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October 09, 2023

How to decrypt encrypted files on Windows 11

It’s important to keep your files safe, especially if they contain sensitive information. Encrypting your files helps protect the contents inside, but are they difficult to decrypt? Not at all! Learn more about encrypted files and how to decrypt them in just a few steps on Windows 11.

What is an encrypted file?

An encrypted file is locked with a specific digital key. By encrypting a file, you can help protect it from getting in the hands of internet hackers or unauthorized users. Encrypted files are handy for when you need to send something personal via email or are using an external storage drive to transport a file. Files are most vulnerable to cyberattacks once they are sent out, and file encryption helps keep your personal information safe in transit.

How to encrypt a file

Windows 11 makes it easy to encrypt your files. Follow the steps below to keep your information safe: 

  1. Find the file you wish to encrypt. If the file is not located on your desktop, try selecting the File Explorer icon in your toolbar and using the search box at the top of the window.
  2. Hover your cursor over the file, and right-click on it using your mouse or trackpad. You should see a number of options appear on the screen.
  3. Select Properties at the bottom of the list and select Advanced… at the bottom of the window.
  4. Check the box next to Encrypt contents to secure data.
  5. Select OK in the Advanced Attributes window and Properties window.
  6. You’ll receive a popup Encryption Warning. Choose the option on the screen that best fits your needs and select OK.
  7. Your file will now have a padlock on it to indicate that it’s encrypted.
  8. To give more users access to the encrypted file, repeat steps 1-3 and select Details. Then select Add to find other users.

How to decrypt a file

To decrypt an encrypted file, simply repeat the steps above and uncheck the box next to Encrypt contents to secure data. After unchecking the box, select OK in the Advanced Attributes window and the Properties window. Double-check to make sure the padlock is no longer attached to your file.

Other ways to keep your files safe

Uploading your file to the cloud adds an extra layer of protection. By using a cloud storage platform like Microsoft OneDrive, you can keep your files secure and access them from any device. OneDrive also allows users to encrypt files with the OneDrive Personal Vault feature¹, which protects your most sensitive information with identity verification.

Looking for tips on using Windows 11? Check out the Windows Learning Center to find more articles.

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[1] A Microsoft 365 Personal or Family subscription is required to store more than 3 files in Personal Vault. OneDrive 100 GB plans and Basic 5 GB free accounts can store a maximum of 3 files in Personal Vault. Personal Vault is not available in OneDrive for school or work.