How to Protect Your Files With Built-In NTFS File Encryption on Windows 10

Secure your data seamlessly with file encryption on NTFS drives.

How do you keep your data secure? There are many ways, some cumbersome, some easier, and each of them with its pros and cons. One easy way to protect your data is to use the Encrypted File System (EFS) built into Windows for encrypting data on NTFS drives.

Here’s what you need to know about the EFS and how to enable and disable NTFS file encryption on Windows 10.

What Is the Encrypted File System on Windows?

Apart from being a tool built in to Windows that can be used to encrypt files and folders on NTFS drives, protecting them from unwanted access, the EFS provides an extra layer of security for your important files. As per Microsoft, EFS encrypts files on NTFS file system volumes using a public-key system.

No person or application can access the encrypted files without the appropriate file encryption key. If you want to find out more about how encryption works and whether it is safe (or, more specifically, how AES-256 encryption works), we have articles dedicated to making things simple. We even have a few picks of the best encryption software, if you choose to go down the third-party route.

Why Should You Use Windows EFS to Encrypt Files?

Using the EFS for file encryption has a few benefits over using third-party software. Here are a few reasons you might want to pick the EFS for your file security.

  1. The EFS generates keys when encrypting files, which are more secure than standard user-set passwords.
  2. The encryption and decryption are performed in kernel mode. So there is no risk of a key being left in a paging file from where it can be accessed by attackers.
  3. You don’t need to remember a password to decrypt encrypted files. If you have the necessary permissions, you won’t notice anything different: you can work with files without any restrictions.
  4. You don’t have to remember to encrypt files when you are finished using them. A file or folder marked as encrypted will automatically encrypt itself in the background while you use Windows.
  5. Using the EFS for file encryption is suited to companies. By setting up the appropriate permissions, data encrypted for access by a specific person can be recovered even if the person leaves the company.

How to Encrypt Files and Folders on Windows 10 Using EFS

Encrypting files and folders using the EFS is easy. Follow these steps.

  1. Browse to the file or folder you wish to encrypt.
  2. Right-click on the file or folder, and select Properties.
  3. Under Attributes, click on the Advanced button. A new window should open up.
  4. In the Compress or Encrypt attributes section, check the box Encrypt contents to secure data, and click OK.
    Encrypting files on Windows 10

If this option is grayed out, it means NTFS file encryption is disabled. However, don’t fret; there’s still hope if you want to enable NTFS file encryption on your Windows 10 machine.

How to Enable or Disable NTFS File Encryption on a Windows System

Usually, the reason you can’t use NTFS file encryption on Windows 10 is down to it being disabled. Fortunately, getting it re-enabled is as easy as running a command, or tweaking a few parameters.

There are lots of ways to enable or disable NTFS file encryption on Windows 10. If you’re interested in reading about them, check out our guide on what the Windows Encrypting File System (EFS) is, and how to enable or disable it.

Make Your System More Secure With NTFS File Encryption

Leveraging the built-in Encrypting File System is an easy way to encrypt and protect files on your system, keeping them safe from prying eyes. Even better, it’s no hassle to you; authorized users can access these files just like they do any other.


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