Password Protection for Windows XP

Category: Security , Windows

How can I password protect a file on my Windows XP system? I want to add a password so that nobody can open the file without knowing the password. I tried the Sharing and Security option, but there was no place to enter a password. There must be a way...

password protection for files and folders

How to Password Protect Files in Windows

It's too bad there is no obvious method to add a password to a file on a Windows XP system. But there are several ways to get the job done, with varying levels of inconvenience. Let's look at a few ways to do password protection:

If you have Microsoft Office, you can protect your documents with a password. To do so, first open the document. In Office 2007, click the Office button, move the cursor down to Prepare, then click Encrypt Document. (In older Office versions: Click Tools, then Protect Document.) Now enter a password in the dialog box and press OK. Re-enter the password and press OK again. The next time you try to open the document, you will be prompted for this password.

So what if you don't have MS Office, or you want to protect something that's not an Office document? There are hidden files in Windows, but anyone with a mouse and a few brain cells to rub together can easily find hidden files.

Password Protection Via Compressed Files

password protecting a file in a compressed folder There is another way to add password protection to any file on a Windows XP system. It involves using compressed (zipped) folders, and it a little clunky, but it works for all files, not just Office documents.

password protecting a file in a compressed folder To begin, open Windows Explorer and navigate to the file you want to protect. Right-click on the file, select Send To, then select Compressed (zipped) Folder. A new folder will be created, with an icon showing a zipper on a file. Double-click to open the zipped folder, click File, then Add a Password. Enter the password twice and press OK. You're done, except that you now have the original file, and the zipped file with password. So delete the original file. From now on, when you open the zipped folder, Windows will prompt you for the password.

password protecting a file in a compressed folderI should mention that you can generalize this process a bit, by first creating a zipped folder with a password, then adding a whole bunch of files to it. This way, you can have one password protected folder for all your sensitive files, instead of creating a zipped folder for each file. To do so, right-click in the empty space on the desktop (or in any open folder), select New, and then click Compressed (zipped) Folder. Enter a name for the compressed folder, press ENTER, and you'll see a new folder icon marked with a zipper. Add a password like we did above. Now you can use drag and drop to move one or many files to the password protected folder.

Password Protection and Windows XP Pro

If you have Windows XP Professional, there is another option to turn on passwords for shared folders. It involves disabling the "Simple File Sharing" option (the default in XP) and then creating additional user accounts on your computer, which can be authorized to access certain shared folders with a password. It's ugly, arcane, and it doesn't really do what we want to do (add a password to a single file), so I'm not going to go into detail on this. If you're motivated and a tad geeky, you can read this additional information on password protecting a folder in XP Pro.

There are some programs available that claim to add password protection to Windows XP files and folders, but I have not tried any of them. If you have, post a comment below...

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Most recent comments on "Password Protection for Windows XP"

Posted by:

30 May 2008

ya there is one s\w that i tried named the folder lock or the folder's really effective.

EDITOR'S NOTE: My problem with folder locking tools is that you might think individuals files are protected when they're not. If you email a file from a "locked" folder to someone, that file can be opened without a password.

Posted by:

05 Jun 2008

This did not work for me. My .zip "File" contains no option for adding a password. There is such an option under "Add", but even after entering the password twice, I was still able to open both the .zip file and the document without ever being prompted for a password. I have WinZip 8.0 (3105) - Windows XP, SP2.

EDITOR'S NOTE: That perhaps because you have WinZip installed, which overrides the built-in Windows "Compressed (zipped) Folder" function. In Winzip, I found that using the "Encrypt" option does prompt for a password.

Posted by:

22 Nov 2008

hello i have forgotten my password on start up program is Xp can you help me?

EDITOR'S NOTE: This should help:

Posted by:

25 Nov 2008

hi, can we break password of compressed folder by any technique?

EDITOR'S NOTE: There are "password cracker" programs you can try, I'm not sure how well they work. Typically these programs use a brute force guesswork approach, sometimes with hints from the person who forgot the password.

Posted by:

01 Jan 2009

I'm trying to password protect large files in a compressed folder unsuccessfully.

A 461MB file works, as does a 622MB file, but a 809MB file does not. When the compressed folder is opened, and the "File, Add Password" command is envoked, nothing happens... You do not get the normal Message Box that says that XP is adding a password to a file. Has anyone else had success with password protecting large files?

EDITOR'S NOTE: Sounds like the software may be failing due to a lack of memory. I don't know if adding RAM will help, but you could try.

Posted by:

Bob Harrell
03 Feb 2009

I can not make this work. When I click "send to" I get a message about winzip not being associated? I do not get a zipped folder. What am I doing wrong?

EDITOR'S NOTE: WinZip overrides the built-in Windows "Compressed (zipped) Folder" option. Try creating the zip file with the Winzip interface. It's also possible that you'll need to remove and re-install Winzip, if the file association problem persists.

Posted by:

Bob Harrell
03 Feb 2009

It works fine if I uninstall winzip. I do not know how to create the zip file within the winzip interface as you suggest

Posted by:

david sudhar singh.c
13 Aug 2009

dear sir,

How will be the password protection in drive,folder and files. give me the details


Posted by:

18 Nov 2009

I have downloaded windows password key 8.0. It is a very quick and useful utility for resetting passwords. It not only supports XP, 2000, and NT, I have personally tested it with Vista Home Premium and Ultimate. It works perfectly to reset any local user account to a blank password.
Just an easy to use bootable CD/DVD . It can also be used on a USB Flash Drive.

Posted by:

09 Dec 2009

We had an excel file at work that was password protected. I downloaded an Office unlocker program and I got the password in seconds. Use TrueCrypt if you really want protection. It's free. Of course, if the file had been locked with Truecrypt, we would never have been able to recover it LOL.

Posted by:

12 Jan 2010

how to recover windows password? I puzzled it also before. but i found Advanced Windows Password Recovery 3.0. It is a professional utility

to recover windows password. With no data loss and no reinstall. importantly, 100% recovery rate guarantee!

Posted by:

Linky Wu
29 Jan 2010

here's a way to reset Administrator password and it doesn’t involve reformatting and reinstalling Windows. The solution is called Windows Password Reset 7.0. It can reset almost all Windows passwords in seconds. It is a great windows password recovery tool: resetwindowspassword .com - You can log in again just in one second. It also support windows 7 password reset.

EDITOR'S NOTE: My gut tells me this is a product plug, and not an honest third-party recommendation. I also found some negative feedback on this product -- proceed with caution.

Posted by:

13 Apr 2010

Thanks for the great info on this but what about SHARED folders over a wireless network? I have a Home network: (desktop XP upstairs & Laptop Vista downstairs). My Sony Cam doesn't work on Vista so I must SHARE pix through WAP2/FIOS network. I'm still paranoid so I thought I would put a password on it. Did as you said, zipped it, password, then I placed it in a SHARED file. It was the only way, you can't just move the zip folder to a network group or right click to set up Share. You can't SHARE beforehand cause zipping will cancel sharing out. So I did see the files downstairs on my Laptop, I put in password, but then got ERRORS: photo gallery can't open, try update, or file corrupted, even with word, excel,pdf files I got: can't access files, may not have permission. The Comp never told me exactly what was the problem, it just suggested!? I made sure the files BEFORE zip/password were totally accessible to everyone & not locked if the file had that feature when you R-click. Is placing a password on a shared file network drive possible? Thanks for any help BOB or anyone else, and hope you get the email I posted on this.

Posted by:

05 Nov 2010

Last week my parents changed my password, which was really annoying. I tried to get it back. My computer is Win XP and at first I tried the ctrl+alt+del+del thing but it said it can’t do it because of ‘account restrictions’. Then I went for help in a forum and they told me to download the software Password Genius. It’s quite easy and I recovered my password at last.

Posted by:

bruce cameron
04 Mar 2011

I am really upset that I cannot make a password for a file on my windows xp system. the "sharing" tab is not there or if I want to "encrypt contents to secure data" it's blanked out so what do you do.It's ridiculous to do all that other stuff to try and do something that should be simple to do. I am really NOT impressed Microsoft, shame on you Bill.

Bruce Cameron

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Article information: AskBobRankin -- Password Protection for Windows XP (Posted: 22 May 2008)
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