Password Protect Files and Folders?

Gazette Reader Denise A. writes:

"Hi Dennis,

First let me say that I thoroughly enjoy your newsletter. What a wealth of information it is! :)

I just finished reading Tuesday's Gazette article, 'restricting access to portions of the start menu', for the sake of security. My question is this: can a folder or certain file be password protected? I am running Windows XP. "

My response:

If you own more than one computer and have a local area network, you can can restrict who has access to what by setting the "share" privileges on Folders.

On the other hand: if you only own 1 computer and have more than 1 person sharing it, Windows XP does not offer any way to password protect files or folders unless you choose to Compress the folder using ZIP.

The downside is that this method is not very intuitive and requires a lot of 'extra steps'; and although compressing a folder will keep files private (to some degree), there are no security measures in place to protect the ZIP folder and its contents from being deleted arbitrarily. (Source:

What to do?

After querying Google for some clues, I came across a nifty utility called Folder Password Expert (FPE). Before I decided to download the program, I searched Google for reviews on the software; oddly enough, Google led me back to the Folder Password Expert page where I found a quote from, a very trust-worthy source. The LG quote read:

" ... People are going to be curious and want to look at your files, and there's not much you can do (as far as protection) with the current Windows security if you haven't logged out. Folder Password Expert does exactly what the title implies. It's as easy as choosing a folder to protect and creating a password! ... As opposed to other software, Folder Password Expert will not allow access to the locked folders in Windows Safe mode or DOS ... " (Source:

The last statement perked my interest, as I'm well rehearsed when it comes to DOS. It wouldn't make much sense to password-protect something in Windows if I could get around it easily by entering in a few DOS commands.

I decided to keep on reading further down the page, where another review was posted -- this time, from The Software Corner:

" ... [Folder Password Expert claims to protect your folders are 100%] ... I have tested this claim by putting a few files into a folder and trying to open them with [their respective] program. MS Word and [Windows Media Player] could not find the folder that the files were stored in. I have also found that the [MS DOS] command prompt also failed to find the folder on the hard drive ... I was pretty amazed at how simple and easy it was to lock and unlock folders. Similar programs might not offer the ease and simple interface that Folder Password Expert does. " (Source:

I was certainly enticed -- was the program really that good?

I decided to downloaded Folder Password Expert to my computer and gave it a thorough test.  After installing the program to my computer, the Folder Password Expert wizard window appeared. From here, I could choose to Lock or Unlock a folder using three simple steps:

  1. Launch Folder Password Expert
  2. Choose which Folders to Lock (or Unlock)
  3. Enter Password to Lock (or Unlock) Folder

Pretty simple. You can also right-click a folder at any point and choose to Lock / Unlock it.

Folder Password Expert: how strong is the Lock?

Just as a chain is only as good as its weakest link, a Folder Lock is only as good as its ability to keep prying eyes out of your protected data.

Here are some of the steps I went through to test the strength of Folder Password Expert:

  1. Attempting to rename a Locked folder resulted in a "file is in use" error message. (Correct).
  2. Attempting to access a Locked folder over the network was not possible. Without having Folder Password Expert installed on my Laptop (networked computer), the Locked folder only appeared as a shortcut with an oddly named extension. However, even with FPE installed onto Laptop, I was refused access to the Locked folder over the network. (Not Quite Correct).
  3. Attempting to access the Locked folder via an MS DOS command line resulted in a "The system cannot find the path specified" error message. (Correct).
  4. Attempting to access the Locked folder directly through Explorer prompted me for a password. I purposely entered the wrong password and FPE did not grant me access to the folder. (Correct).
  5. Attempting to reboot Windows using Safe Mode and logging in as my account (with Admin access), Folder Password Expert prompted for a password. (Correct). Attempting to access the folder under the Administrator account also prompted me for a password. (Correct).
  6. Attempting to reboot the computer into pure DOS mode, still didn't allow me access the folder, resulting in a "Bad command or filename" error message. (Correct).

Was I impressed at this point? (Correct).

Folder Password Expert: Compatibility

FPE works on Windows 98, ME NT, 2000, and XP.


Folder Password Expert does exactly what the title implies. Although there is a slight networking 'glitch', I still wasn't able to find a way to permeate Folder Password Expert's locking mechanism. Even so, this program is extremely robust and comes highly recommend for anyone wishing to maintain a level of security.

In short: Folder Password Expert is a 'must have' utility!

Reprinted from