14 Best Encryption Software for 2021

With increasing concern over cybercrime and data security, more and more of us are turning to file encryption software to keep our data safe.

Our experts have nailed down 14 of the best encryption software programs across Windows, Mac, and mobile so you can find one that best suits you.

We looked at:

  • Features
  • Strength of encryption
  • Extra features
  • Ease of use
  • Pricing
  • And much more

With our quick table of facts, in-depth reviews, and simple encryption guides, you’ll be a master of file encryption in no time.

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1. Folder Lock

Folder Lock is a versatile and easy to use program with options for Windows and iOS, iPhone and is the best encryption app for Android on our list. It allows you to password protect and fully encrypt your files and folders, as well as backing up your data to the cloud. There are also a lot of additional features that make it a good all-round information security suite for just $39.95. Full Review

  • Feature rich
  • Secure online backups
  • Password protect external storage
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Folder Lock is a versatile and easy to use program with options for Windows and iOS, iPhone and is the best encryption app for Android on our list. It allows you to password protect and fully encrypt your files and folders, as well as backing up your data to the cloud. There are also a lot of additional features that make it a good all-round information security suite for just $39.95. Full Review

Free Trial

25 uses

Encryption Method

AES 256-bit

File Shredder

Yes

Multi-platform

Windows, Apple, Android

Backups

With cloud support

Encrypt External Storage

Yes

Browser Cleaner

Yes

Protect Financial Info

Yes

2. Concealer

For $19.99 Mac users can easily encrypt everything from files and folders to their credit card details - all in one easy-to-navigate interface. With double password protection for your main encrypted repository and any individual files inside, this is easily the best and most secure encryption software for Mac. Full Review

  • Financial info templates
  • Excellent visual interface
  • Double-up on passwords
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For $19.99 Mac users can easily encrypt everything from files and folders to their credit card details - all in one easy-to-navigate interface. With double password protection for your main encrypted repository and any individual files inside, this is easily the best and most secure encryption software for Mac. Full Review

Free Trial

Yes

Premium License

Lifetime

Encryption Method

AES 256-bit

Tech Support

Email

Protect Financial Info

Yes

Encrypt External Storage

Yes

Encryption Location

Local ‘Repository’

Screen Lock

Yes

3. NordLocker

From $47.88 per year, NordLocker provides a comprehensive Mac and Windows file encryption solution that automatically syncs your encrypted locker of files to the cloud with 500GB of space. What’s more, the program is completely free if you can adhere to a lesser 3GB limit. Quite easy for the average home user that only wishes to encrypt a select number of files. Full Review

  • Generous free cloud storage
  • Encryption key recovers account
  • Easy drag-and-drop interface
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From $47.88 per year, NordLocker provides a comprehensive Mac and Windows file encryption solution that automatically syncs your encrypted locker of files to the cloud with 500GB of space. What’s more, the program is completely free if you can adhere to a lesser 3GB limit. Quite easy for the average home user that only wishes to encrypt a select number of files. Full Review

Free Trial

3GB cloud storage

Guarantee

30-day money back

Premium License

Monthly/Yearly

Encryption Method

AES-256

Encryption Location

Local ‘Locker’

Tech Support

24/7

Password Recovery

Yes

Platforms

Windows and MAC

4. Boxcryptor

Starting at $48 per year Boxcryptor allows users to send encrypted files from an unlimited number of devices to an endless list of supported cloud storage hosts like Google Drive or Dropbox. They also offer a generous free version that lets you use two devices and one cloud host. Full Review

  • Completely free local encryption
  • Easy drag-and-drop interface
  • All major cloud hosts
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Starting at $48 per year Boxcryptor allows users to send encrypted files from an unlimited number of devices to an endless list of supported cloud storage hosts like Google Drive or Dropbox. They also offer a generous free version that lets you use two devices and one cloud host. Full Review

Free Trial

2 Devices/ 1 Host

Free Version

Unlimited local encryption

Premium License

$48/ year

Encryption Method

AES-256 and RSA-4096

Encryption Location

Virtual Drive

Customer Support

Email

Password Recovery

No

Send Encrypted Files

Via Whisply

5. Steganos Safe 22

At $17.49 for 5 Windows PC licenses, Steganos is one of the most affordable premium encrypt tools on the market. It works like a charm, letting you store up to 2TB of encrypted data locally and send files securely to a third-party cloud storage service. You can also upload your master password safely on a removable USB drive. Full Review

  • Very affordable
  • Third-party cloud support
  • USB password key
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At $17.49 for 5 Windows PC licenses, Steganos is one of the most affordable premium encrypt tools on the market. It works like a charm, letting you store up to 2TB of encrypted data locally and send files securely to a third-party cloud storage service. You can also upload your master password safely on a removable USB drive. Full Review

Free Trial

30-days

Encryption Method

AES-XEX 384-bits

Premium License

$17.49

Encryption Location

Local ‘safe’

Password Recovery

Yes

File Shredder

Yes

Encrypt External Storage

Yes

Platform

Windows Only

6. AxCrypt

For $45, AxCrypt is available for Windows and Mac and provides tons of easy-to-use features. From seamlessly decrypting, editing and re-encrypting files, to auto screen timeout, to the ability to send encrypted files and messages between two people – AxCrypt has it all. Full Review

  • Encrypt with right-click
  • Edit encrypted files seamlessly
  • PGP encryption software messaging
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For $45, AxCrypt is available for Windows and Mac and provides tons of easy-to-use features. From seamlessly decrypting, editing and re-encrypting files, to auto screen timeout, to the ability to send encrypted files and messages between two people – AxCrypt has it all. Full Review

Free Trial

30-days

Free Version

Decrypt files from others

Premium License

$45

Platforms

Windows and Mac

Encryption Method

AES 256-bit

Encryption Location

Files remain in location

Send Encrypted Files

Yes

Password Manager

Yes

7. CryptoForge

A good all-round encryption solution for Windows, CryptoForge lets you choose from four different encryption methods. It can work seamlessly from Windows Explorer and the right-click context menu, for an easy to use and light software experience. You can also send encrypted messages and shred files, all for a one-off $39.70. Full Review

  • Light and easy to use
  • Layer encryption methods
  • Simple encrypted messaging system
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A good all-round encryption solution for Windows, CryptoForge lets you choose from four different encryption methods. It can work seamlessly from Windows Explorer and the right-click context menu, for an easy to use and light software experience. You can also send encrypted messages and shred files, all for a one-off $39.70. Full Review

Free trial

30-days

Premium License

$39.70

Encryption Method

4 types

Platform

Windows Only

Send Encrypted Messages

Yes

Password Manager

No

Customer Support

Priority Email

Password Recovery

No

8. SensiGuard

Starting at $39 for a single license, SensiGuard does everything a good encryption program should, including encrypting any files and folders you choose. It also highly compresses them to conserve local storage. You can password protect your removable storage devices, shred files, manage your passwords, and send encrypted files. Full Review

  • High compression
  • Feature-rich
  • Simple encrypted messaging system
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Starting at $39 for a single license, SensiGuard does everything a good encryption program should, including encrypting any files and folders you choose. It also highly compresses them to conserve local storage. You can password protect your removable storage devices, shred files, manage your passwords, and send encrypted files. Full Review

Free Trial

30-days

Premium License

$39

Encryption Method

AES 256-bit

Send Encrypted Files

Yes

File Shredder

Yes

Encrypt External Storage

Password protected

Password Manager

Yes

Support

1 year only

9. SECURE IT

SecureIT stands out in a number of ways – it has several different encryption methods and allows you to send auto-decrypting messages to others. It also extends its encryption to any connected drives and removable media. This easy-to-use software is available for just $29.95. Full Review

  • Keylogger-proof password entry
  • Send auto-decrypting messages
  • Easily encrypt removable storage
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SecureIT stands out in a number of ways – it has several different encryption methods and allows you to send auto-decrypting messages to others. It also extends its encryption to any connected drives and removable media. This easy-to-use software is available for just $29.95. Full Review

Free Trial

30-days

Premium License

$29.95

Encryption Method

Blowfish 448-bit and AES 256-bit

Encryption Location

Original location

File Shredder

Yes

Send Encrypted Messages

Yes

Encrypt External Storage

Yes

Tech Support

Online chat

10. VeraCrypt

VeraCrypt is an open-source encryption tool that has some of the most advanced features of any program we’ve reviewed. You can encrypt everything from files and drives, to your entire operating system. And, if it all goes wrong a trusty recovery disc or USB stick will get you back inside. If you want a free encryption software - this is it. Full Review

  • Open source and free
  • Recovery disc/USB
  • OS and Drive Encryptor
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VeraCrypt is an open-source encryption tool that has some of the most advanced features of any program we’ve reviewed. You can encrypt everything from files and drives, to your entire operating system. And, if it all goes wrong a trusty recovery disc or USB stick will get you back inside. If you want a free encryption software - this is it. Full Review

Price

Free

Encryption Method

AES 256-bit, Camellia, Kuzbyechik

Encryption Location

Virtual Disk

Encrypt External Storage

Yes

Platforms

Windows, Mac, Linux

Password Recovery

Yes

Tech Support

No

Send Encrypted Messages

No

11. Renee File Protector

For $24.95 Renee File Protector offers all the usual file and folder encryption software, with some brilliant additional features. These include hiding files on encrypted drives that even appear to be decrypted and a forgiving password system, allowing you to receive prompts or recover your password via email. Full Review

  • Good price
  • Double file/folder password protection
  • Great hide feature
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For $24.95 Renee File Protector offers all the usual file and folder encryption software, with some brilliant additional features. These include hiding files on encrypted drives that even appear to be decrypted and a forgiving password system, allowing you to receive prompts or recover your password via email. Full Review

Free Trial

Yes

Premium License

$24.95

Encryption Method

AES 256-bit

Encryption Location

Original Location

Send Encrypted Messages

No

File Shredder

Yes

Password Recovery

Yes

Tech Support

Email

12. IBM Guardium

IBM Guardium is an enterprise solution that helps you identify and monitor data risks in your company. It implements encryption systems and compliance policies based on their assessments. They boast a 401% ROI, though you will need to book a consultation to discuss tailored data-centric security and pricing. Full Review

  • Suitable for large companies
  • Tailor-made encryption solutions
  • Utilizes analytics and reporting
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IBM Guardium is an enterprise solution that helps you identify and monitor data risks in your company. It implements encryption systems and compliance policies based on their assessments. They boast a 401% ROI, though you will need to book a consultation to discuss tailored data-centric security and pricing. Full Review

Price

Quote consultation

Encryption Method

Multiple methods

Support

Dedicated manager

Platforms

Cross-platforms and IT systems

Password Recovery

Yes

Manage Permissions

Yes

Central Control Panel

Yes

Threat Monitoring

Real-Time

13. Microsoft BitLocker

If you are a Windows 10 Pro or Enterprise user - you’re in luck. You get free access to a comprehensive operating system encryption tool called BitLocker. It encrypts the entire volume your OS is on and requires a special pre-boot password to gain access to the machine. It’s the best encryption software for Windows 10 for disks if you have a compatible OS version. Full Review

  • Free for compatible OSs
  • Encrypt your entire system
  • Multiple login/decryption methods
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If you are a Windows 10 Pro or Enterprise user - you’re in luck. You get free access to a comprehensive operating system encryption tool called BitLocker. It encrypts the entire volume your OS is on and requires a special pre-boot password to gain access to the machine. It’s the best encryption software for Windows 10 for disks if you have a compatible OS version. Full Review

Price

Free

Encryption Method

AES 256-bit

Encryption Type

Entire OS Volume

Encrypt External Drives

Yes

Protects from Malware

Yes

Platforms

Windows 10 Pro/Enterprise

Tech Support

Via Windows

Password Recovery

Yes

14. Apple FileVault

If you’re on Mac OS X 10.3 or above you get free access to their intuitive FileVault app. It secures your entire disk and operating system on startup. It also requires your master password whenever your device goes to sleep, the screen saver is on or you lock the window. Full Review

  • Free for MAC users
  • Encrypt your entire system
  • Lock your screen
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If you’re on Mac OS X 10.3 or above you get free access to their intuitive FileVault app. It secures your entire disk and operating system on startup. It also requires your master password whenever your device goes to sleep, the screen saver is on or you lock the window. Full Review

Price

Free

Encryption Method

AES 256-bit

Encryption Type

Entire OS Disk

Password Recovery

Via USB Key and iCloud

Works in Background

Yes

Platform

Mac OS X 10.3 +

Tech Support

Via Apple

Performance Impact

Low

Best Encryption Software for 2021

Not every program that encrypts data is the same, so here’s what makes each of our software picks differ from each other:

  • Folder Lock – Best for multi-device users
  • Concealer – Best overall encryption software for Macs
  • NordLocker – Best encryption software with automatic cloud storage
  • Boxcryptor – Best encrypt tool for sending encrypted files to the cloud
  • Steganos Safe 22 – Most affordable premium file encryption software
  • AxCrypt – Best file encryption software for sending files and messages
  • CryptoForge – Best Windows encryption option for slow computers
  • SensiGuard – Best encryption software for compression and saving space
  • SECURE IT – Best for encrypting files on removable storage
  • VeraCrypt – Best free encryption software
  • Renee File Protector – Best encryption software for hiding files and fooling extortionists
  • IBM Guardium – Best encryption programs for large enterprises and companies
  • Microsoft BitLocker – Best for windows 10 encryption
  • Apple FileVault – Best full disk encryption software for MAC

Detailed Reviews

Folder Lock
Folder Lock

BEST FOR

Multi-device users

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  • Feature rich
  • Secure online backups
  • Password protect external storage
  • Includes phone encryption app

Folder Lock is a quick and easy way to ‘lock’ files and folders and fully encrypt them for total protection. It can work with Windows, Apple, and Android devices. With a wide range of features and an intuitive modern interface, this powerful tool is perfect for home users.

It’s worth mentioning up front that there are two main file protection methods to choose from – Lock and Encrypt; both of which use the phrase lock which can confuse people.

Locking refers to the ability to use a regular password protection process to ‘lock’ files and folders. It can also lock programs, entire drives, and maintain its locked status even if you boot Windows in Safe Mode.

However, if you want the fullest protection available you will also have to use ‘Folder Lock’. It will encrypt its contents to secure data. That is to say, it will scramble and hide the data until you decrypt the ‘locker’ with your password. 

These lockers use full 256-bit encryption which is virtually impossible to break.

Just make sure you know when you’re encrypting a file within a locker or just password protecting your files. Fortunately, it’s not too hard to figure out as the interface makes everything quite clear.

  • Step 1: Create a Locker, which acts as a new drive on your computer that you can name or just assign a letter. Choose a strong password and you’re ready to add files.
  • Step 2: Make the locker portable with a 2TB total limit and 4GB per file limit, which you can put on external storage or backup to the cloud service. Or, choose ‘basic locker’ which stays on your computer and has unlimited space but no online backup support.
  • Step 3: Drag and drop your files into the Locker to encrypt them. Note, you may have to physically delete them from their original location after this process.

Where Folder Lock stands out is with its additional features, including:

  • File Shredder: Permanently deletes files beyond the recycle bin and re-writes the data so it cannot be recovered.
  • Clean History: Clear your browsing history and saved online data, temporary windows and junk files, and your windows explorer history. 
  • Wallets: Create an encrypted wallet with your credit and debit card information so you can easily remember it when you need it without storing the info out in the open.

The associated android file encryption app can encrypt virtually all file types behind an extra password, including images, videos, docs, contacts.

Pricewise you can purchase the full software for just $39.95 for an indefinite license after testing it 25 times for free. 

The only catch with the price is that if you want to make use of cloud encrypted backups, you’ll need to pay for a regular subscription ranging from $5 to $400 depending on the amount of data. Home users, however, won’t be using it a lot and will likely not need this service at all.

Businesses that have an ever-growing amount of private data may want to consider one of these ‘end-to-end’ plans. They can allow you up to 2TB a month with a one-month free trial.

As a home solution, just shy of $40 is an affordable price for such an easy to use and powerful encryption tool. Its extra features are also appreciated.

Concealer
Concealer

BEST FOR

Overall encryption software for Macs

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  • Financial info templates
  • Excellent visual interface
  • Double-up on passwords
  • Student 30% discount

Concealer is a good Mac-only encryption tool that secures files, folders, passwords, or even software via a drag-and-drop interface. 

Although it still lacks some of the extras that you will find with the popular Windows-compatible programs, it comes with a free trial and a lifetime license is just $19.99.

The basis for Concealer is its encrypted repository. This is where everything you encrypt ultimately resides and is secured with a master password. You can password protect individual items within the repository for double protection.

The encrypt tool utilizes the strongest current known encryption method, AES 256-bit, making it virtually impossible for anyone to crack your data without your passwords.

The repository can be remote. In other words, you can store it on a removable pen drive, or you can simply keep it on one of your hard drives. And, if you’re worried that someone else has physical access to your machine, you can set it to auto-lock after a certain amount of time. 

One helpful feature is its cards and accounts templates. If you want to encrypt passwords, credit card information, software serial numbers, email logins, etc., it has a hefty list of preset templates. You can enter this information and ultimately access it in a visually appealing way. This includes icons, headings, and a logical layout.

While you can encrypt text files full of passwords or account info, this method is a lot more user-friendly. You can even quickly export these ‘cards’ to text files if you want to use them elsewhere.

Physical files themselves simply have to be dragged and dropped into the repository and everything is automatically organized in an intuitive way. I.e. you can click tabs to access your Accounts, Files, Software, Finance, Login Info, Photos, etc. There are also sorting and searching functions, so you’ll easily find what you’re looking for.

Concealer can offer to generate a strong password for you or will let you know whether the one you have chosen is adequate. Either way, you will need to remember it.

For a single lifetime license, it’s $19.99 or you can pay $34.99 for installation on five machines. Students and those in academia get 30% off, and there’s also a free unlimited trial that allows you to encrypt a small amount of data.

NordLocker
NordLocker

BEST FOR

Encryption software with automatic cloud storage

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  • Generous free cloud storage
  • Encryption key recovers account
  • Easy drag-and-drop interface
  • Automatic cloud syncing

Made by the creators of NordVPN, NordLocker is unique in the world of encryption software. Although it offers a generous 3GB free version of the program, you are required to send your encrypted data to the cloud. 

So, if you need more than 3GB of encrypted storage you will have to pay a monthly or yearly fee for the privilege.

We can’t fault the free version – it is more than enough for a home user to encrypt their most private information indefinitely. However, heavy users and businesses will have to weigh up the pros and cons of paying regularly for the service, given that other software allows local storage and a one-off lifetime license.

Regardless of the model, the software itself does everything a good encryption solution should. It is available for both Windows and Mac.

Step one involves creating a master password to open all of your data. This is always the weak point of any encryption software because it needs to be adequately strong while being something you can remember.

Nonetheless, Nord will let you know if it thinks your chosen password is strong enough and it is up to you to remember it or store it in a secure way. 

Fortunately, should you forget Nord also gives you a seemingly random string of characters as an ‘emergency key’. Store this digitally or physically, but at least obscure it – don’t put it in a text file on your desktop called Nord.txt and you should be ok. 

Right away it will create your ‘Locker’ and anything you drag and drop here will be encrypted using the industry’s strongest method, AES-256

It will ask whether you want to create an encrypted copy or delete the original and essentially move it to the locker. This is a nice touch because too many programs rely on the user to remember to delete the original file themselves. 

We moved a 2GB video file which was encrypted within 2 minutes. It then, however, has to ‘sync’ with the cloud, which we assume means upload to your online encrypted locker. For a 2GB file, this took much longer and was essentially dependent on our internet connection speed.

The interface is straightforward. The default folder encryptor within your locker is called ‘personal’ but you can arrange things in any tree of folders you like. You can also find files by searching and sorting them by various parameters. 

You can easily upgrade to a 500GB plan for $3.99 a month (if you pay for the $47.88 year in advance) or $7.99 if billed monthly. This entitles you to 24/7 customer support and you get a 30-day money-back guarantee. Business users who might require more space or a tailored solution must go through further steps to get a personalized quote.

NordLocker provides no extra features, but all-in-all it’s one of our favorites thanks to the generous file encryption software free version, suitable for most home users.

Boxcryptor
Boxcryptor

BEST FOR

Sending encrypted files to the cloud

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  • Completely free local encryption
  • Easy drag-and-drop interface
  • All major cloud hosts
  • One free cloud option

From lockers to boxes, Boxcryptor is another anomaly that requires a subscription for the full program rather than a one-off payment for the license.

However, they do provide a generous free version that supports two devices and integrates with Whisply. The latter is a service that encrypts files as they are sent to popular cloud storage hosts like Dropbox and Google Drive. This is known as end-to-end encryption and means your data cannot be intercepted midway.

It is these third-party file hosts that form the basis for Boxcryptor. They encourage you to store your encrypted files in ‘the cloud’ but it does not provide its own storage. You must use one of your existing accounts with these providers.

You can link to only one of these with a free account or use an unlimited amount of storage providers with a paid plan

When you install the software a virtual drive on your computer is created and you can then add folders and files and organize them as you see fit. This is also where all your cloud providers will be pooled together. To encrypt files, they can already be located on one of these cloud storage providers and you can right-click them from within Boxcryptor to then encrypt them.

The Whisply integration then allows you to send encrypted links to these files to others.

Alternatively, you can drag and drop any local file to the drive and will be prompted to encrypt it.

The software uses the highest encryption standards – AES-256 and RSA-4096, so there’s virtually no way your data can be cracked.

Just note, your master password for your ‘box’ or drive is set when you register on the site itself before even downloading the software. This caught us a bit off guard but it does let you know whether you have chosen a truly strong password.

We were pleasantly surprised to find that the local aspect of Boxcryptor is entirely free, meaning you can encrypt as many files on your computer as your hard drive can handle. Of course, you’ll want to delete the originals as this is not automatically done or even prompted when you copy a file over to the encrypted drive. But this can be overlooked for a free encryptor

Paid plans start at $48 per year for personal users, allowing an unlimited number of devices and cloud provider support. You can also encrypt file names themselves. Meanwhile, you’ll get fast customer support via email.

Business users that need multiple accounts and priority support must pay $96 per year.

Ultimately, Boxcryptor is competitively priced. If you don’t see the benefit of cloud storage, unlimited local encryption is an exceptional service that most Boxcryptor reviews agree with.

Steganos Safe 22
Steganos Safe 22

BEST FOR

Affordable premium file encryption software

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  • Very affordable
  • Third-party cloud support
  • USB password key
  • Two-factor authentication

For just $17.49 you can get 5 Windows PC licenses to use the Steganos Safe 22 encryption software that can conceal any file locally or back it up to the cloud. Users get 30 days to test the software before having to pay for a lifetime license. At the moment it is Windows encryption software only.

Although it’s a little gimmicky they boast superior AES-XEX encryption with 384 bits. Technically the highest encryption of any program we’ve reviewed. Though, truth be told, the chances of you needing those extra bits are infinitesimally small. 

To be blunt, their encryption is strong and that’s good enough for us.

Steganos calls their encrypted drives ‘Safes’, and you can store a maximum of 2TB of data regardless of your actual hard drive space. We’re not quite sure why there’s a limit but it’s a high one that most people won’t exceed. If you do, you can also integrate encrypted files with your cloud storage providers like Google Drive and Dropbox, and OneDrive.

Exactly where you create a safe on your computer is up to you. You can give it a drive letter or name, and have multiple safes going at one time. However, there is one overarching master password that you must set upon installation of these encrypt tools

For added protection you can add multi-factor authentication – once you’ve correctly entered your password you must then enter a second code sent to your email, phone, Authy, or Google Authenticator.

There’s not much in terms of extra features but what they do provide is very helpful. Firstly, you can shred files so that they’re permanently deleted and not even recoverable by hard drive recovery software and forensic experts.

Secondly, there’s an emergency password system you can set up in case you pass away, and you want your surviving dependents to gain access to your safes. This is especially useful if you encrypt personal photos or financial information

Thirdly, you can create a portable safe drive using removable media like a USB storage device, which is great if you have been searching for USB encryption software

What’s particularly praiseworthy of Steganos is that it really spends time setting up your password, which is the weak chain in the link. It makes sure you’ve chosen a strong one, gives you the option right away to set up two-factor authentication, and allows you to store the password safely on a removable USB drive in case you forget it.  

Once the password is set it creates a safe to the size you specify and actually allocates this on your hard drive before even adding any data. 

The drive works like any other Windows drive/folder. Anything you add to it is automatically encrypted. It doesn’t get easier than that.

Overall, Steganos Safe 22 is affordable, easy to use, and you can even choose different themes for the interface.

AxCrypt
AxCrypt

BEST FOR

Sending files and messages

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  • Encrypt with right-click
  • Edit encrypted files seamlessly
  • PGP encryption software messaging
  • Easy to use

AxCrypt combines local encryption of your files with secure file-sharing for an all-around great piece for PC and MAC.

Like most of these tools, it all starts with creating a master password which acts as the key to decrypt your ‘crypt’ or folder of encrypted files. It does a good job here guiding the user on how to make a truly strong password. Even 16 characters long with numbers, symbols, and capital letters is not considered the strongest, though it won’t force you to make it stronger.

In terms of encryption strength, you can choose between AES 128-bit or 256-bit. We advise going for the stronger 256-bit.

The user interface is particularly straightforward and beginner-friendly. Once you’ve gone through the setup wizard all you have to do is drag and drop files and folders into AxCrypt and they will become automatically encrypted.

Just remember to delete the originals else the entire process would have been pointless.

AxCrypt is conveniently added to your Windows context menu, so you can also easily right-click any file on your computer and encrypt it or securely delete it forever. This is done in such a way that recovery software and hard drive recovery experts won’t even be able to bring the files back because it does multiple rewrites over the ‘empty’ space.

Within your AxCrypt encrypt folder you can also simply right-click any file to decrypt it back to its usual happy and free self.

AxCrypt is fairly versatile allowing you to limitlessly encrypt folders in windows 10 and Mac and populate them with files as you wish. Once you close the program everything within these folders is encrypted and cannot be accessed without that master password.

One thing we liked about the way AxCrypt handles files is the ability to seamlessly open an encrypted file, edit it as normal and when saved, it goes back to being encrypted. Clicking the broom icon will also ensure any temporary data is cleaned up behind you.

If you’re working in a busy environment where someone could access your computer while you’re getting a coffee, for example, AxCrypt will time out after a few minutes. It will require you to reenter your password, though for the best protection you should probably just lock your screen instead. 

As well as local encryption, the software lets you share data with others who have at least installed the free version of AxCrypt. Hit share and enter the recipient’s email address. As long as this is the address they have associated with their AxCrypt account, they can decrypt the file on their end. If not, they will be prompted to install it.

Those with a bit more encryption know-how can also import other people’s public-key and export their own. You can send encrypted messages and files in a more traditional yet complicated manner.

Other handy tools include password managers, the ability to send encrypted files to your cloud accounts like Google Drive and Dropbox, and a mobile app that allows you to open your encrypted files on your own smartphone. However, there’s not much in the way of mobile security.

There are three types of accounts: 

  • Free, which allows you to decrypt encrypted files sent to you from others. 
  • Premium – for individuals can be purchased at $3.75 per month if you pay for the year upfront ($45.00) or $4.70 per month for regular monthly billing. There is also a 30-day free trial, so you essentially get a month for free.

Business accounts allow for multiple licenses, a dedicated account manager, and team collaboration. This costs $119 a year or $12 if billed monthly.

CryptoForge
CryptoForge

BEST FOR

Slow computers

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  • Light and easy to use
  • Layer encryption methods
  • Simple encrypted messaging system
  • File shredder writes 99-times

CryptoForge is the lightest encryption software we have installed and doesn’t even come with its own user interface beyond installation. Everything is handled within Windows context menus and your regular folder explorer. 

To begin with, you must create your master password, which is given a rating, so you know if it is truly strong enough. It can also suggest one up to 256 characters long.

You may be thinking how will I remember such a long password? The software can keep the password in memory while you’re working at your computer until you close down the program, or if you set it on a timer (perhaps if you’re going on your lunch break).

This is an obvious security risk, so we wouldn’t personally use this feature ourselves. It all depends on the environment your computer is based and who potentially has access to it. For example, a family computer is not at the same risk as a system within a corporate finance office. 

When you’re ready to encrypt files or folder encryption (and therefore everything within them) all you have to do is right-click and select encrypt from the context menu. Similarly, to decrypt you do the same and re-enter your password.

The software lets you choose from four different types of encryption – the standard AES, Blowfish, Triple DES, and GOST which was developed by the Soviet Union. If you’re unsure, we say stick with AES, though all will be secure enough for 99.99% of people. 

If you want to go all the way, you can even layer encryption methods on top of each other. But unless you are being targeted by the government or an extremely powerful group this isn’t necessary.

Oddly the site’s FAQ assures users they haven’t built a backdoor into their software. Good to know, but now we’re curious.

As well as files, CryptoForge allows text encrypting in plaintext and the sending of files via email or messenger service. Your chosen recipient is the only person who is able to decrypt what you’ve sent, but you will also need to include the very small Decrypter.exe file along with it.

Like many encryption tools, CryptoForge comes with a file shredder that allows you to permanently delete any file by overwriting the data with gibberish before bypassing the recycle bin. This means any kind of data recovery tool will be unable to recover your files. It also means you must be 100% certain you want to delete them in the first place!

In a bit of overkill, the program lets you overwrite your deleted file up to 99 times. What is helpful is you can also delete any leftover folders or traces of the filename of the file in your Windows explorer history or registry. 

For a single lifetime license, CryptoForge costs $39.70. A business license for a single site can also be purchased for $1,475 for unlimited installations within the specified site.

Ultimately, CryptoForge is light, easy to use, and has just the right number of features without being gimmicky. For a lifetime license, it’s a good choice for Windows users.

SensiGuard
SensiGuard

BEST FOR

Compression and saving space

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  • High compression
  • Feature-rich
  • Simple encrypted messaging system
  • 30-day money-back guarantee

SensiGuard is a competent file encryption solution for Windows users and can be purchased for personal use for $39. Four licenses cost $59, and a business license for up to 10 computers costs just $99

All of these are lifetime licenses, so you don’t have to worry about a subscription, but you also do not get any cloud backups or outside storage.

As with most encryption programs you’ll need to set a master password upon installation, where a wizard will guide you through the process. It will let you know the strength of your chosen password and won’t let you proceed if it’s deemed too weak. A helpful touch.

The software has an intuitive interface by which you can explore your entire system and simply select which files or folders (and the contents within) that you want to encrypt, or eventually decrypt. You can also do the same from the Windows right-click context menu.

It encrypts data using the standard AES 256-bit method, which is good enough for the US government and more than good enough for us.

One plus and minus all at once is that when files are encrypted, they are also compressed. This saves you space since encrypted files have to be larger than the original by the nature of the process, but it can also be slow. SensiGuard has grown a reputation for being one of the slower encryption programs on the market.

Personally, we didn’t find it too slow and it didn’t ruin our experience, though we were also using a high-end PC, so slower ones might have more of an issue. 

SensiGuard comes with a number of other useful features including the ability to password protect your USB flash drives, external hard drives, and other removable storage – even if somebody steals them, they will not be able to easily access the contents.

However, it should be noted that this aspect is not encryption, just password protection. There may still be ways for the bad guys to crack their way through at the hardware level.

A file shredder is included. It permanently deletes your chosen files by overwriting the data or ‘shredding it’ so no recovery tools can locate it hidden in the memory of your hard drive or piece it back together.

There’s also a Password Manager. This is more to do with helping you remember your passwords than protecting them because if you slip up with the master password, then somebody potentially has access to everything.

You can also send encrypted files that can only be decrypted by the recipient. 

Paying customers get support for a year and there is also a 30-day money-back guarantee to allow you to test out the software. Those that don’t want to pay upfront can also make use of a 30-day free trial as well.

With an easy to use interface, all of these features, and a respectable $39 permanent personal license, we can overlook SensiGuard’s lackluster speed. We still rate it as one of the best file encryption options available for Windows users.

SECURE IT
SECURE IT

BEST FOR

Encrypting files on removable storage

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  • Keylogger-proof password entry
  • Send auto-decrypting messages
  • Easily encrypt removable storage
  • Optional compression

Secure It is a file encryption solution from Cypherix that boasts a whopping 448-bit Blowfish method, which is about as secure as things can get. Consider that the US government is happy with 256-bit. However, if the idea of the Blowfish open-source encryption method puts you off, you can go into settings and use the standard AES 256-bit if you wish.

The Windows software is available for free for 30 days so you can test out all of the features. After that, you’ll need to purchase a lifetime $29.95 license to continue keeping your files secure.

SecureIT allows you to encrypt certain files and folders where they reside on your system on an ad hoc basis rather than having a virtual drive or ‘locker’. We find either way works well.

As with the majority of encryption software, it all starts with a password, the weakest link in the chain. Fortunately, SecureIT has a unique take on making sure this remains safe in that it lets you enter the password using a virtual on-screen keyboard. 

This means any hackers who have installed keyloggers to track what you type (especially on the lookout for passwords) won’t be able to see you type this one. 

The software is very easy to use, and its interface is essentially a clone of Windows Explorer, allowing you to browse to the files and folders you wish to encrypt and then simply hit the encrypt button. It’s up to you whether you compress the files or not as all encrypted files take up more space than the originals and can eventually needlessly fill your hard drive.

There are several levels of compression – the higher the compression the smaller the file, but the longer it will take.  

To decrypt open the program with your password and head to the file’s location then hit the decrypt button.

You can encrypt files on your USB stick or even a rewritable DVD. What it can’t do is encode file names, so snoopers still might get an inkling of what you might be hiding. It also cannot send files to the cloud or perform any kind of seamless remote backups. You could always do this yourself. 

What it does have is a particularly impressive encrypted file sending feature that allows you to email auto decrypting files that are only accessible to the recipient. They themselves don’t have to do a thing but the file itself is encrypted in transit.

There’s also a trusty file shredder/ data erasure so you can be sure that your deleted files are actually deleted. They can’t be recovered using the numerous hard drive recovery tools or more advanced computer forensics methods for recovering data. 

While it lacks some of the more advanced features of other programs, if encryption is what you want, SecureIT does it well. It has one of the best email approaches to sending encrypted files we’ve seen.

VeraCrypt
VeraCrypt

BEST FOR

Free encryption software

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  • Open source and free
  • Recovery disc/USB
  • OS and Drive Encryptor
  • Hidden volumes and files

French-based VeraCrypt offers its encryption software free and open-source, which is always nice to see. It’s one of the best solutions despite not costing a penny. It allows you to encrypt everything from select files to your entire system, and some of its features are groundbreaking.

By default, it uses the typical AES 256-bit encryption method that the majority of such software uses. However, you can also choose from other encryption algorithms such as Camellia and Kuzbyechik. You can even combine multiple methods to double-up on security. So, if you were wondering is VeraCrypt safe because of its open-source nature, it’s probably safer than a lot of others on our list.

There are several approaches you can take once you’re installed. The first is to create an encrypted virtual disk that, on the face of it, looks like any other drive on your computer. Only the files you add to this drive will be encoded and protected by your password. Just remember to delete the originals if you are copying them from elsewhere on your system.

Secondly, you can conceal an entire existing drive, partition, or storage device (USB stick, external hard drive, etc), protecting all the files already within it, including the operating system. That’s perfect if you’ve been searching for free USB encryption software.

Thirdly, and quite a unique approach, is to encrypt your system at the operating system level (Windows, MAC, and Linux supported). This requires you to enter your password in the pre-boot stage, which means nobody can even turn your computer on to even attempt anything nefarious. 

You might be wondering, with all these options, especially involving operating systems and partitions, what happens if something goes wrong and you can’t access your files? VeraCrypt encourages all users to create a rescue disk before they begin the process. This can be a CD, DVD, or USB drive. 

If it all goes terribly awry, you can boot with the rescue disk and regain access. Just make sure you keep this safe, know where it is, but also don’t obviously label it as the VeraCrypt recovery disk.

Unfortunately, there is no Veracrypt encrypt folder or file on a singular basis; you will need to add these to the virtual disk or include them in the regular drive that you intend to encrypt.

Another unique feature allows you to create a hidden volume and operating system within an existing encrypted volume. In such a scenario where law enforcement or an extortionist demands your password, you can innocently hand it over giving them access to one volume, without them realizing there’s still information hidden inside. 

This is the so-called ‘plausible deniability’ or ‘limited hangout method’. But unless you are an extremely unlucky person, a criminal mastermind, or Edward Snowden, you probably have no need to go this far.

The only downside to all these options is that there’s a bit more of a learning curve than with other encryption software. Beginners may feel overwhelmed. But, if you give it some time, this is one of the most feature-rich and powerful solutions out there. And, if you do have any tech problems there’s an active community online to give you some help.

All that said, the software isn’t perfect. There’s no cloud storage integration and no in-built method of sharing encrypted files. Enterprise users also cannot benefit from paying for support because there isn’t any. However, we’re not going to complain about free encryption software for Windows and other operating systems.

Renee File Protector
Renee File Protector

BEST FOR

Hiding files and fooling extortionists

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  • Good price
  • Double file/folder password protection
  • Great hide feature
  • Unique read/write monitoring

Renee File Protector is an advanced encrypt tool and file protection suite that you can purchase for $24.95 on Windows. It encrypts your files behind passwords, hides files and entire disks from appearing on your system, and has numerous other features that make it a top contender.

One of its most unique and appealing features is the ability to password protect (and encrypt) individual files. It can have those same files encrypted within a larger folder or encrypted drive – essentially giving you multiple levels of security.

Plus, unlike other software that expects you to remember insanely complex passwords or store them unsafely otherwise, Renee at least provides hints and prompts to jog your memory. You’ll choose at the time of installation. If worst comes to worst, you can also recover your password via email.

Renee also rates your password strength, so you know whether it’s good enough to withstand a brute force attack in the first place.

The software has a fairly familiar interface that allows you to browse your system for files and folders to hide, encrypt, and deny the ability to read or write to them. Alternatively, you can drag and drop files on to the Renee window and then choose what you’d like to do with them.

For encryption the software uses what’s commonly considered the strongest algorithm available, AES 256-bit, so you know there won’t be any decrypting on a whim.

To access encrypted files simply locate the file or folder and choose to decrypt it back to its original state.

If you have any sensitive files that you’re finished with and need permanently deleting, then the software also comes with a file shredder. It ensures no data can be recovered and the files really are gone for good.

The hide feature is straightforward but very effective. Simply choose a file, folder, or drive to hide and once you exit Renee it will be as if it’s not on your system at all. The program itself can also keep itself hidden, so if somebody stumbled across your computer, they wouldn’t know you had these hidden files nor that there was a program potentially hiding them. Couple the hide feature with encryption nobody is getting to your private info. 

Another feature we haven’t seen elsewhere is read and write monitoring. It essentially keeps a log of who or what has been accessing and altering your files. This might be useful if you want to create a legal paper trail, but good antivirus and security software should be protecting you from those kinds of attacks. 

If you’d like to try out Renee File Protector, there’s a free trial that has all of the features but limits you to one default unchangeable password that cannot be recovered. You get no tech support. In other words, it lets you test the features but is not a practical long-term solution. 

Meanwhile, for just $24.95, you get a lifetime license that unlocks all the features, allows password retrieval, unlimited updates, and tech support. At the moment that’s one of the most affordable file encryption software options out there.

IBM Guardium
IBM Guardium

BEST FOR

Large enterprises and companies

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  • Suitable for large companies
  • Tailor-made encryption solutions
  • Utilizes analytics and reporting
  • Can cut company costs

Everyone knows business computing giant IBM and it too has entered the field of encryption programs, but not for individuals.

IBM Guardium is an enterprise-level security solution for companies to protect, monitor, and encrypt their systems and data to prevent computer crime and other breaches. It is not available to the general public. You must schedule a consultation to discuss how Guardium can protect your business and the costs involved, but it provides a range of services that go far beyond the other solutions on our list.

It:

  • Finds and categorizes sensitive data automatically so you can decide whether to encrypt it.
  • Encrypts data across complex systems, including end-to-end.
  • Uses analytics to analyze how at risk your business data is and the context of that risk.
  • Creates insights from raw data that your business can act on.
  • Monitors how your data is accessed and blocks any unauthorized threats in real-time. 
  • Helps formulate data privacy and security compliance policies. 

IBM recognizes that the modern enterprise has a very complex network of IT systems and data is stored and sent across networks, online and offline, with multiple areas where security could be a problem. Before deciding on a plan, IBM Guardium will monitor your data activity to give you security insights. Where is the sensitive data, what are the threats, and what are the solutions? 

Invariably the solution encrypts data in some form. IBM Guardium aims to encrypt at the source while still giving those who need access the required credentials. Data can be accessed but obscured, sent encrypted across systems, and stored securely.

This includes file and volume-level encryption, the encoding of individual applications, and of databases like Teradata.

The Guardium Key Lifecycle Manager helps those highest up the chain manage access and enforce compliance so there are no breaches of sensitive data or insider attacks

Other features include:

  • Guardium Vulnerability Assessment: This further helps you find and understand poorly configured databases and incorrectly permissioned user accounts within databases. It can find everything from unusual after-hours logins and perform traffic analysis to identifying user passwords that aren’t strong enough for a robust system.
  • Guardium Data Risk Manager: A centralized control panel that helps you find, assess, and display data risks to streamline the whole process.

If you are in charge of a large corporate enterprise and know you need better data security encryption but don’t know where to start. And, the average software solutions available to individuals and small businesses don’t meet the size or complexity of your networks, IBM Guardium could be the tool you need.

They not only help you find the weaknesses in your data management and prevent crime but tailor the solutions to suit you. They also boast a 401% return on investment, so you may even save your company money in the long run. After all, a data breach can be a very costly affair.

This is our number one pick for enterprise encryption solutions.

Microsoft BitLocker
Microsoft BitLocker

BEST FOR

Windows 10 encryption

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  • Free for compatible OSs
  • Encrypt your entire system
  • Multiple login/decryption methods
  • Works flawlessly

A disk encryption for Windows 10 solution from the giant Microsoft itself comes in the form of BitLocker. It is free for Pro, Enterprise, and Education versions, Microsoft Server, and is also bundled with Microsoft Cloud. 

Unfortunately, there is no Windows 10 home encryption solution, which is a letdown because the software does work well.

BitLocker approaches things on a mass scale rather than individual file encryption, encoding the full volume via the AES 128-bit or 256-bit algorithm. If you want to encrypt files in Windows 10, you should look at other options.

Users can encrypt the volume in which the operating system resides as well as separate volumes as well. You can also conceal removable drives, as long as they are either FAT16, FAT32, or exFAT file systems.

To boot/ open your volume there are three different methods you can choose:

  • Transparent Operation Mode looks to your hardware to perform encryption and the key for decryption is released by the OS loader code if it finds that the boot files have not been messed with by an attacker.
  • User Authentication Mode simply requires the user to enter a pin or password before Windows is fully booted. i.e. before any regular Windows user login screen.
  • USB Key Mode: Boot keys are created, and the USB must be inserted into the machine at the time it’s booted for the key to be registered and the volume decrypted.

One of the key benefits of encrypting the whole of Windows is that it fully monitors the operating system and knows when firm-ware level malware is trying to infect it. It also detects rootkit or ‘wormsmessing with Windows. It can also prevent a cold boot attack. In effect, it won’t even get that far in any of these scenarios. 

The other benefit is that if you lose your computer or laptop, nobody can gain access because everything on the hard drive is encrypted. They won’t be able to turn the machine on or use the drive in another computer.

One downside is that decryption can drastically increase the amount of time it takes for Windows to actually boot as it goes through the process. For those on older machines with fewer resources, this is far from ideal.

The other and the perhaps more obvious downside is that once the volume is loaded, encryption no longer really applies. You cannot safely walk away from your machine without powering it down, which isn’t practical if you’re only going to be gone for a few minutes.

In that scenario, it makes more sense to use a regular screen lock password, but these can be bypassed with certain USB insertions.

Nonetheless, to get started and encrypt drive volumes, Windows 10 users should simply search for BitLocker. They will be prompted to choose between ‘New’ and ‘Compatible’. ‘New’ is the volume the OS is installed on, while the ‘Compatible’ is any other compatible drive. 

You’ll need to create a password or USB key, which is straightforward with the wizard, and then the encoding will begin. This took at least two hours, but this is an entire Windows drive encryption, so there’s not much more that can be done to speed up the process. In that sense, it’s wise to do this in the evening or when you have the time to step away from the computer.

Once encrypted you’re then required to reboot and login via the method you selected.

BitLocker is a unique Windows-centric form of concealing that is only going to appeal to a certain section of people. It also only deals with the booting process, as your files can still be at risk once the system is on unless you’re proactive in other ways.

In that sense, use it if you have it – it’s free after all and makes for a good security-focused operating system. But this isn’t quite the catch-all solution it could be with a few tweaks.

Apple FileVault
Apple FileVault

BEST FOR

Full disk encryption software for MAC

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  • Free for MAC users
  • Encrypt your entire system
  • Lock your screen
  • Recovery via iCloud account

One of the few solutions for Mac, Apple’s own FileVault is similar to Microsoft’s BitLocker only it’s not so restricted to certain versions of the OS. If you have a modern macOS you should be able to use FileVault.

Unfortunately, if you’re looking for a MAC encrypt folders or files solution this isn’t for you. Rather than a drag and drop file encryption program, the software requires you to create a strong password before encrypting and encoding your entire startup disk. This can take some time and resources but once it’s done you have a very secure computer. And, rest assured this is the best hard drive encryption software currently for Mac.

Its purpose is to protect the integrity of the entire system and is suited to an office or even home environment where you don’t want anyone to be able to use your device or access your files.

It requires the decryption password when you turn the device on but also whenever it wakes from sleep, goes to screensaver, or the screen is purposefully locked down, preventing screen scrapers.

It also prevents non-admin users from logging in without the admin themselves logging in first. They do not have to divulge the master password and the secondary user is restricted.

FileVault is also useful if you travel with your Mac a lot and are worried about losing it and/or it being stolen. No matter what other security software you might have installed, if somebody physically pulls out the hard drive, they can access the data. In this case, the drive is fully AES 256-Bit encrypted so no thief can get anything off it.  

To ensure you never lose anything if your system crashes or you forget your password you are also prompted to create a recovery key. This itself is essentially just another password so if you forget one you’re probably just as prone to forget the other.

Our advice is to store this info inconspicuously on a separate pen drive or physically write it down and lock it away somewhere without giving any hint as to what it’s actually for.

Alternatively, you can tie your recovery key to your iCloud account. It’s not stored there, and you don’t actually get to see it. Apple encrypts it somewhere in the backend and can’t even read it themselves, but they can process your request if you find yourself locked out 

FileVault is very easy to use and intuitive, encrypting new data on the fly. This works flawlessly in the background of modern Macs without hogging the resources.

Ordinarily, we would have grumbled about FileVault because it doesn’t allow more control over what’s encrypted. But, unlike Microsoft’s BitLocker, the software keeps things locked down properly when you are away from the device, so it’s a viable catch-all solution.

The only downside is it doesn’t have extra tools that allow you to send encrypted messages or files, or further encode individual files and folders on the system for further protection.

Nonetheless, the good news is that FileVault provides their encrypting software free and comes as part of Mac OS X 10.3 and later. For that, it’s our top pick for Mac encryption.

What Is Encryption Software?

Simply put, computer and mobile encryption software transform your private data into unreadable nonsense that cannot be accessed without knowing the underlying algorithm and key (see: Password). This is a form of cryptography.

Typically, all of the files, folders, and data on your computer and mobile devices are unsecured and accessible by anyone. Yes, there are regular passwords and pin codes, but the data itself is surprisingly not secure, especially when an experienced hacker gets their hands on it. 

Simply put, a password is a key to your front door. That might keep the average person locked out, but a criminal can find a backdoor, climb through a window, or kick the door down. 

Encryption is a method of preventing unauthorized access to your files and folders by scrambling the data and making it completely unreadable to anyone without the special decryption key. Unlike a regular password, the data itself is altered and there is no other way to unscramble it than to decrypt it.

This is analogous to turning your house into an empty raft on a river instead of a house full of valuables. 

In software form, the decryption key usually does come in the form of a password. But, if a hacker does not have this password, they have no way to decrypt the data even if they have access to the system, files, or folders themselves. That’s the main difference between regular password protection and encryption.

If your system is lost or stolen, anything that is encrypted is still safe, even if they put the hard drive in another machine or use recovery tools and ‘brute force’ attacks. There will be no computer fraud happening here.

File encryption software makes it easy to choose the files and folders you want to conceal. It provides you a central place from which to manage your data and settings and get authorization to open files. 

Some software does things a little differently and encrypts entire drives, including your operating system, requiring you to decrypt on startup. This provides even stronger protection from thieves, though sometimes still leaves you open to threats while your system is running, and your back is turned.

It should be noted that while encoded files will be protected from viruses, encryption by itself does not necessarily prevent malware, phishing, ransomware, spyware, and other nasties. 

The Benefits of Encryption Software

It might be obvious but protecting your data via encryption comes with many benefits, not least privacy and everything else that privacy entails.

Adds a final layer of protection

So, you use a VPN, firewall, have various internet security tools, and use advanced antivirus software. What happens if someone still manages to bypass all of that and is sitting on your desktop. Are your files safe?

Not without encryption.

While some files are relatively harmless, some of us keep a lot of private information on our systems that we don’t want others to access. Encryption is the final layer of protection that stops snoopers and hackers in their tracks.

Protection when stolen

Encryption is unique in its ability to protect your data when you lose your device and/or it’s stolen. Anything that is encoded cannot be accessed regardless of someone else being in physical possession of the hardware. This is especially true of software that allows you to encrypt entire drives along with the operating system.

Stronger than using regular passwords

Encryption programs physically jumble the underlying data not just locks it behind a password. That means even if someone gained access to your hard drive, Windows administrator account, or smartphone, they can’t use any backend tricks to gain access to the data. 

No decryption key, no access. They might have the data, but it’s useless to them.

Easily managed

Encryption software makes what’s quite a complicated process as simple as pressing a few buttons. Depending on the software all you need to do is install it, set a password, drag and drop your desired files, and know the decryption process to regain access to those files.

Protect your business and livelihood

From a sole freelancer to an executive of a large firm, encrypting your private data, especially client details and financial information, is also protecting your business and livelihood itself. Lose this information and you could fall foul of competitors, face costly lawsuits from disgruntled staff and clients, or even be extorted by criminals. 

How to Choose the Best Encryption Software

Choosing the best encryption software will depend on your individual requirements, though we’ve made sure all of the solutions in our reviews meet a high level of satisfaction. Before parting with your cash you’ll want to consider some of the following: 

Price and Model

With the exception of Apple’s File Vault and Microsoft’s BitLocker, which are operating system dependent, the only other entirely free option we deem worthy is VeraCrypt. However, it can be quite difficult for beginners to get to grips with.

Generally, good encryption or cryptographic software costs money and falls into two camps. A one-off payment for a lifetime license or a monthly/yearly subscription, which usually offers extra features like cloud storage and backups. 

You need to be willing to pay no less than $20 and up to $100 unless you need an especially large or complex enterprise solution that can reach the thousands.  

Local or Cloud

All encrypted files are larger than their originals due to the nature of the encryption process. Many programs will compress encrypted files to help reduce file sizes but over time you are going to be taking up storage space.

For encrypting some financial information, account logins, and personal photos, you’re unlikely to need a lot of storage space. Keeping the encoded files on your machine or secondary drive isn’t a problem.

For those that want to virtually encrypt everything, this data is going to keep growing and you’ll probably want to look for remote/cloud solutions. Some software allows you to link up with your existing storage accounts like Google Drive and Dropbox while others offer paid cloud storage solutions.

Businesses in particular are more likely to need a lot of storage space and would benefit from the option of cloud backups. 

Individual or Business

If you’re an individual, you can look out for single home use licenses unless you want to protect several members of the family or multiple computers. These are cheaper and usually a one-off payment. Businesses can expect to pay much more for multiple, unlimited or bespoke plans.

Operating System

If you’re a Mac user, you won’t be new to having to hunt for alternatives to popular software. Several of the software packages we’ve reviewed do have MAC versions and there are those dedicated to MAC, like Apple FileVault and Concealer – but keep in mind you’ll need a solution that works with your particular computer or device.

Encryption Method 

As long as the software is rated well don’t worry too much about the encryption method used. Most use the standard AES 256-Bit, which is the algorithm also used by the United States government.

Other methods exist, such as Camellia, Kuzbyechik, Blowfish, Triple DES, and GOST. Some claim stronger encryption but ultimately, any well-known method used in modern software is going to be 99.999% secure – unless you’re a particularly sought-after person and reading our software reviews is the least of your worries.

Scope of Encryption 

If you’re just looking how to encrypt a file or two on your local computer, then almost all of the solutions we’ve reviewed can easily accomplish this. However, what about encrypting entire drives or your operating system? Do you want to encrypt external storage devices or send encrypted files there? Or, what about the ability to send encrypted files to cloud hosting services or via email to others?

Ease of Use 

If you’re tech-savvy you will have no trouble using the programs we’ve reviewed, but some certainly have a steeper learning curve than others. The best software integrates seamlessly with Windows, allowing you to encrypt files from the right-click context menu or just by dragging and dropping files into a ‘locker’ or the program’s window. 

If you’ll be encoding a lot of files and they have to be placed within a special drive or folder, you’ll want to look out for ways to organize them for easy navigation, by that via folder trees, sorting by file types, and other parameters, or searching by filename.  

Recovery

Most encryption software required a master password that you need to use to open your batch of files and decrypt them back to their normal state. What happens if you forget the password or your system crashes and becomes corrupted? In some cases, you lose your files for good. 

The best solutions have a method of recovering your master password, whether that be via email recovery or a by storing a decryption key or the password itself on a removable storage drive such as a USB stick. 

Extra Features 

Does the software provide any extra features? Common extras include a file shredder for the permanent deletion of files and a password manager to store all of your passwords securely.  

What about something more advanced like the ability to send encrypted messages or encrypted files by email that can only be opened by the recipient?

Wrap Up

If you have been wondering how to encrypt files and what file encryption software is available on Mac and Windows, then you came to the right place. Our quick table, in-depth reviews, and guides are here to help the average user find the best solution for their home, work, or business requirements.

We’re sure some of the encryption programs caught your attention. Go ahead and give them a try! They’re truly life-changing.

Still unsure what the best file encryption tools are or how to encrypt files, folders, or entire drives? When should you use encryption and what is the strongest type? We’ve answered some of your most commonly asked questions below.

FAQ

How does encryption software work?

Without getting technical, encryption software works by taking your chosen files, programs, folders, drives, etc., and scrambling the data into a big mess using an algorithmic key. To anyone without the key, the data is meaningless and virtually impossible to put back together.

It is not just password protected but hidden behind an extremely complex digitized riddle.

But, to you, with the key (in this context usually a password), you can decrypt the data and revert it back to its usual state.  

Most encryption software uses a simple interface that lets you select what you want to encrypt, choose a strong password, and then all the hard work is done for you. Your job is to remember that password.

Alternatively, the password may come in the form of a key, a much longer string of data that might be stored as a file on an external pen drive, for example. Unless you know exactly what this is for it too is useless to most people. 

As well as files and folders, there is also full disk encryption and encoding of your operating system when it’s not booted.

How much does encryption software cost?

Encryption software is not particularly expensive and typically charges a one-off fee that can be as low as $19.99 for a lifetime license. Usually, you will only pay a regular subscription if you wish to store encrypted data in the cloud. NordLocker is one of the few software packages that require a yearly renewal fee just to use its standard features.

The good news is that there’s also free encryption software if you are a bit more tech-savvy. VeraCrypt is completely free and open-source, and one of the most powerful encryption programs that we’ve reviewed. 

Others like Apple FileVault and Microsoft BitLocker are available for free for certain operating systems and help you encrypt your entire computer.

What is the best encryption software?

Our overall pick for best encryption software that strikes a balance between pricing, features, and ease of use goes to Folder Lock. It’s beginner-friendly, supports encryption and simple password protection, and allows you to drag-and-drop multiple files into a secure encrypted ‘locker’ drive/folder.

It also has lots of useful extra features, such as file shredding, secure-online backups, and self-decrypting files. It’s affordable at $39.95 for a permanent license and has cross-platform support for MACs and mobile devices.

This is closely followed by NordLocker, which offers 3GB of free cloud storage and VeraCrypt – a completely free program that can encrypt everything from a single file to your operating system’s drive, with recovery discs and USB drives in case something goes wrong.

Do I need encryption software?

If you have files, folders, or entire drives that need to be completely protected from third parties, then yes, you need encryption. 

Whether you have logins, firewalls, and anti-virus programs unless your data is encrypted someone can still find a way to access it – especially if they have physical access to the system or have breached your network security in some way. 

That being said, encryption is mostly necessary to protect the privacy and confidentiality of information, including that of clients and employees, your own family, and financial data like accounting, card, and bank details. 

If you’re also someone who stores passwords unsecured or who wants a way to access all of them via a master one, encryption software may be the solution.

Can encryption be broken?

Technically and theoretically yes, almost any computer algorithm can be broken given enough computer processing power and time, because no algorithm is truly random.

The likelihood of any of the encryption software in our list being broken is extremely unlikely unless you are the target of the greatest minds and computers in the world.

Of course, if you use a password-protected encryption key then that is only as safe as the underlying password. You must make sure it is a truly strong one and you do not write it down and store it for someone to easily find or leave it in a text file on your desktop.

That would defeat the entire purpose of using encryption. 

Fortunately, a lot of good encryption software makes sure you choose a strong password and has various features and prompts to ensure you don’t make it the weak link in the process.

What is the strongest encryption method?

There are several different types with different strengths of protection. While all encryption offers the average person a high level of protection, the current strongest option is Advanced Encryption Standard (AES), which is even used by the United States government.

Then there’s the bit amount – the higher, the better. This ranges from 128-bit to 256-bit, which is the strongest and most common method used by the encryption software we’ve reviewed. 

In layman’s terms, if a hacker was trying to decrypt the algorithm, 256-bit encryption would take twice as long as 128, even though 128-bit itself is still strong and efficient, and very unlikely to be cracked.

There are several other methods that also claim to be the strongest, but the truth is, all modern encryption methods used by reputable software providers are virtually uncrackable.

When should encryption be used?

Everyone from home users to businesses can benefit from encryption though it is recommended mostly to protect very private information. Think financial info and data, business information, anything relating to your identity, and personal things you hold dear, like family videos and photos. 

Although it’s cliché, journalists and governments are increasingly using the best encryption software to protect their information, especially when sending messages between confidential sources and storing incriminating evidence. The average person is increasingly using it to secure their financial information, passwords, and personal media.