Microsoft caters to security conscious users by including several options for protecting data. Most of these options, such as the full-drive encryption BitLocker utility or the individual Encrypting File System feature, are only available in the Professional or Enterprise editions of Windows 8. If you don’t have one of these versions, you’re not out of luck, because Microsoft also includes stout encryption in Word, Excel and PowerPoint in the Office 2010 and 2013 suites.
Encrypting a document, spreadsheet or presentation protects it behind your chosen password. If a user fails to enter this password, the document won’t open, and if someone attempts to use a different program, the data appears as a scrambled, undecipherable mess. Once you successfully enter the password, you can access and edit the document like you normally would. Just be sure you remember the password, because if you forget it, there’s no way to recover your data.
In this article, only Word 2013 screenshots are included. However, encryption works the same in Word, Excel and PowerPoint, so you can follow along regardless of which office product you use. In some cases, the dialogs offer additional options, but the encryption options remain the same.
Adding Encryption Through ‘Protect Document’
1. Click “File” and select “Info” to view information related to the current document.
2. Click “Protect” and select “Encrypt With Password.”
3. Enter a strong password that’s difficult to guess and click “OK.”
4. Enter the same password in the confirmation box and click “OK.”
The document is then encrypted, although you’ll need to save it to keep your changes.
Adding Encryption When Saving
1. Click “File,” select “Save as” and choose a location. If you’re working with a previously saved document, select the entry under “Current Folder.” If you’ve never saved the document, you can simply press “Ctrl-S” to open the Save as window.
2. Choose a save name, click “Tools” and select “General Options.” If you previously saved the document, select the original file, so the unencrypted file gets overwritten by the encrypted version.
3. Enter your preferred password in the “Password to Open” field and click “OK.” You can also enter a separate password in the “Password to Modify” field, so someone could open it with one password but not edit it without the modification password.
4. Reenter the password and click “OK.”
5. Click “Save” to save the encrypted version of the document. If you receive a verification that you want to overwrite the original file, click “Yes.”
The next time you open the file, you’ll need to enter the password to open the document.