If you want to hide and protect your folders in Windows, the operating system itself has its own tools to do so. We can configure the different user permissions so that other PC users cannot enter certain folders, however, any user with administrator permissions can change these permissions and enter the folder without problems. In these cases, we can resort to external programs that help us hide and protect the folders to improve our privacy.
Why do you have to hide or protect folders?
If we are on a shared computer with more people, the most normal thing is to have several users configured in the Windows operating system. Generally we will have only one administrator on the team, and the rest will be normal users without administrator permissions. In these cases we can make use of the Windows tools in order to hide and protect our folders, being able to configure different user permissions that we have, and that is that we are going to be able to configure that only the owner user has total control, while the Other users do not have any permission: neither read, write, execute, modify, etc.
To access the security settings menu, just right-click on a folder in question. Once inside, click on the “Security” tab. If we want to edit the permissions, we must click on “Edit”, then a new menu will appear where we will be able to choose the permissions of the different groups or users that we have in the operating system. At the bottom we will have the different options to allow or deny the different permissions to users and groups. Depending on what interests us, we can remove different groups of users so that they do not have permissions:
If we have several administrators we have to use other methods to hide and protect our folders and files, because being administrators can also configure the permissions they want. Next, we are going to show you two solutions so that you can hide and protect your files even if you have several administrators in the operating system.
Hide Folders is a commercial tool, that is, it is not free, as is the case with other alternatives that we are also going to present to you. In this case we will be able to hide and block any folder from other users, protecting it with a master password that only you know. If you need a program that is very easy to use, fast and has all the necessary security options to keep your most important folders safe, this software is ideal for you.
Some features of this program is that it supports NTFS, exFAT, FAT and FAT32 file systems. It also allows an unlimited number of protected folders, ideal for not having problems and protecting as many as we want. It will also allow us to assign trusted processes that will be able to access the files, protect the program against being uninstalled, and is available in several languages. Finally, the folders protected by this program will remain protected even in safe mode.
As we have explained before, this program is commercial, so it is not free. In the event that you want to use it unlimitedly on a computer, the price of the license is only $39.95, however, you also have the family version that we can buy for $79.95, ideal to be able to install it up to on 5 personal computers.
Once we have seen the main features of this very interesting program, we are going to see how it is downloaded, installed and how it works.
Download and installation
We can download this program directly from the official website of the tool that we have indicated before. Logically, being a commercial program, it is not free, but we will have a 30-day trial version where we will be able to use it without any type of limit. If after these 30 days we want to continue using it, we must acquire a license through the program’s official website.
Once the program is downloaded, we install it like any other program in Windows, we select the installation language and click on «Accept» to continue with the configuration wizard.
The installation wizard has the usual steps, we have to accept the agreement, define a destination folder where to install the program, choose the name of the installation, if we want to create shortcuts and finally click on install. After a few seconds it will be installed and ready to go, we can click on “Finish” to close the installation wizard.
It is possible that the installation returns an error, this is because it is necessary to have the .NET Framework installed on the PC, a window will appear where it will indicate that a specific version is needed to be able to work, we install this software directly from Microsoft, and then we run the program’s installer again so that it installs everything correctly and without problems.
The operation of this program is very simple. In the «Dashboard» we will be able to see the general status of the program, and also how many days we have left to need a program license. In the upper part we have the different sections of the configuration, in addition, we have the possibility of activating a remote control web server, and we will also be able to configure a master password in the program to avoid any changes that are made in the program, from In this way, we will be sure that no one else will be able to use this program to unhide or unprotect a folder in question.
In the “Edit List” section is where we can add the different folders to hide or protect, what we have to do is click on the “Add” button and then we put the path of the folder to hide, and finally we choose the mode of protection. This program allows us to:
- Unprotect: Does not impose any protection.
- Hide: Hide the folder only.
- Lock: Locks access to the folder with a password.
- Hide and lock: Hide the folder and ask for a password to access it.
- Read Only: Only allows the reading of the folder.
Depending on what interests us, we will have to choose one option or another. We must remember that we will be able to enter an unlimited number of folders in the list to be protected.
If a user who is not allowed tries to access the folder, we will have different access errors due to lack of permissions, in fact, even if we are administrators, the permission change menus will not appear.
In the “Edit List” section we will be able to add the folders we want, but also remove them at any time, without the need to make complex configurations.
In the “Settings” section we will be able to see all the general options of the program, such as activating the protections even if the program is closed, integrating the program in the context menu, cleaning any possible track from a hidden folder, and it is that you can delete all recent data, in the elements of the recycle bin, the possibility of removing the Hide Folders program itself from the most used programs, etc.
Other available options are to enable hotkeys, with a combination of keys we can open the program, disable protection, enable protection and toggle protection. We can also configure other advanced options such as activating protection when the PC starts, after certain minutes of inactivity, and even enabling protection when the computer is locked.
In the “Password” section is where we can enter a new password to protect the program, in addition, it is recommended to enter an email to allow password recovery. If we forget the password we will not be able to recover it in any way, unless we put the email. Finally, in the “Tools” section we will be able to see the trusted processes and configure them, modify the language and the skin and other options related to the program.
As you can see, Hide Folders is a highly recommended option to protect our files and folders on the local computer, this is ideal to protect ourselves properly.
Prot-On is a solution similar to the previous one, but in this case, it allows us to have total control of our files and folders wherever they are. If you are going to share files through Google Drive, Dropbox or any other cloud storage service, if you use Prot-ON you will be able to define and limit who can access your files or folders. Thanks to this very interesting tool, we will be able to decide when and who can access the files and folders, this service is available for Windows, macOS, Android and also iOS operating systems, so we have complete compatibility.
This program is capable of protecting PDF documents, from the Office suite, texts, videos, audios and also photographs. The objective of this program is to control access to the file, we can configure who, when and for what purpose the protected files are accessed. Through the Prot-On control panel we will be able to consult the movements of each document, if it has been modified or edited, and also remotely modify the permissions that we want, ideal for closing access to a specific person.
Once we know the main features of Prot-On, we are going to see how it is downloaded, installed and how it works.
Download and installation
We can download this program directly from the official website that we have indicated before. Once the program is downloaded, we will be able to install it by running the installer, we simply have to open it and follow the installation wizard step by step, once installed we click on finish and a new window will open in our operating system.
In this new window that opens, we can choose between “I already have an account” in case you were registered before, or choose “I want to create a free account now”. We have chosen this second option, to create a new account in Prot-On and start protecting our files.
For registration, a username, a real email, a name with your surname and also an access password is absolutely necessary. We will use these credentials later to log in via the web and control all the permissions of the files that we want.
Once we open the email and validate the account, it will indicate that our registration has been completed successfully, and that we are close to starting to use Prot-On. Now what we must do is open the program that we have available in the icon in the lower right area of Windows.
Now that we have successfully downloaded and installed this software, let’s see how it works and what options are available to us.
If we click on the icon in the lower right area, we will find the different options that we have available:
- Protect file: this option allows us to protect a file individually, to subsequently manage permissions through the web.
- Open file: this option allows us to open a protected file.
- Protect text: allows you to protect a specific text.
- Decrypt clipboard text: whatever we have on the clipboard that is protected by Prot-On, we can easily decrypt it and display it in plain text.
- Protonized folders: if you want to protect entire folders and not just files, here you have the possibility.
- Manage permissions on the web: it will open the web directly where we can manage all the permissions.
- Preferences: we will see the different configuration options available.
- Help: it will take the help of the program itself to guide us.
- Exit: we close the program completely on the computer.
If we click on “Protect file” the different available options will appear, we simply have to choose the file to protect, and a new menu will appear telling us that the file has been protected correctly. We can also manage the permissions of the document, we have a button to go directly to the web application, we also have the possibility to share the link and send the file safely, since we can manage the permissions remotely.
As you can see, any protected file will have the .proton extension, regardless of whether it is an executable, text file, Office document or PDF, among many others.
If we protect an Excel file with Prot-On, and we do not have permissions to open it, it will indicate that the file is protected and that we cannot open it. It invites us to go to the official website to provide them with the necessary permissions to open this type of file.
On the official website we will be able to see the number of protections that have been carried out currently and also in the month, in addition, we have the possibility of seeing how many times a certain file has been shared. In the ” Default permissions ” section we will be able to see all the permissions that we have available, we will see our own user and we can also create a “Circle of trust” group, in addition, we have the possibility of giving certain permissions to any user of Proton.
Other options that we have are to search for the different protections of the files and folders, we have a complete search engine to see all the files and properly manage the permissions. Keep in mind that it is possible to have more than 1000 files without any problem, and we have to find them in some way to properly manage their permissions.
Finally, if we have the Premium version of Prot-On, we will be able to unlock certain Premium functions such as adding a watermark, expiring the document, and even allowing users to request the necessary permissions. Files could also be opened offline, and even only one device per user could be opened.
In the “My groups and policies” section we will be able to form several groups and give permissions to all of them simultaneously, in this way, we can create a group that has specific permissions on a specific file or folder.
As you can see, this tool is very easy to use.
Currently we have several tools to protect our files and folders from prying eyes, in this way, we can adequately protect our information without fear that someone will be able to open the files, modify them or directly delete them. Although at first the Windows operating system provides us with the necessary tools with the operating system itself, if we have more than one administrator it could change the access to folders and files without many problems, so it is absolutely necessary to have external tools add extra protection.
The two tools that we have shown you are not the only ones that will allow us to hide, protect and even share our protected files without privacy problems. We would also have the possibility of creating an encrypted container with VeraCrypt, one of the programs par excellence to encrypt all the data in a container and put all the files and folders there. This program also allows us to completely encrypt hard disk partitions and even the entire disk, of course, we could also do the same for external USB sticks.