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encrypt private files
© Yuri Arcurs |

3 free ways to encrypt private files, from medical papers to tax records

You should always encrypt private desktop files. Otherwise, hackers could steal your personal information and do as they please, such as putting it up for sale on the Dark Web. Here’s what to do if that happens.

The encryption is not crystal clear since different computer programs don’t always play well together.

Case in point: Judith from San Antonio, TX, called the Kim Komando Show with a tricky issue. She wants to encrypt a medical file on her Windows 11 desktop. She doesn’t have the Pro Edition, which comes with encryption software. Since she doesn’t want to upgrade, she asked for recommendations for third-party programs that get the job done.

Use these free apps to encrypt private files

We’ve got you covered if you’re looking for the best free encryption software to protect your data. These three file encryption tools help protect your privacy.

  1.  VeraCrypt: Get military-grade encryption for your data, folders, disks and even USB sticks. Although it’s free and resistant to brute-force attacks, you need some tech know-how to set it up. Plus, it doesn’t come with cloud storage features or sharing tools.
  2. AxCrypt: This program is easy to use. You can safely delete, encrypt or decrypt files with a single click. You can even lock down private data on your smartphone. There’s a free version and an inexpensive paid plan for Windows, macOS, iOS and Android. However, you’ll have to manually turn on certain features, like subfolder encryption.
  3. 7-Zip: This free file archiving software includes an option to encrypt archives with AES-256 encryption.

Since 7-Zip is so easy to use, we’ll walk you through the encryption process.

How to encrypt private files using 7-Zip

First, download and install 7-Zip onto your computer. Instead of looking it up on Google Search, click here or the yellow button below. It will take you directly to a safe download link:

Pro tip: Whenever you research apps online, watch out for malware. Hackers often create copycat sites designed to trick you into thinking you’re downloading a trustworthy app.

In reality, clicking these links installs viruses onto your computer. Additionally, you should also be wary of malicious ads on Google Search.

Once you have 7-Zip on your computer, here’s what to do next:

  • Right-click on the file you want to encrypt and select 7-ZIP > Add to archive.
  • Select Encryption in the new window.
  • Select your encryption method of choice — like AES-256 — and enter a password to encrypt the file.
  • Want to make an encrypted archive? Click OK. Your encrypted file will have a .7z extension.
  • Next, verify the encryption by right-clicking on your encrypted archive and selecting 7-Zip > Open archive.
  • Enter your password to ensure you can’t see the file without entering the password.

Remember this when you’re using Z-Zip

🔐 7-Zip uses the AES-256 encryption algorithm, the industry standard used by governments, the military and private companies.

🚨 Keep this in mind: The security of your encrypted file depends on the strength of your password.

🤫 Use these 10 tips to secure your accounts with strong passwords.

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