Securely Encrypting Files – Windows

Sharing documents that contain sensitive, personal information, can be risky. Varying levels of identity theft can result if your documents aren’t properly protected.

There are any number of methods to securely share such documents. Here are a few of the simpler methods:

  1. Print the documents, or copy the files onto portable media (CD or flash drive), and send by Postal Mail or hand deliver.
  2. Upload the document files to a secure cloud service (dropbox, etc), email a link to the files, and remove the files from the cloud immediately after they’re downloader. Note that anyone with access to the link, can download the files as long as they’re available on the cloud service.
  3. Securely encrypt the files and email them. Share the decryption password via telephone.

Windows offers a built-in compression (right-click, Send to > compressed (zipped) folder), but encryption isn’t available (Windows 8.1)

Continue reading for help with method 3: Securely Encrypting Files.

For Mac OS X, refer to Securely Encrypting Files – Mac OS X

Install Encryption Software


This tutorial utilizes the encryption program 7-Zip.

  • Download the correct version for your Windows installation.
  • Allow the installer to run.
  • Accept the standard installation.

7-Zip – Archive


To begin the process:

  • Navigate to the folder (or file) that you’d like to encrypt.
  • Right-click and select 7-Zip > Add to Archive…

7-Zip – Encrypt


The Add to Archive window opens. Ensure these settings:

  1. Select 7z.
  2. AES 256 bit encryption.
  3. Enter a password for the upcoming encryption. Twice.
  4. To select the destination of the final, encrypted file.

Click OK.

Send the .7z File


Create a new email and drop the .7z file into it. You may want to include some instructions on how to decrypt it. Here’s a sample:

Hello Person,

Here’s the information you requested to process my loan. The file is encrypted using the 7z format.

Please call me at 132-456-7890 to get the password.

If your computer doesn’t have the proper software, it’s available for free:
Keka for Mac OS X.
7 Zip for Windows.

You can find detailed instructions at:
Securely Encrypting Files – Mac OS X
Securely Encrypting Files – Windows

Sending Person

7-Zip – Decrypt


To decrypt a 7z file:

  • Navigate to the 7z file.
  • Right-click and select Extract Here. This places the decrypted folder (file) in the same location as the original 7z file.
  • If you’d like a different location, select Extract files…
  • Enter the password.

Interestingly, if you cancel when entering the password, the folder is created but nothing is in it.