File Encryption Tools

These tools will help you encrypt individual or groups of files for local storage or transfer to someone else. Step-by-step instructions on how to use these tools to encrypt your files is linked below.

CAUTION: If you decide to use any of the encryption products below that require a password to encrypt and decrypt the information, please DO NOT lose the password. Once your files are encrypted with a password, you will not be able to access them unless you know that password.

WinZip

Current Columbia faculty and and staff can visit our WinZip Pro page to download software to compress ("zip") files. Encryption is applied to files after compression and does not affect any other associated data.

Sharing file encryption passwords with colleagues.

When encrypting files with a password, ideally you will use a strong password that you will remember and that only you know. But when you need to collaborate and share encrypted files and folders, it becomes necessary to share the password with others. Ideally, you and your colleagues will be able to share this password in person without having to write it down. When it becomes necessary to communicate a password to someone who is not with you in a specific time and place, the following methods can be used.

Please note: Never share the password to your account on any system with anyone else. These suggestions are only meant to facilitate sharing encrypted data (while still keeping most of the world out of your files and folders) and other related activities.

NEVER SEND THE PASSWORD WITH THE DOCUMENT TO BE SHARED

If you need to communicate an encrypted file or folder password to someone, you should:

  1. Call them on the phone - Often times a simple voice call is the best way to authenticate a person you know and to communicate the password without having to write it down or type it into a system.
  2. Send it via an SMS (text message) - Sending a text message will take advantage of a communications medium that is not connected to voice or email systems. You can delete the SMS/text messages afterward.
  3. Fax the password to them - While this method does require the person to write the password down, handwritten text typically takes much longer to mechanically decipher.
  4. Send a letter - It is still possible to send the password to your collaborators via the US Postal Service (government agencies and some banks still do this). This is the slowest option.

Using Microsoft Office's Built-in Encryption

Require a password to open your documents (e.g. Word, Excel, PowerPoint).

For Windows

Instructions based on Microsoft Office 2016 for Windows, but generally true for most versions, with some variation in wording.

Open the Office document that you would like to protect. Look under the File menu, select the Info tab, and then select the Protect Document button. Click Encrypt with Password.

Please note:

  • For PowerPoint, the Info tab will read Protect Presentation instead of Protect Document.
  • For Excel, the Info tab will read Protect Workbook. You can also choose to protect just one sheet (tab) of an Excel workbook by right-clicking on the tab and selecting Protect Sheet from the menu, then following the steps below.
Microsoft Word 2016 Info page (found under File menu)

Enter your password and click OK.

Be sure to follow best practices for selecting strong passwords and remember your password. If you lose or forget the password, it cannot be recovered.

Encrypt Document window for Password selection

Enter the password again to confirm it and click OK.

Click the back arrow in the upper-left corner to continue working on your document or click Close to close the file.

The next time your file is opened, either by you or someone you have shared it with, Microsoft will require the password to open it.

Password is automatically required every time the document is opened.

For Mac

Instructions based on Microsoft Office 2016 for Mac, but generally true for most versions, with some variation in wording.

Open to Office document that you would like to protect. Look under the Review tab, and then select the Protect Document button.

Please note:

  • For PowerPoint, look under the File menu, then select the Passwords option. Under Password to open, select the check box next to Encrypt this presentation and require a password to open.
  • For Excel,look under the File menu, then select the Info tab, and choose Protect Workbook instead of Protect Document.

Enter your password and click OK.

Be sure to follow best practices for selecting strong passwords and remember your password. If you lose or forget the password, it cannot be recovered.

Enter the password again to confirm it and click OK.

The next time your file is opened, either by you or someone you have shared it with, Microsoft will require the password to open it.