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How can you encrypt or decrypt files and folders in Windows 10? The easiest ways

Windows 10 come with a built-in tool to encrypt your files and folders. Here is how you can use it.

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Let’s start by answering the most common question first, what is Encryption? Encryption is a process of converting a piece of information into a form that can’t be read by anyone except one who has the access key. Encryption is commonly used in different instances even though we may not observe it. For instance, the messages sent or received by WhatsApp or Signal app remain encrypted throughout the transfer chain. They remain in their raw format only at the users’ ends. Other examples of data that remain encrypted include cash withdrawal from ATMs and data on cloud storage like AWS and Microsoft Azure. There are plenty of ways to encrypt file in Windows 10, but let’s first understand a few fundamentals.

The types of file encryption methods

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Here are two commonly used encryption techniques:

Encryption using Symmetric Keys

It is the traditional way in which all users decode the data with a single key. The communication is encrypted and decrypted using the same key. As a result, it is critical that you make the password more complex and harder to extract.

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The longer the key, the better the security! The AES 256 algorithm is an unusual example of this type of encryption. The usage of 256 characters gives both complexity and security.

Encryption that is asymmetric

It is a straightforward encryption scheme that employs two mathematically complementary keys known as “Public Key” and “Private Key.” The public key is used for encryption in this manner, and Decryption is performed using the private key. Using the private key, only authenticated recipients can decrypt the message.

This approach encrypts data while also validating the identity of those communicating. This most recent method is slower but more secure.

There are several methods to encrypt your files and folders. Several third-party free and paid applications are available that provide quick and fast methods to encrypt your data. Here, we will use the built-in feature of Windows 10 to encrypt files and folders.

What exactly is an Encrypting File System?

EFS enables you to encrypt already-existing files and folders in your system. EFS stands for an Encryption file system. By following the decryption method, you can still alter these files and directories.

Encrypting files on your computer also helps to protect your data from illegal access. Encrypting File System is a native feature of Microsoft Windows that allows you to encrypt files/folders on your hard drives and portable media.

You can encrypt and decrypt certain files by using the advanced attributes of a file’s properties. EFS features let you create backups of your encryption certificates so that you never lose access to critical files.

How can you encrypt a file or a folder in Windows 10?

To encrypt a file or a folder in Windows 10, follow these steps.

Step 1: Right-click the file or folder that you want to encrypt.

Step 2: In the menu, select Properties.

In the menu, select Properties.
In the menu, select Properties.

Step 3: Click the Advanced button given in the Attributes section. Here you can change the settings for the folder.

Step 4: Under the Compress or Encrypt attributes, check the box that says, “Encrypt contents to secure data”.

Under the Compress or Encrypt attributes, check the box that says, "Encrypt contents to secure data".
Under the Compress or Encrypt attributes, check the box that says, “Encrypt contents to secure data”.

Step 6: Click OK to close the Advanced Attributes window.

Step 7: Click OK in the Properties. You will be prompted with a Confirm Attribute Changes window. Here you can select either of the following options.

    • Apply changes to this folder only
    • Apply changes to this folder, subfolders, and files
Here you can select either of the following options. -encrypt files windows 10
Here you can select either of the following options.
  • Choose the desired option and click OK.
  • You will receive a pop-up notification that asks you to “Back up your file encryption certificate and key”. You may also access the message in your notification area.
  • Insert a USB drive to your PC and click Back up now (recommended). You must back up your encryption key otherwise you may lose access to your encrypted file or folder.
  • Click Next to create a certificate and accept the file format.
  • Set a strong password to secure your file or folder.
  • Click Next and choose your USB.
  • Confirm the password and click Next.
  • Click Finish and keep your USB in a secure place.

How can you decrypt a file or a folder?

To decrypt a file or a folder in Windows 10, follow these steps.

Step 1: Right-click the file or folder that you want to decrypt.

Step 2: In the menu, select Properties.

In the menu, select Properties.- encrypt file windows 10
In the menu, select Properties.windows 10

Step 3: Click the Advanced button given in the Attributes section. Here you can change the settings for the folder.

Step 4: Under the Compress or Encrypt attributes, uncheck the box that says, “Encrypt contents to secure data”.

Under the Compress or Encrypt attributes, uncheck the box that says, "Encrypt contents to secure data".
Under the Compress or Encrypt attributes, uncheck the box that says, “Encrypt contents to secure data”.

This is how you can encrypt files in Windows 10 and as easily decrypt files in Windows 10 as well.

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