How do I encrypt common Microsoft Office documents?

You may have sensitive data in Microsoft Office documents that you would like to have extra protection for. While you may be storing these documents in a secured location (such as a network drive), they may still be vulnerable to attack and disclosure if you leave your computer unlocked, or if your computer gets infected and otherwise compromised.


You have the option of adding high-grade encryption to certain Microsoft Office documents created in Office 2007 and later. Specifically, you may securely encrypt files created in Microsoft Word, Excel and Powerpoint. This encryption is controlled by a single password which only you (or others authorized to read or edit the file) should know. Once encrypted, your document will be inaccessible — by people, viruses or attackers — until opened using the password.


Before continuing, please be aware of the following caveats regarding encrypting your Microsoft Office documents.

  • If you lose your password, you will not be able to recover your document. Make sure to store your password in a safe place.
  • Only open the document when you need to access it and close the document when you are done viewing and/or editing it.
  • If you are collaborating with others on an encrypted document, make sure to share the password securely (e.g. in person).

How to enable encryption

Follow the steps below to enable encryption for a specific file.

  1. Open the Microsoft Office document you wish to encrypt.
  2. Click on the File menu at the top of the screen, select the Info tab, click on Protect Document and select Encrypt with Password.
    • If you are using Excel, it will say Protect Workbook.
    • If you are using Powerpoint, it will say Protect Presentation.


       
  3. You will be prompted to create a standalone password to secure your document. This password should be different from your AccessID password, as well as any other passwords you use. Come up with a secure password, type it in the password field and click OK. (Make sure you remember this password. You will not be able to recover your document if you forget it.)


     
  4. You will be prompted a second time to confirm your password. Type it in again and click OK.
  5. You will now see that a password is required to open your document. You are free to edit and save your file as often as you need; Microsoft Office will take care of encrypting the file for you.

     
     

How to disable encryption

Follow the steps below to disable encryption for a specific file.

  1. Open the Microsoft Office document for which you wish to disable encryption.
  2. Click on the File menu at the top of the screen.
  3. Select the Info tab, click on Protect Document and select Encrypt with Password.
  4. Backspace out all of the characters in the password field (so that it is blank) and click OK. You should not be prompted a second time.
  5. You will no longer be required to use a password to open your document.

How to open an encrypted file

Follow the steps below to open a file which has been encrypted.

  1. Open the file as you normally would, either by double-clicking it from Windows Explorer or by clicking File, then Open from within Microsoft Office.
  2. You will be prompted for a password. Type in your document-specific password in the supplied field and click OK.
  3. You are free to edit and save your file as often as you need; Microsoft Office will take care of encrypting the file for you.

NOTE: These examples are for Microsoft Word 2010, but the instructions are similar for any applicable Microsoft Office file.