How to password-protect a Zip file

You've probably heard in the news that large companies and government organizations are losing millions of dollars and sensitive information because hackers and other threat actors have stolen their data.

But what you might not know is that they are targeting individuals like you, too.

Many victims have lost thousands of dollars because the information they stored on their computers was compromised.

Thankfully, there are precautions you can put in place to keep your data safe and protected.

Here's how you can password-protect and encrypt your files with WinZip.

That way, even if someone manages to steal your data, it'll remain useless as it's locked and can only be opened with the correct password. Download WinZip to password-protect your files.

What is an encrypted Zip file?

What is an encrypted Zip file?

A Zip file combines one or more files into a smaller compressed archive. This offers an ideal way to share large files and keep related files together.

An encrypted Zip file adds a layer of protection to the Zip file, securing its contents and ensuring that only authorized users can see them.

An encrypted zip file achieves that extra layer of security through complex algorithms.

When you send an encrypted file, an encoding algorithm is applied to scramble the data, ensuring it's unreadable without the decryption key.

This key typically comes as a passcode, passphrase, or PIN.

Once you type in the key, WinZip will decrypt the Zip file, allowing you to read its contents.

While you may think you only need file encryption to protect your work files, you also need it to secure your personal data and information.

At the very least, files that contain personally identifiable data, like your social security number or pictures you don't want to spread online for people to see, should be kept in an encrypted zip file.

Furthermore, you should encrypt financial information and records, legal documents, confidential projects, and backups and archives.

What makes AES more secure?

It's easy to assume that all forms of data security will protect you equally. However, this assumption could not be farther from the truth.

For example, DES (Data Encryption Standard), first published in 1975, is a widely used algorithm for protecting data.

But because of its age and its reliance on a short 56-bit key, it cannot withstand the modern threats we're facing today.

That's why you should use modern algorithms like AES (Advanced Encryption Standard).

As the name implies, this encryption method is far more advanced than DES because of its key-length options.

AES lets you pick between 128-bit, 192-bit, and 256-bit keys, significantly boosting your protection.

In layman’s terms, the longer key makes its algorithm far more complex and challenging to crack.

It's also exponentially faster, so a robust yet efficient encryption system protects you.

Password protection vs. encryption: what's the difference, and which is better?

Although many use password protection and encryption synonymously, they're two distinct concepts—the former merely prevents access to content, while the latter scrambles the content completely.

Password protection vs. encryption: what's the difference, and which is better?

Password locking refers to the process of protecting data with a string of symbols.

By adding password protection, your files cannot be accessed without the corresponding code.

However, passwords alone cannot completely protect your data.

If a third party bypasses your password protection, they can still view the files and other information behind it.

Encryption goes beyond preventing unauthorized access to your files—instead, it makes them totally unreadable by using an encryption algorithm.

This means that even if someone bypasses the password of an encrypted file, they will only see a bunch of random digits, letters, and symbols.

To open an encrypted folder, you must have the decryption key to make sense of all the gibberish inside it.

And while it's theoretically possible to crack an encrypted file, it would take a supercomputer hundred, if not thousands, of years to brute force it.

Given that, it's always better to encrypt your files.

As long as someone trying to access your files does not have your key, they won't be able to see its content.

Nevertheless, whether you're using simple password protection or AES, you should always use a strong password.

After all, your data security is only as strong as its weakest link.

A weak password is prone to various attacks, including dictionary hacks, brute-force attacks, phishing, rainbow table attacks, and more.

Here’s a helpful WinZip resource for how to password protect a Zip file.

How to protect and encrypt a Zip file or folder with Windows

Unfortunately, there's no easy way to encrypt files straight from Windows. If you want to protect your files, you should use a trustworthy app that you know won't steal your data—like WinZip.

You can easily password-protect and encrypt your files on Windows in just a few steps. Here's how:

  1. Download and install WinZip on your Windows computer.
  2. Open WinZip. On the ribbon menu, click Zip > Encrypt. winzip_encrypt_button
  3. On the Files Pane, browse to the folder where the files you want to encrypt are located. winzip_browse_documents
  4. Select the files or folders you want to encrypt and drag them to the window. select_and_drag_files_to_encrypt_on_winzip
  5. A WinZip Caution window will appear. Press OK to continue. winzip_caution_window
  6. In the Encrypt window, type the password you wish to use in Enter password: and re-enter it under Re-enter password (for confirmation): winzip_encrypt_window
  7. When WinZip completes adding your files, it will show the Add Complete window. Press OK to continue. add_complete_winzip
  8. If you want to add more files to encrypt, go back to step three and repeat the process. Once you have all the files you need, click on Save as… in the Actions pane. save_as_zip_file
  9. In the Ave to PC or Cloud window, browse to the folder where you want to save your encrypted Zip file, type in the file name, and press Save. save_encrypted_file

And with that, your selected files are now encrypted and password protected.

We recommend you delete the original unencrypted files for maximum security to ensure they're not compromised.

Important Note: You should remember or store your password in a safe place to encrypt your files. If you forget your password, recovering the protected files is extremely difficult, if not impossible.

Now that your data is protected, here's how to open it.

  1. Browse to the folder where you saved your encrypted Zip file. Right-click on the encrypted file, go to Winzip > Winzip > Unzip to… unzip_encrypted_zip_file
  2. In the Unzip window that appears, browse to the folder where you want to unzip the files, then press Unzip. unzip_academic_records
  3. After you press Unzip, a window will appear requesting a password. Type the password you used to encrypt the files, then press OK. password_to_decrypt_files_winzip
  4. If your password is correct, WinZip will unzip the files to your selected folder and open File Explorer, where your files are located.

Note: You can still open the encrypted zip file on File Explorer, but Windows will not understand it because it uses WinZip encryption. To decrypt the file, you need to use WinZip. Download WinZip for free today.

How to password-protect and encrypt a zip file or folder on a Mac

Password protecting and encrypting your files looks a little different on macOS. You can do both of these without additional software, but you must do it manually through Terminal.

Terminal can be a little complex for first-time users. You need to type commands yourself, meaning there's a chance for typos and errors. But there's no need to worry.

Here's a step-by-step guide on how to use Terminal to password-protect your files on Mac.

  1. Open Terminal. Navigate to Finder > Utilities and click on the Terminal app. You can also press Cmd + Space bar to activate Spotlight search and type 'Terminal.' open_terminal_on_macbook_air
  2. Set the directory. The next step is to set the destination of the files you want to zip and password-protect. Type 'cd' and the location of the file or folder that you want to compress and encrypt. For example, type' cd downloads' if the file you want to compress is saved in the Downloads folder. cd_downloads_command_macos_terminal
  3. Compress and encrypt. Enter the command 'zip -er' without the quotes and replace FILENAME with what you want to name your encrypted zip file. Add a space after .zip, drag the file or folder you want to encrypt from Finder to the Terminal window, and press Return. drag_files_to_encrypt_to_terminal
  4. Enter password. At this point, assuming everything's done right, you'll be prompted to enter and verify the password. Type the password you want to use and hit Return twice. Note: When typing your password, you won't see any characters on the command line. verify_password_terminal

If you follow these steps, you will have successfully created an encrypted zip file or folder.

However, it is common to make a few mistakes, and it will probably take a few tries before you can easily encrypt files in the Terminal.

Furthermore, it takes some time to zip files, especially large ones.

Whether you use WinZip or the macOS Archive Utility to open this encrypted file, you must provide the password to unlock it.

If you frequently create encrypted files and wish to do it in fewer steps, you can use WinZip.

This app allows you to easily create multiple encrypted files and folders, ensuring your data is safe and protected. Best of all, you can try WinZip for free.

Frequently Asked Questions

Frequently Asked Questions

What is FIPS 140-2?

FIPS (Federal Information Processing Standard) 140-2 confirms the effectiveness of hardware and software cryptography by ensuring they adhere to a standard set by the US federal government.

You should ensure your encryption algorithm is FIPS 140-2 compliant for maximum protection.

How to decrypt a file?

There are several ways to decrypt a file; typically, you'd need a password, but you also usually need a decrypting app specific to the algorithm used, too.

Thankfully, WinZip lets you decrypt the most common encrypted Zip and Zipx files.

Here's how to decrypt a file using WinZip. First, open the encrypted file with WinZip Pro.

Then, click and drag the documents to your destination folder.

Finally, type in the password and click OK.

How do I password-protect an Excel file?

You can password-protect an Excel file to secure its contents. Here's how to do it from inside the office application:

  1. Click on File > Info to see Workbook options. workbook_info_screen_on_excel
  2. Select Protect Workbook > Encrypt with Password. This will open an Encrypt Document window. encrypt_excel_file_with_password
  3. In the Encrypt Document window, type in the password you want to use to protect your Excel file. Once done, press OK. enter_password_into_encrypt_document_window
  4. A Confirm Password window will appear, asking you to re-enter your password to ensure that it's recorded correctly. Click on OK after you've entered the correct password. confirm_password_window_excel

After following these steps, your Excel file is now password-protected. You should also see it in the Info window, where you should see Protect Workbook: A password is required to open this workbook.


These steps ensure that only authorized users can open your Excel file. However, you must remember your password or keep a copy safely hidden away. If you forget your password or lose your copy, recovering your Excel file is almost impossible.

How do I password-protect a Word file?

You cannot password-protect Word documents in older versions of Microsoft Word.

But with Microsoft 365 and Word for Mac 2011, you can encrypt your Word files on the app.

Here's how:

  1. Go to File > Info to see your document's information. info_screen_microsoft_word
  2. Click Protect Document > Encrypt with Password to add a password to your Word file. encrypt_with_password_microsoft_word
  3. In the Encrypt with Password window, enter the password you want to use to protect your Microsoft Word file. Press OK. enter_password_into_encrypt_document_window
  4. Confirm the password you entered in the Confirm Password window. Click OK. confirm_password_to_encrypt_word_file

And with that, your Microsoft Word file is now password-protected. You should see Protect Document highlighted with yellow to confirm that your file requires a password to open.


Much like a password-protected Excel file, you should remember your password or keep a copy of it safely stored.

If you forget your password, you won't be able to recover your encrypted Word file.

All for Your Online Protection

Companies pay millions of dollars to acquire information.

Most "free" sites may not charge you money, but they come with a cost—your data.

While you may not think they're worth much, your privacy and security are of utmost importance and should be treated as such.

In this modern world, password protection and encryption should be standard practices. Make it a part of yours and Download WinZip for free today.