Encrypt Your Microsoft Office Document Using a Password

You may want to add this layer of protection to important files

An electronic key with data structures on it

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Did you know you can add a layer of protection to important Microsoft Office documents or files? Doing so can be an important safeguard, especially as you share that file with specific readers or editors you collaborate with.

When you encrypt digital content, you change its language to gobbledygook that must then be decoded in order to be read.

You can do this for Microsoft Office documents by setting a password. This means only those recipients who know that password should be able to read your document. You can also customize password settings to allow some users to edit the document.

How to Set a Document Password

  1. For older versions of Office programs, select the Office Button Icon > Prepare > Encrypt Document. For newer versions, select File > Info > Protect Document > Encrypt with Password.

  2. Type in the password you would like to assign and click OK.

  3. Re-enter the password for verification and click OK.

  4. Your document should now be protected, but it always but it is always a good idea to double check. Close the document then re-open it. You should be prompted to enter a password before working with this document. If you do not see this, you may need to try these steps again.

Additional Tips and Considerations

  • Please note that some Microsoft Office programs may follow a slightly different approach. For example, in some versions of Microsoft PowerPoint, you should click the Microsoft Office button > Save AsTools (find this near the bottom of the Save as dialog box) > General Options > File Sharing > Modify Password. From there, you can type in your preferred password. Since this approach is much less straightforward, we suggest always trying the method above first for a given Microsoft Office program, but if you are not finding the password tools you need in that program, this approach may help.
  • To remove password encryption, follow the same sequence you did to set your password, except you will erase the password by clicking in that box and backspacing.
  • To set a password for those who can edit a document (meaning for all others it will be read-only), select the Office button or File > Save As > Tools > General Options > Password to Modify: type a new password > retype the password > OK > Save.
  • Always be careful when setting a document password. Microsoft cannot retrieve or unlock that password if you forget what it is. So, if you're someone who forgets your online passwords, you should probably limit how often you use this feature. Consider writing document passwords down in a safe place.
  • If you are interested in more detail regarding Microsoft's encryption levels, you may find this statement helpful, as found on Microsoft's help site for the topic: "You can type up to 255 characters. By default, this feature uses AES 128-bit advanced encryption. Encryption is a standard method used to help make your file more secure."

That said, please know that this is merely a layer of protection. In our opinion, Microsoft Office documents should never be esteemed as entirely protected, even with a password.

Can You Crack This Password?

Third-parties have been cracking Microsoft's document encryption for years, sometimes with the aim of offering a service to help users recover their password even though Microsoft won't allow them to. This convenience comes with a definite downside: meaning, people not necessarily trying to help you could also crack those password encryptions.

However, it can still be a good idea to apply password protection, because the effort and expense of cracking your documents encryption can certainly deter these kinds of unfortunate hacks and thefts. It's a balance of taking precautions where you can and understanding this kind of document password protection's limitations.