Encrypting and Decrypting Files Using Windows 7: An Introduction

   In the Age of Internet, it is vital to know how to keep your files safe and secure. The Ability to restrict access to files and folders has become vital for many individuals and institutions. For beginners, encryption works by rewriting information using an algorithm or algorithms and thus making it unreadable to systems and programs which do not hold details about the original encryption, called the key. Encryption is the most advanced and potent way of regulating access to a file that Windows OS offers.

  Unless the key is produced and transported to another system, an encrypted file or folder could only be ‘read in its original form’ on the computer or laptop that executed the encryption. The encrypted files and folders stay encrypted and under protection even if the hard drive is removed from the computer and placed in another system. In other words, encryption keeps your files and folders safe and inaccessible even if your data is lost. Decryption is the opposite of encryption and makes files and folders accessible and readable by reverse running the original algorithm(s). Encrypting and decrypting files and folders in Windows are pretty straightforward tasks. Note: EFS (Encrypting File System) is not fully supported on Windows 7 Starter, Windows 7 Home Basic, and Windows 7 Home Premium


  1. Right click a file/folder and Select Properties
  2. General Tab will show up, Click Advanced
  3. Click the Box next to “Encrypt contents to secure data”.


  1. Follow Steps 1 and 2
  2. Uncheck the box next to “Encrypt contents to secure data”

If you would like to move encrypted files and folders and use them on another computer, you will need to generate and transport the key. In the absence of the key, it is impossible to recover encrypted files. Therefore, it also makes perfect sense to keep a back up of the encryption key. This is a little more complicated process:

Producing a copy of the Key:

  1. Go to Windows Start Menu, Click Run
  2. 2.     Type in certmgr.msc  to reach the Certificate Manager
  3. 3.     Go to Personal and then to Certificates
  4. In Intended Purposes, find all certificates that are responsible for Encrypting File System
  5. Back up all certificates you have found to somewhere safe and transport in a secure manner.

Finally, it is important to note that there are other free encryption programs and online services that could be used. Stay safe and Good Luck!