Windows is admittedly popular and unexceptionally easy to use. However, you might also be aware that it is one of the most vulnerable OS available. According to various reports, almost 83% of malware attacks Windows users, and a malware attack means facing data leaks and losing valuable information in case of no backups. Amidst this, encrypting your files and folder in Windows is a smart move.
- What is Data Encryption?
- Why Do We Need to Encrypt Files and Folders?
- Encryption Methods in windows 10
- How to Decrypt The Files
- Accessing the encrypted files on your new computer
- Third-Party Encryption Software for Windows
- Final Words
What is Data Encryption?
In layman's terms, data encryption is converting information into an indecipherable form. The process of data encryption involves converting the files, folders, and sensitive data to ciphertext format to encrypt and using an encryption key to decrypt the file. These encryption keys can be 128-bit to 256-bit long, making ciphertext more complex and impossible to decrypt without a key.
Why Do We Need to Encrypt Files and Folders?
Files and folders contain personal data, pictures, documents, video files, and lots more things you always want to keep. But what if something happened with your laptop or system, and you would have to leave the computer to some tech guy? Would you leave your data along with it? Sometimes you have to leave the drive as well for diagnostics.
Even if it's deleted, all your data can be recovered and used against you. Your identity can be stolen as well. Encrypting your files and folder before moving them or keeping them is always recommended. Whether using a USB to transfer the files or attaching someone through email, you must encrypt it.
I hope you get the necessity of encrypting your data. Let's move on to methods and processes you need to follow; it's free and 100% safe. No! Third-party intervention is required.
Encryption Methods in windows 10
Windows thankfully offers built-in features which you use to encrypt files and folders. But in case you don't want to rely on Windows features alone, there are several third-party apps that you can use for encryption.
- Windows 10 built-in encryption option EFS (not available in Windows 10 Home)
- Using BitLocker (comes with many windows versions, except home)
- Using a secure third-party application
Windows 10 built-in encryption Option
- Right click on your file or folder and select the “properties” option.
- Clicking on “Properties” will present the following box where you have to click “Advanced” at the lower right corner.
- Once you have landed on the “Advanced Attributes” window, scan through the options and carefully check the “Encrypt contents to secure data” option and then hit ok.
- Here you have a diversity of options. You can either choose to encrypt all folders and files or you can only encrypt a specific folder. It is better to choose the recommended option apparent in the screenshot below since it offers more security. Once done with that hit ok
- After that step, be patient for some time and your file will be encrypted as indicated by the large golden lock.
Backup your encryption certificate to a USB drive
Your encryption certificate contains your encryption key, and it is smart to back up your encryption certificate in a USB drive so you don't lose it. Once your file encryption is completed, you will get a notification asking if you want to backup your encryption keys in a certificate. You can either click there as well to open it, or you can backup in the following way:
- Right click on your encrypted file or folder and click on properties
- Once you come across the following window click on the box labeled “Advanced”
- Once you get a pop-up window like the one below, click on the button labeled “Details”
- After that, click on the username and hit the backup keys
- Hit next
- Again hit next
- Not that is the important part, set a password on your certificate as well; this will help gain more security.
- Now hit browse, name the file, save it in a USB flash drive
How to Decrypt The Files
Decrypting the file is almost the same process as encrypting, that is, through the following steps:
- Right-click, click on properties, and go to advanced
- Click Advanced, and uncheck the encrypt option.
Accessing the encrypted files on your new computer
You might upgrade to a new computer at some point, and transferring encrypted adat might seem like a hassle. But remember that encryption certificate we exported in a flash drive? It will be of use to you now.
Since a new computer system is foreign to your encrypted files, you won't be able to access them and will come across the following message even when you try.
- Type the certificate in the windows search bar, and open user certificates
- Now go to personal and right-click on certificates, hover over all tasks, and hit import
- Hit Next
- Now locate your encryption certificate and open it, and you are done
- After this, you can access your encrypted files on your new computer.
Third-Party Encryption Software for Windows
There are several compatible encryption software for Windows that you can use to encrypt your files and folders. Some of the most reliable ones are as follows:
- CryptoExpert is a desktop software offering secure data vaults for data storage and backups for large files. It uses Blowfish, Cast, 3DES, and AES 256 encryption algorithms for encryption.
- VeraCrypt: Offer industry-standard AES encryption; this software adds encrypted passwords to your files. It is open-source and so far immune to brute-force attacks.
- DiskCryptor: An open-source software, it secures internal and external drives, system partitions, ISO images, and even USB flash drives. It is a full-disk encryption tool that provides encryption through AES, Twofish, and Serpent encryption algorithms.
- 7-Zip: This tool allows target file encryption instead of full-disk encryption. It is free and open-source and uses the secure AES-256 bit encryption algorithm.
- AxCrypt: It is an open-source file encryption tool that uses AES encryption to encrypt specific files or a group of files altogether. It allows auto-decryption after a particular period.
Although most of these third-party tools are somewhat reliable, it's up to you if you want to stray from this list and choose any other software. However, be sure to do your research before opting for any third-party tool.
Encryption is, so far, one of the most secure forms of storing your data. Since windows are specifically known to be vulnerable to hack attacks and malware attacks, it is best to ensure security and privacy through reliable encryption.