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How to encrypt files in Windows using Encrypting Files System (EFS)

In Windows OS, it offers an inbuilt encryption method which is referred to EFS to protect sensitive data from unwanted users.

Meanwhile, EFS can be used only on hard drives formatted as NTFS and on professional and premium editions of Windows 10, Windows 8.1, Windows 8, Windows Vista or Windows XP.

Home editions of Windows does not support this. 

Steps on how to encrypt files with EFS:

Step 1:

Right click on the file or folder you want to protect and click on Properties at the bottom of the menu.

Step 2:

This will bring up the Properties window. In this window under the General tab, click on Advanced.

Step 3:

In the Advanced attributes window, tick on Encrypt contents to secure data option.

Step 4:

Click OK and Apply.

If the file is encrypted successfully, its name will generally be visible in green font.


Please Note:

For every encrypted files and folders with EFS, it would not interfere how those files and folders are accessed.

You will still be able to read, modify and delete those files as long as you are logged into the user account that encrypted those files.

However, other users from would not be able to do this. For example, if you carry the encrypted file in a flash drive, you would not be able to access it from other computers. To access it from other computers, you will need your encryption key.

Therefore, make sure that you backup your encryption key when Windows prompts you to do so because it will be required in case you want to access the encrypted files from a different user account or from a different computer.

To back up your encryption key, click on the Back up now option in the pop up that comes when you first encrypt a file or folder. Then, click Next on the window titled Certificate Export Wizard. Enter a password for your certificate (make sure it is tough but also easy to remember), choose a location to save it, give it a name and click Finish. 

In case Windows does not prompt you to back up your encryption key, you can back it up from the File Encryption Certificates manager. Since, EFS relies on your user account to give access to protected files, it is important to choose a strong password for your Windows user account.

That’s all.


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