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How to Password Protect Compressed (Zipped) Files & Folders in Windows

written by: •edited by: Bill Bunter•updated: 5/6/2010

With Windows XP, protecting your zipped files and folders with a password is simple. Doing so with Windows Vista requires a little more work and the use of additional software. Learn how to do both in this Computer Security article, along with some helpful tips and advice.

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    How to Password Protect Zipped Files with Windows XP

    To protect your compressed (zipped) files and folders with a password in Windows XP, follow these steps:

    Step 1: Double-click the compressed folder you’d like to protect with a password (right-clicking the compressed folder and then selecting Explore will have the same results).

    Step 2: From the File menu, select Add a Password.

    Step 3: Insert the password you wish to use, and then retype it in the Confirm Password box.

    Step 4: Click OK and you’re done!

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    Additional Tips & Advice:

    • In addition to being prompted for your password when the protected compressed files are opened, you will also need to enter the password if you try to move the files to a different location on your computer.
    • Once you’ve created a password for a zipped file, if lost, you cannot recover it! If you forget your password, you will not easily be able to retrieve it. Though I do not support or oppose any of the following recommendations, this website suggests some programs that can help recover lost or forgotten passwords.
    • Empty compressed folders are unable to be password protected.
    • To disable the need for a password, simply follow the steps mentioned above, but instead of selecting Add a Password, choose Remove Password.

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    How to Password Protect Compressed Files with Windows Vista

    Vista does not have a password protect feature for zipped folders, so though it’s quite simple to create a password for compressed files in Windows XP, doing so in Windows Vista requires a little more effort.

    To create compressed folders that are only accessible with a password, you will need to install a third-party ZIP program, such as WinZip or 7-Zip.

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    Additional Tips & Advice:

    If you don’t want to purchase or install a third-party program, there are some alternative steps you can take to ensure your files and folders are protected.

    1. Hide the file or folder. This is probably the least effective method. Though your files may be visibly hidden, it is quite easy to change the computer settings to “show hidden files”.

    2. Create a User Account password. Doing so will prevent anyone who doesn’t know the password from accessing your account.

    3. Encrypt the compressed file or folder. Encrypting your files will prevent any other users from being able to view your files or folders. Keep in mind that when a compressed file is encrypted, unzipping the folder will result in the data becoming decrypted.