It would be great to see Microsoft release a Windows version which allows users to password-protect specific folders that contain sensitive data. However, until that happens, if you want to protect your folders, you must use software created by other companies. Although there are many such apps, most of them are not friendly to use, and some are dodgy. We did some research and tested more than 20 programs that specialize in protecting folders, including security suites that include such protection tools. If you want to protect your folders using a password, read this article and see which are the best tools for the job:
1. LocK-A-FoLdeR (Free)
LocK-A-FoLdeR is the perfect solution for absolute beginners. It uses a single master password, it has a minimal user interface, and it does not offer any settings that you can fiddle with.
Once you have selected the folders that you want to protect, all you have to do next is close the application. Instead of using encryption, this program hides the folders from any user who might try to access them. To restore access to your protected folders you have to reopen the program and use the unlock button. A good thing about LocK-A-FoLdeR is the fact that, to keep your folders private, it does not require any services to run. It is both easy to use and free.
2. Folder Guard (Commercial)
Folder Guard is one of the best programs we have tested. It has many features, and all of them work well. You can protect files and folders using individual passwords, or you can choose to lock and hide them. The interface looks good; it is well structured and easy to use. You can drag and drop the folders that you want to protect, or you can use the tree view to select them. A nice feature is that it allows you to create filters for different kinds of files so that they are automatically protected. Also, you can choose to selectively assign access permissions for the user accounts that are registered on your Windows computer.
This program has a trial version that works for 30 days. The full version costs about $40 and gives you the option to upgrade to any new version during the first year of use. Also, it can be used on 2 computers. After the first year, if you want to upgrade to newer versions, you have to pay for a new license.
Download: Folder Guard.
3. Folder Protector (Free & Commercial)
This program uses encryption to protect your folders. All you have to do is launch it, select the folder you want to lock, choose a password and press Protect. The folder is encrypted, and the only thing that is left inside it is a small executable that you can use to unlock it. You can also use the program itself to unlock the folders that you protected.
This program works for free with few limitations. You can set it to use 256-bit encryption only if you purchase the Pro version which costs $24.95.
Download: Kakasoft Folder Protector.
4. Folder Lock Lite (Commercial)
Folder Lock Lite is a well-structured program that lets you protect your folders, files, and even entire drives. When you run this program for the first time, it asks you to enter a master password. This password is used for every folder and file you choose to lock. Then, you can drag and drop the items you want to be protected, to the user interface. All the folders you chose to protect are immediately locked, and they are also hidden. Nobody can get access to them unless they know the master password that you have set.
The trial version allows you to use this program for 30 days. If you want to continue using it after that, you have to buy it for approximately $25.
Download: Folder Lock Lite.
5. Protected Folder (Commercial)
This program is easy to use and has a nice and clean user interface. It uses a single master password for all the folders that you choose to protect. To add the folders that you want to be protected, use the Add button and then select them. You can also drag and drop those folders onto the app's user interface.
Protected Folder offers several customization options, including how you want it to deny access to your protected folders for the users that do not have the master password. Another thing worth mentioning is that you cannot uninstall this program without first providing the master password. After it is uninstalled, all your locked folders are automatically unlocked, thus eliminating the risk of losing your data.
You can start and use this program for free, 20 times without any limitations. After that, if you want to keep using it, you have to pay about $20 per year.
Download: Protected Folder.
6. Bitdefender Total Security (Commercial)
Bitdefender is one of the most renowned antivirus companies in the world. Their most feature-rich security product is called Bitdefender Total Security, and one of the things it gives besides antimalware and firewall protection is a tool for encrypting your folders and files.
Bitdefender Total Security includes Bitdefender File Vault, a tool that lets you create private vaults on your Windows computer. The vaults are safe places where you can keep sensitive files and folders away from prying eyes. They are all encrypted and can be accessed only by entering the password you have set. Once you have created a vault, all you have to do to add folders or files to it is right-click on them, select the Bitdefender submenu and choose the action you want from the Bitdefender File Vault list of options.
The Bitdefender File Vault is one of the best folder protection tools that we have used, but unfortunately, you can use it only if you buy a subscription to Bitdefender Total Security.
Download: Bitdefender Total Security.
7. ESET Smart Security Premium (Commercial)
ESET Smart Security Premium is the top security product developed by ESET. ESET Smart Security Premium is a robust security suite with many features, which also includes a tool for protecting your files and folders. It is called Secure Data, and it lets you create encrypted virtual drives that can only be unlocked by supplying the passwords you have set for them.
There is no limit to how many encrypted drives you can create on a Windows computer. The only real limit is the storage space you have on your Windows computer.
Just like other premium security suites, ESET Smart Security can be used only on a subscription basis, which includes the Secure Data tool.
Download: ESET Smart Security.
8. Kaspersky Total Security (Commercial)
Although 2018 has not been a good year for the Kaspersky company, their products are still some of the best in the market. Their premium security solution for Windows computers is called Kaspersky Total Security and, if you buy it, you get access to an excellent tool called Data Encryption, which can encrypt and password-protect your folders.
Similarly to how most antivirus companies choose to build this feature, Kaspersky's Data Encryption tool works by letting you create a data vault in which you can then place the files and folders that you want to protect. Once you have done that, the data inside the vault can no longer be accessed by anyone who does not know your password.
If you want to be able to use the Data Encryption tool from Kaspersky, you must buy a subscription for Kaspersky Total Security.
Download: Kaspersky Total Security.
What we learned during our testing - Must read!
One of the things we have learned during our testing is that you should not install more than one program of this type. We have encountered issues with programs blocking each other out and not being able to access the folders protected by one program after installing another one. Another issue we have discovered is that most apps of this type, do not unlock the folders they were protecting when you uninstall them. Therefore you might lose access to your data. The apps we have recommended in this roundup handle the uninstallation process well and do not leave you with blocked and hidden folders.
Also, if you want your folders and files to be as safe as possible, our opinion is that the encryption tools bundled by the security suites we mentioned above, are the best choice you could make. Finally, if you know other useful apps for protecting your folders with passwords, do not hesitate to share them in the comments section below.