How to password protect Zip files

If you want to share large files, using a Zip format is essential. Adding encryption and a password will also keep the contents safe from prying eyes. We show you the easy way to make your files more secure.

Zip files are a great way to share large documents and images via email, as their smaller sizes ensure they can actually be sent and received. A single attachment is also much more manageable than a dozen.

But what if the contents of the files are sensitive and you want to stop snoopers seeing the documents? Simple: add password protection. Here's how.

Add a password to Zip files with 7-Zip

Since the release of Windows 7, there hasn’t been a way to password-protect Zip files within the operating system itself. This means that you’ll need third-party software to accomplish the task.

There are a few to choose from, with WinZip, WinRAR, and 7-Zip being some of the most popular. We’ll use the latter for this tutorial, as it’s free and does a fine job.

There are versions for both 32-bit and 64-bit systems, so be sure to select the one that is appropriate for your PC. If you’re unsure of the difference then you can read our 32-bit vs 64-bit guide.

Download and install 7-Zip, then find the Zip file that you want to protect.

Right click on it and you’ll see a menu appear with a new option for 7-Zip. Click or hover the cursor over this and you’ll be presented with a further list of features. Find Add to archive… and select it.

This will bring up another pane in which you’ll see various settings. The top text field allows you to change the name, and beneath it is a field named Archive format. Select Zip as the format from the drop-down menu.

In the lower right area of the pane you’ll find the Encryption section. In here you can enter the password you want to use, then confirm it in the field below. Naturally, you’ll need to make a note of the password, as there isn’t a ‘Forgotten your password?’ option such as you’d find with your online accounts.

The last thing to do is set the type of encryption. We recommend AES-256. To select this go to the Encryption method field and use the drop down menu.

Click OK and your Zip file or folder will now be secure. Anyone attempting to open it will need to enter the password first, which will make it much harder for hackers to see what’s inside.

For ideas on how to make your files as safe as possible, here's how to create a strong password.

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By Martyn Casserly

By Martyn Casserly

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