You can protect zip files with password encryption for free. This article shows how to password-protect a zip file in Windows 10 & 11.
Recently, I’ve shown a simple way to lock a folder with a password in Windows. Similarly, you can encrypt any zip file with a password.
For the most part, Zip files are commonly used when you want to reduce the file size or share/store many files at once. The good news is that zip files can be password-protected with just a few clicks. Let me explain.
The steps below work the same in Windows 10 and 11.
Table of contents:
- How to protect a ZIP file with a password
- How to open password protected ZIP file
- Advantages of password protecting a zip file
- What if I lost the ZIP file password?
- Can I decrypt or open a ZIP file without the password?
Steps to password-protect a ZIP file
We’ll use 7-zip, a free, lightweight, open-source application, to add the password to a zip file. 7-Zip is a well-known file-compressing utility for Windows. If you’re wondering, while Windows can natively create and open zip files, it can’t encrypt or password-protect them. To password-protect zip files, we must utilize a third-party application such as 7-Zip.
- Get and install 7-Zip software.
- Right-click on the folder you want to ZIP.
- Choose the “7-Zip -> Add to archive” option.
- Select “Zip” from the “Archive format” dropdown.
- Type the password twice under the “Encryption” section.
- (Optional) Choose the “Encryption Method.”
- Press the “Ok” button.
- 7-Zip encrypts, and password protects the ZIP file.
- You will see the newly created ZIP file in File Explorer.
- With that, you have successfully protected a ZIP file with a password.
7-Zip download link: https://www.7-zip.org/
winget install 7zip.7zip
Steps with more details:
First, download 7-Zip from its official website. The download link is provided above.
To install 7-Zip in Windows, double-click the exe file and follow the installation wizard after downloading it.
Place all of the files you want to protect in a single folder.
Right-click the folder and choose “7-Zip -> Add to archive.” Windows 11 users should select “Show additional options -> 7-Zip -> Add to archive.”
7-Zip, by default, attempts to compress files in “7z” format. Choose “Zip” from the “Archive format” dropdown menu.
Then, under the “Encryption” area, enter your password twice. You can even alter the encryption algorithm if you desire. I’ve decided on the “AES-256” algorithm.
Click the “Ok” button to start the zipping and encryption process. Depending on the number of files and their size, the zipping procedure may take some time to complete.
Once the folder has been zipped, the zipped file can be found in the same location as the original folder. The zip file is password protected. You can delete the original folder if you want.
How to open password protected ZIP file
As you can assume, you need the password to open an encrypted ZIP file. To access files in a password-protected zip file, follow the below steps.
Open the ZIP file with 7-Zip. You can immediately see all the files and folders in the zip file.
When you try to open or extract files, 7-Zip will ask for the password.
Enter the password, and the file or folder will be unlocked and extracted.
If you enter a wrong password or forget the password, 7-Zip will show the “Wrong password” error. This is because 7-Zip cannot decrypt the files in an encrypted ZIP file without the password.
Important: Always keep the password safe and secure.
Advantages of adding a password to the ZIP file
One big advantage of password-protecting a ZIP file is preventing unauthorized access to your files. ZIP password protection, for example, is useful when transferring sensitive data over the internet or storing them on a computer shared by multiple people.
What happens if I forget or lose the ZIP file password?
If you forgot or lost the password, you cannot recover the files inside the Zip file. Since all the files are encrypted, there is no way to decrypt them without the password key. In case you are wondering, NO, the 7-Zip program will not store or remember the password for you.
Can I decrypt or open a ZIP file without the password?
The simple answer is NO.
However, legitimate software can use a technique known as Brute Force to find the password. Brute Force, as the name implies, is nothing more than trying out all possible password combinations until you find the correct one.
The problem is, depending on the password length, complexity, encryption method, and processor speed, brute forcing a zip file password might take hours, days, weeks, months, years, or even decades.
So, if you password-protect a ZIP file, ensure you don’t forget the password. Save the password in a secure location if necessary.
That is all. It is that simple to password-protect zip files in Windows.
I hope this simple and easy Windows how-to guide helped you.
If you are stuck or need some help, send an email, and I will try to help as much as possible.