by August 9, 2003 0 comments

Most of us have confidential information on our PCs that we would like to secure against prying eyes. If you’re using Win 2000 or XP, you can prevent your files and folders from being opened or even copied by using a built-in option in the OS. Once you encrypt a file or folder, this feature automatically attaches a digital certificate to your file or folder. Let’s see how you can encrypt your confidential data.


Format on NTFS 
To use file and folder encryption, you must first format your drive on NTFS. You can convert an existing FAT/FAT32 system to NTFS by using the simple ‘convert’ command from your command prompt (Start>Accessories>Command Prompt). 

C:\Windows> convert <drive letter> /FS:NTFS

If the drive you are converting is your system drive, then you will be asked to reboot your system. To be on the safer side, back up all
data from the partition you are converting.


Encrypt files, folders 
Right click on any file or folder on the NTFS drive on your hard disk, and select its properties from the menu. In the Property Sheet window that will open, select the General tab and click on the Advanced button shown next to Attributes. On the box that will open, check ‘Encrypt contents to secure data’. Now click on OK on this and on the main Properties dialog box. If you select a folder, you will be asked if you want to encrypt all the files and subfolders within the encrypted folder. Select ‘Apply changes to all the files and subfolders’ to encrypt everything in it. 

Note that if you are encrypting a compressed file or folder, you need to first uncompress it before you can apply encryption on it. You cannot both compress and encrypt a file or folder.


Share access to encrypted files, folders
If you want other users to be able to share your encrypted files or folder, then you need to grant access to them. To do this, go back to the encryption dialog [Properties>General (tab)>Advanced (button)]. Here, click on the Details button to open a dialog box. Click on the Add button to add users from your Windows’ users list. Click on OK to finish. 


Reuse digital signature
An important thing to remember is to keep a backup of your digital certificate in a safe location. This is so that in case you need to reformat your hard drive, want to use the encrypted files or folders on another system or if your key gets corrupt, you need to be able to access your encrypted data. Without the certificate, you won’t be able to access them. 

To take a backup of the certificate, launch IE and go to the Tools>Internet Options menu. Select the Content tab and then enter the Certificate section. 

Go to the Personal tab there and select one certificate from the list of certificates and click on Export. This will start the Certificate Export Wizard. On the second screen, select ‘Yes, export the private key’ and click on Next. 

On the third screen, click on ‘Enable strong protection’ and then click on Next. You will be asked to set the password for the exported key. 

Give the password you wish (twice), specify the location to save the file to, and click on Next. Click on Finish on the last screen to complete the process.

To use this certificate on another system, you need to import it there. Copy the exported key to this system and double click on it from Windows Explorer. 

This will run a wizard to set it up on that system. This encryption gives you foolproof security against your confidential data from being stolen. 

Sanjay Majumder

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