How to Password Protect and Encrypt MacBook Files

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Protecting sensitive data on a computer should be one of your priorities. Therefore, you should utilize encryptions and passwords whenever possible. As a MacBook user, you have several ways to encrypt and protect data with passwords. This article tells you multiple ways on how to password protect and encrypt MacBook files.

One of the best things is that there is no need to bother with third-party software because the necessary security tools are integrated into macOS.

FileVault Encryption

Let’s start with FileVault. If you enable FileVault disk encryption for the startup drive, you can benefit from what is considered the best way to block unauthorized data access.

FileVault can be enabled in the System Preferences tab. Go to Security and Privacy, then select FileVault.

filevault
FileVault

Before proceeding, you will see a pop-up that asks you to pick a method as a recovery safety net. The odds of losing or forgetting your account password are not that high, but it can still happen. 

Choose between iCloud or creating a separate recovery key. Overall, the recovery key approach is better security-wise because if someone has your user data, the information could also include Apple ID and password.

The encryption time varies from a few hours to up to half a day, so keep that in mind. The MacBook’s performance should not dip while the encryption takes place. Keep in mind that the computer needs to be awake for the encryption to happen.

Screensaver Password

Create a screensaver password so that only you or another person with the password can access the Mac. That is, after waking it up from sleep mode or logging out of the primary user account.

screensaver password
Screensaver Password

The sleep and screensaver password is available in the Security and Privacy pane. Select the General tab, and click the padlock to modify the settings.

You will see multiple options for how soon the password should activate. Picking “immediately” is probably the way to go, as you do not want to worry about the time it takes for the password to start working and protecting the computer.

Firmware Password

The firmware password denies access to unauthorized parties that want to start the MacBook via another drive. After enabling the firmware password, you will not notice a difference by starting the device from the usual startup drive.

On the other hand, booting the computer from a different drive or the Recovery Mode will come with a different screen that has a lock icon and a field to enter a password.

firmware password
Firmware Password

One thing to note about Firmware password is that the feature is no longer available on newer Mac models that have Apple’s processors. Unless you still own a MacBook with an Intel processor, you will have to stick to another security measure. Apple themselves recommend FileVault.

You can treat the firmware password as an extra security layer if you are too concerned about the device’s safety.

To enable the feature, restart the computer and hold down Command + R after you see the computer’s screen turn black. 

Once the MacBook finishes loading. You should see the Utilities window, in which you can find the option to create and set the firmware password. After you finish creating the password and confirming it, restart the Mac to complete the process.

File Encryption

Encrypting individual documents might sound redundant. But it is still a good approach if you want to know how to password protect and encrypt MacBook files.

Since there are different types of files, to protect Mac files by setting up a password.

Preview is one of the examples of such protection. You can open a PDF or an image via Preview and enable encryption as well as a password for an individual file.

file encryption
File Encryption

If you need to protect Word, Excel, or PowerPoint Documents, the three also have security features. In MS Word, you can access the security tab by clicking Review and selecting Protect.

For MS Excel and PowerPoint, click File>Passwords and enter passwords to open and modify the file. 

Finally, if you like, you can even create a password for .zip archived files using the built-in macOS app Terminal.

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Backup Encryption

Encrypting backups might feel unnecessary because you are already taking a step to protect your data by creating its copy. Nevertheless, it is better to be safe than sorry when it comes to computer file security.

Mac users usually back up their data via Time Machine, so it is no surprise to see Apple introduce an encryption feature directly to the tool.

backup encryption
Backup Encryption

To encrypt Time Machine backup, select the backup disk and check Encrypt backups. You must set a password and a hint. The latter is mandatory, so keep that in mind.

After setting the security details, click the Use Disk button and wait for Time Machine to begin encryption. 

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