How to password protect files and folders in macOS

If you want to enhance the security of the data stored on your Mac, adding password protection for your documents and folders is key. The most popular suites such as Pages, Numbers, and Keynote, give you the possibility of adding password protection to your files and folders including personal journals, budgets spreadsheets, projects, presentations and more.

How to password protect macOS documents

All the latest versions of office applications of Numbers, Pages and Presentation support password protection. Once you select the Set Password option in the File menu, a dialogue box opens up and you can set up a password there. You also have the option to add it to the macOS keychain. After you check the option that says Remember this password in my keychain, the people that use your computer won’t be asked to provide a password when they open the document. It should be noted that this may not be the best option if you want to make sure that casual users can’t access the document. However, if the document is stolen or found in a different location, it won’t be possible to open it without entering the password.

If a Pages document is not protected with a password, its contents can be read in any text editor. If it is password protected, it is not possible to read the contents of the document. This would indicate that adding a password to a document provides some level of encryption on the document. When a document is protected by a password, its icon changes, which is why you can easily identify the documents that are protected on the system. There are layer of security and obscuring the files that are protected is not a strong security measure on its own. In terms of security, it is not a good idea that macOS exposes the information using different icons.

How to change the password on macOS documents

In order to change or remove the password on a document, the first thing that you need to do is to open the document. In the File menu, you will see that the Set Password option will now appear as Change Password. Select the option that will open the change or remove password dialogue box. Then you will have to enter the current password to remove it or change it. This security measure ensures that if someone tries to access a computer that has a document opened, they won’t be able to remove or change the password.

How to create an encrypted disk image in macOS

There are different ways to approach the subject. The macOS system offers the possibility to set up disk images that can be encrypted if that is what you want. However, the easiest method to create an encrypted disk image in macOS is to use Hider2, or a similar third-party application. Hider2 is a product of MacPaw software and it offers a software vault to which it is possible to drag files. Files are dragged into the vault and protected with AES 256-bit encryption. When a file is encrypted, it will not appear in a normal Finder window anymore. In order to be able to view or edit a file, it has to be restored to its original location. You can do this by toggling the Visible switch to the right of the filename in the Hider2 window.

Hider2 creates a vault on your Mac automatically and also on any removable media that you move into the vault. This means that you can create portable encrypted storage and bring it with you on the go. There is a list of the most important benefits of Hider2 so that you can understand better why it is a better option than the built-in disk utility images. We can start by noting that creating an encrypted macOS disk image is easier when you use Hider2. When files are dragged into Hidder2, they can be securely deleted from the original location. If you have a standard macOS disk image you have to remember to delete the source file and usually, it goes to Trash. In addition, it is possible to set Hider2 to lock the vault automatically after a specific set of time. It is necessary to eject a macOS disk image manually to make sure that it can’t be read.

How to use macOS built-in Disk utility to create encrypted disk images

Apart from password protecting files, macOS comes with the capacity to encrypt complete folders using its disk image. You can create a new encrypted disk image from zero, but it is also possible to choose an existing folder to encrypt. The steps are similar in both cases.

If you need to create a new encrypted disk image in macOS, start by launching the Disk utility application. Then select New Image and then Blank Image from the File menu. Choose the Encryption option to display the 128-bit and 256-bit Advanced Encryption System (AES) options. 256-bit AES encryption is considered as a highly secure solution and it is even trusted by the US government to protects its confidential data. While encryption can slow down the process of opening a file, after that there is no effect. While 128-bit has a less noticeable impact on speed, in order to maintain the security of your data, it is advisable to stick to 256-bit.

You will be asked to choose a password and verify it. Keep in mind that it is not possible to remember the password in your keychain in this setting. Still, once you open the file and provide the password, you will be able to select to remember the password at that time. Select the Choose button to set up a password and the Save button on the original Disk Utility page. A new disk image will be created in the location that you selected in the where field. Then the folder will be unlocked and if you don’t want to use it at that time, it should be ejected. This will lock it.

Click the Choose button to set your password and the Save button on the original Disk Utility page. This will create your new disk image in the location you specified in the Where field. After the initial creation the folder will be unlocked for you. If you don’t intend to use it right away then you should eject it, which will lock it. In order to re-open the disk image, the password is required. The folder will be open and unecrypted, unless you eject it. After it is ejected, you will be again asked for the password in order to open the disk image. It is worth noting that any files that were copied into your disk image are still available in their source location. It is advisable to delete the unencrypted source file.

How to create an encrypted disk image from an existing folder

To create an encrypted disk image from an existing folder, you can follow pretty much the same steps we previously described. Start by launching the Disk Utility application and select New Image and then the Image from Folder option. You will be asked to choose the folder that you want to encrypt. After that, you just need to follow the same process used to create new encrypted disk images.

How to change the password of a disk image

In the latest versions of macOS, it doesn’t seem to be possible to change the password for a disk image in the Disk Utility application. There is a disabled menu option called Change Password. Unfortunately, it is difficult to find a way to enable it. What you can do instead is to use a command line utility. Navigate to Launchpad to open a terminal and find the Terminal application. Use the below command, keep in mind that YOUR_IMAGE is the name of your disk image:

hdiutil chpass YOUR_IMage.dmg

After it, you will be asked to enter the existing password and then the new one.

How to password protect Microsoft Office documents

There are many applications available in the Microsoft Office suite, as well as multiple levels of password protection support. Since Excel, Word and Power Point are the most commonly used Microsoft Office applications available, we’ll focus on them.

How to password protect a Microsoft Word document

You can find the protection option for Microsoft Word in the Tools menu. You can select Tools and then the Protect Document option to see the password set dialogue box. It is possible to adjust a few settings.

In the first section of the Password Protect dialogue box, you will need to enter a password to be able to open the document and stop someone else from opening it. Alternatively, you can set a password to modify the document. If someone only has the first password, they will only be able to read the document, but won’t have permission to modify it. The checkbox that says “Read-only recommended” only works if a modification password hasn’t been specified. If someone tries to open the document, they will see a message asking if they want to open as read-only. They can select No and open the document in modification mode, meaning that this option doesn’t really offer any protection.

On the other hand, if a modification password has been specified, they won’t see this message. They will be asked to provide the modification password or select the “Read Only” button. This will prevent anyone from making changes on the document. When it comes to the Protection settings, the options are as follows:

  • Tracked changes: keep track changes on
  • Comments: allow comments
  • Read only: stops people from making changes
  • Forms: gives people the possibility to fill out a form in the document, but they won’t have the possibility of changing the form itself

It is worth noting that Microsoft Word doesn’t ask you to provide the current password in order to change or delete a password that is already in use. Any user will be able to select Tools, then Protect Document menu item and delete or change the passwords.

How to password protect a Microsoft Excel document

Microsoft Excel offers two ways of protection. The first one allows you to add protection to a whole workbook or to individual worksheets within it, preventing any changes, but it won’t stop others from opening the file. Adding password protection to the file to ensure that it can’t be opened is a different process. When you set protection for a workbook, its structure can’t be changed so it won’t be possible to add more sheets. However, users can make changes on the data in the sheet. When you protect a sheet, there is no way in which it can be changed. If you add password protection to the file, a password is required to open it. Its contents may also be modified.

In order to apply workbook or sheet protection, you can select the Tools menu and then the Protection item will give you the possibility of choosing between two options. Adding password protection to the entire workbook from changes is a simple process. You just need to enter a password and you can also check boxes to establish the protection for the structure of the document, as well as the window sizes. When it comes to protecting a specific sheet, the options are more modular. The default options only allow users to select cells. However, you can check the relevant boxes to enable further permissions.

If someone tries to complete an action that is not allowed, they will see a message stating that the cell or chart can’t be changed as it is protected and set to read-only. If you want to make sure that a password is requested when you open or change the document, you will have to use the Save options when the files are saved. The same options can be found in Word to get different passwords for editing and modification. In addition, it is possible to recommend read-only.

How to change the password of a Microsoft Excel document

In order to change the workbook or sheet protection, you can click the Tools menu and select Protection. Then you can click the Unprotect option that you want. You will be asked to provide the password, if there is one. You can change the opening password by selecting the Passwords option from the File menu. It is possible to remove or change the password in the dialogue box that is presented.

How to password protect a Microsoft PowerPoint document

You only have two ways to protect a Microsoft PowerPoint document. The first option is to protect it from opening and protecting it from modification. The password option in the File menu relies on word encrypt, instead of password. When a PowerPoint file is passwird protected, it is encrypted.

  • $file Presentation.pptx
  • Presentation.pptx: CDFV2 Encrypted

In order to change or remove the password on a Microsoft Power Point document, you can go back to the File menu, select Passwords and then modify or delete the password. You can also password protect a PDF document. All macOS application including Pages and Numbers, support export to PDF. In the export dialogue box, there is an option to set a password that is needed to open the PDF file.

How to password protect OpenOffice documents

OpenOffice stores documents in a compressed file and when you unzip it, the contents are revealed. The plain text of an unprotected Text document is stored in context.xml and while the main file can still be unzipped once it is password protected, the content.xml file is not readable anymore.

In order to password protect an OpenOffice Text document, you cna adjust the settings that are in the save dialogue. You can select the File menu, then the Save option. Mark the Save with password option. You will be asked to set up a password on the next page. In order to separate passwords for opening and modifying, you can select “More Options”.

How to change the password on an OpenOffice Text document

It is possible to change the password of an OpenOffice Text document by accessing the Save As…File menu option. Make sure that the Save with password checkbox is enabled and click the Save button. You will see the password set dialogue box, where you can change the password. If you want to remove the password, unmark the Save with password option before clicking the Save button.

How to password protect an OpenOffice Spreadsheet document

In the Tools menu of OpenOffice Spreadsheet, there are two options to protect the current sheet only, or the entire document. You can select some options if you want to protect a particular sheet, but if you need to protect the whole document, you can only decide if a password is required or not, there is no middle ground. You can protect the workbook from opening at all using the same options mentioned in the OpenOffice Text section. The settings can be found in the Save menu.

How to change the password on an OpenOffice Spreadsheet document

To change the password on an OpenOffice Spreadsheet, you can follow the same process used for changing the password on an OpenOffice Text document. Protecting an OpenOffice Presentation is also very similar. When you check the Save with password option in the File Save dialogue, a window will open and you can set the password there. Only one level of password is supported to be able to open the file. You can’t allow editing on a separate password.

You can change the password on an OpenOffice Presentation document by re-saving the document using the Save with password option checked. This will display the set password dialogue every time. It is possible to change or remove the password from that screen when needed.

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