How to Encrypt and Password-Protect Microsoft Office Files

Microsoft Office files icons

Documents, sheets, and slideshows created by the Microsoft Office suite are, by default, editable and readable by anyone having access to the file. If the file consists of sensitive or private data, keeping them in their default state is dangerous. One solution is to wrap them in a password-protected archive. But, there's a better option. Microsoft Office provides a native way to encrypt and password-protect its files. That's what we're going to learn about in this guide. It's simple and easy to implement. If you're using a very old version of Office, the methods mentioned below may not work. So, let's get started.

Microsoft Office files icons

Make sure you remember the password you're typing to lock the Microsoft Office file. If you forgot it, you will lose access to the file contents—forever. I generally use a predefined password pattern for the same.

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If you're sharing such a file with a remote user, make sure to encrypt the password itself before sending it to the user. Let's learn how to effectively safeguard our sensitive data stored in Microsoft Office files.

For demo purposes, we'll use a Microsoft Word file, though the process is the same for every other office application. Let's assume our document is ready to be saved. Here's how to go about the entire process.

Option to encrypt and password-protect an office file

The easiest way to do this is to go to the File → Info → Protect Document option. From the dropdown menu, choose the Encrypt with Password option to kick start the process.

Provide password for the office file

Now, type in the password you want to use to encrypt and protect the file. Make sure you remember this password. If you lost it, you won't be able to open the file under any circumstances.

Password protecting option

Once password-protected, the color of the option—we used—changes, and a message about its protected status is displayed, as shown above.

Prompt to enter a password

Any attempt to open such a password-protected file will result in a dialogue box asking for the password. If a wrong password is provided, access to the file content is denied.

General options to save an office file

There's another way to password-protect Microsoft Office files. Go to the File → Save As option and select the folder (path) where you want to save the file.

Thereafter, select the Tools → General Options... feature from the file saving dialogue box. It'll open another dialogue box as shown in the image below.

Passwords to open and modify a file

And, now you have two different password options. One to open the file and the other one to get the modification privilege. I prefer this approach as it gives me granular control over the document's protection.

Password to get modification rights for a file

Opening this file will first prompt you to enter a password, and then a prompt will appear to enter the password to get the modification rights. If you leave it blank, the file opens in read-only mode.

Both approaches work well. Use the first one if you don't bother about the file editing rights. The second one is more suitable for situations where you want to impose an additional check for file modification rights.