How to Password Protect a PDF

8 Free Ways to Put a Password on a PDF File

Below are several free ways to password protect a PDF file, a pretty easy thing to do no matter which way you go about it. There are software programs you can download for encrypting the PDF but some are online services that work in your web browser.

You might want to apply a document open password to a PDF file you're storing on your own computer so no one can open it unless they know the specific password chosen to encrypt it. Or maybe you're sending the file over email or storing it online, and you want to ensure that only specific people who know the password will be able to view the PDF.

Some free PDF editors have the ability to password protect PDFs, too, but we recommend using one of the tools below. Of the few PDF editors that also support encryption, not many of them will do so without adding a watermark to the file, which of course isn't ideal.

Keep in mind that these methods are not completely foolproof. While PDF password remover tools are handy when you forget the password to your own PDF, they can also be used by others to find the password to your PDFs.

Password Protect a PDF With a Desktop Program

Person adding a password to a PDF
Lifewire / Derek Abella

These four programs must be installed on your computer before you can use them to password protect a PDF file. You might even already have one of them, in which case it'll be quick and easy to just open the program, load the PDF, and add a password.

However, if you're looking for a much faster (but still free) way to make the PDF have a password, skip down to the next section below for some free online services that can do the exact same thing.

All of the programs and services mentioned below work perfectly fine in versions of Windows from XP up through Windows 10. While only one is unavailable for macOS, don't miss the section at the very bottom of this page for instructions on encrypting a PDF on a Mac without having to download any of these tools.

PDFMate PDF Converter

One absolutely free program that can not only convert PDFs to other formats like EPUB, DOCX, HTML, and JPG but also put a password on a PDF, is PDFMate PDF Converter. It works on Windows only.

You don't have to convert the PDF to one of those formats because you can instead choose PDF as the export file format and then change the security settings to enable a document open password.

  1. Choose Add PDF at the top of PDFMate PDF Converter.

    Add PDF button in PDFMate
  2. Select the PDF you want to work with, and then choose Open.

    Hot Child in the City PDF in Open dialog for PDFMate
  3. Once it's loaded into the queue, choose PDF from the bottom of the program, under the Output File Format: area.

    PDF button in PDFMate
  4. Select Advanced Settings near the top right of the program.

    Advanced Settings button in PDFMate
  5. In the PDF tab, put a check next to Open Password.

    Open Password checkbox in PDFMate's Advanced Settings

    You can optionally choose Permission Password, too, to set up a PDF owner password to restrict editing, copying, and printing from the PDF.

  6. Choose Ok to save the PDF security options.

  7. Select Output Folder toward the bottom of the program and then pick where the password protected PDF should be saved.

    Custom file destination field in PDFMate

    The PDF can be saved to the same location as the original or you can choose Custom to pick a different folder.

  8. Hit the big Convert button at the bottom of PDFMate PDF Converter to save the PDF with a password.

    Convert button in PDFMate
  9. If you see a message about upgrading the program, just exit that window. You can also close down PDFMate PDF Converter once the Status column next to the PDF entry reads Success.

Adobe Acrobat

Adobe Acrobat can add a password to a PDF, too. If you don't have it installed or would rather not pay for it just to password protect a PDF, feel free to grab the free 7-day trial.

  1. Go to File > Open to locate the PDF that should be password protected with Adobe Acrobat; select Open to load it. You can skip this first step if the PDF is already open.

    Open dialog in Adobe Acrobat
  2. Navigate to File > Properties.

    Properties submenu in File menu of Adobe Acrobat
  3. Go into the Security tab.

  4. Next to Security Method:, select the drop-down menu and choose Password Security.

    Password Security dropdown menu item
  5. At the top of that window, under the Document Open section, put a check in the box next to Require a password to open the document.

    Require a password to open the document checkbox
  6. Enter a password in that text box.

    At this point, you can continue through these steps to save the PDF with just a document open password, but if you also want to restrict editing and printing, stay on the Password Security - Settings screen and fill out the details under the Permissions section.

  7. Choose OK and confirm the password by typing it again in the Confirm Document Open Password window.

  8. Choose OK on the Document Properties window to return to the PDF.

  9. Save the PDF to write the open password to it. You can do that via File > Save or File > Save As.

Microsoft Word

It might not be your first guess that Microsoft Word can password protect a PDF, but it's most certainly capable of doing so! Just open the PDF in Word and then go into its properties to encrypt it with a password.

  1. Open Microsoft Word and select Open Other Documents from the bottom left side.

    If Word is already open to a blank or existing document, Go to File.

  2. Navigate to Open and then Browse.

    Open menu in Microsoft Word
  3. Locate the PDF file you want to put a password on, and then choose Open.

  4. Choose OK on the message about Microsoft Word converting the PDF into an editable form.

    PDF conversion prompt in Microsoft Word
  5. Open the File > Save As > Browse menu.

  6. From the Save as type: drop-down menu that probably says Word Document (*.docx), choose PDF (*.pdf).

    Microsoft Word save as PDF option
  7. Name the PDF and then choose Options.

  8. Select the box next to Encrypt the document with a password from the bottom of the prompt.

    Microsoft Word PDF options
  9. Choose OK.

  10. Enter a password for the PDF twice.

    Encrypt PDF Document password prompt in Microsoft Word
  11. Choose OK to save and exit that window.

  12. Pick where to save the new PDF file and then select Save.

  13. You can now exit any open Microsoft Word documents that you're not longer working in.

OpenOffice Draw

OpenOffice is a suite of several office products, one of which is called Draw. By default, it cannot open PDFs very well, nor can it be used to add a password to a PDF. However, the PDF Import extension can help, so be make sure to install that extension once you have OpenOffice Draw on your computer.

The formatting might be a bit off when using PDFs with OpenDraw Draw because it's not really intended to be a PDF reader or editor. This is why we've listed it after the better options above.

  1. Open OpenOffice Draw and go to File > Open.

  2. Select and open the PDF file you want password protected.

    It might take several seconds for Draw to open the file, especially if there are several pages and lots of graphics. Once it's fully opened, you should take this time to edit any text that might have been altered when Draw attempted to import the PDF file.

  3. Navigate to File > Export as PDF.

    Export to PDF option in OpenOffice Draw
  4. Access the Security tab and select Set passwords.

  5. Under the Set open password section, type into both text fields the password that you want the PDF to have to prevent someone from opening the document.

    PDF password prompt in OpenOffice Draw

    You can also put a password in the Set permission password fields if you want to protect the permissions from being changed.

  6. Choose OK to save and exit that window.

  7. Choose Export and then pick the name of the new PDF and where it should be saved.

  8. You can now exit OpenOffice Draw if you're done with the original PDF.

How to Password Protect a PDF Online

Use one of these websites if you don't have those programs from above, aren't willing to download them, or would just prefer to add a password to your PDF in a faster way.

Soda PDF is an online service that can password protect PDFs for free. It lets you upload PDFs from your computer or load them directly from your Dropbox or Google Drive account. 

Smallpdf is extremely similar to Soda PDF except it defaults to 128-bit AES encryption. Once your PDF is uploaded, the encryption process is quick and you can save the file back to your computer or your account at Dropbox or Google Drive.

FoxyUtils is one more example of a website that lets you encrypt PDFs with a password. Just upload the PDF from your computer or a cloud storage site, choose a password, and optionally put a check in any of the custom options like to allow printing, modifications, copying and extracting, and filling out forms.

You have to make a free user account at FoxyUtils in order to save your password protected PDF.

How to Encrypt PDFs on macOS

Most of the programs and all of the websites from above will work just fine for password protecting PDFs on your Mac. However, they really aren't necessary since macOS provides PDF encryption as a built-in feature!

  1. Open the PDF file to have it load in Preview. If it doesn't open automatically, or a different application opens instead, open Preview first and then go to File > Open.

    You can also edit PDFs on a Mac with Preview.

  2. Navigate to File > Export as PDF.

  3. Name the PDF and choose where you want to save it.

  4. Put a check in the box next to Encrypt.

    If you don't see the "Encrypt" option, use the Show Details button to expand the window.

  5. Enter the password for the PDF, and then do it again to verify.

    PDF encryption settings in Preview for Mac
  6. Hit Save to save the PDF with the password enabled.