immediately unlock all of your files and folders. 

Click the stop button

(Image credit: Tom's Hardware)

4. Click the Play button to turn the lock back on when you are finished editing / viewing your files.

Click the play button

(Image credit: Tom's Hardware)

You will have to follow this procedure every time you wish to view, edit, write to or delete the folders you've password protected in Windows 11 or 10.

Avram Piltch
Avram Piltch is Tom's Hardware's editor-in-chief. When he's not playing with the latest gadgets at work or putting on VR helmets at trade shows, you'll find him rooting his phone, taking apart his PC or coding plugins. With his technical knowledge and passion for testing, Avram developed many real-world benchmarks, including our laptop battery test.