How to password-protect your PDFs

One of the reasons PDFs are so popular, particularly among lawyers and other legal professionals, is that they are accurate and (largely) immutable versions of documents that were once only available on paper. Since PDFs often contain information that we want to keep secret, they can therefore also be password protected.

There are several ways to protect a PDF file with a password. If you’re using a Mac, you can use the Preview app that comes with macOS. If you’re using a Windows PC, it’s a bit more complicated; You can use the Word app (assuming you have a paid version) or you can use an online app from Adobe (the company that created the format).

Here are step-by-step guides to help you protect your PDFs using any of these methods.

Password protect a PDF file on Mac using Preview

Apple has provided password protection for PDF files with their Preview app, which makes the process very easy. Here’s all you need to do:

  • Open the PDF file in preview
  • Select from the top menu File > Edit Permissions…
  • You will then get a pop-up menu that you can use to create a password to open the document, along with a separate “owner password,” a separate password to make changes to the document or perform tasks with the document. These changes include printing, copying, pasting, or deleting pages, adding annotations or signatures, or filling out forms.
  • Just click the Apply button and you’re done.
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Password protection options pop-up

A pop-up menu allows you to protect your PDF document with a password.

After that, you can email the file or save it to the cloud; If anyone wants to open it or (assuming you check the boxes) change it in any way, they need to know the password.

Page asking for the password.

You will now need a password to open the file.

Password protect a PDF file on a Windows system with Adobe

If you are using a Windows system, there is no built-in way to protect a PDF file with a password. One way to add a password is to use an online app from Adobe, the creator of the PDF format. If you want to use Adobe’s cloud storage for this purpose, here’s how it works:

  • Go to Adobe’s password protection tool.
  • Drag and drop your PDF into the app window or click Choose a file and select the file you want to protect.
  • Enter your password (you will have to repeat it) and click To set a password.
  • Once the document is ready, you will get a new page with a Download button to click. When you download your file, it is saved to your computer with the suffix “-protected” to the file name.

If you want to save the file to Adobe’s cloud service, you can sign in to Adobe with your email address or Google account). According to a note on the downloads page, your file will be deleted from their server if you don’t sign up (which, if you don’t want them to have a copy, is actually a good thing).

If you want to use Adobe to password protect a PDF document but don’t want to do it online, you can purchase the standard version of Adobe Acrobat for around $156 per year.

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Password protect a PDF file on a Windows system with Word

If you use Microsoft Word, you can password protect a PDF file from within the application. It looks a bit complicated at first glance, but it’s actually quite simple.

  • In Word, open the PDF file that you want to protect.
  • Word will notify you that the file will be converted to an editable format. click OK.
  • Go to File > Save As.
  • Choose the location where you want to save the file.
  • In the left column you can see where the name of the file and its format is set. Change the name if you like.
  • The format field is probably set to save your file in Word format. Click and select this field pdf instead of this.
  • Click on that options Link just below the format box.
  • In the next pop-up window, look for and click on it Options… Button.
  • At the bottom of the subsequent popup you will see a checkbox for Encrypt the document with a password. Check the box and select OK.
  • You will receive a labeled box Encrypt PDF document. Enter your password (and repeat it in the second field). Click on OK > Save.

Now you will be asked for the password every time you want to open the document. If you want to remove the password, follow the same process, but this time disable that Encrypt the document with a password Crate.

If none of these work for you, there are a variety of third-party apps that you can use to password protect your PDF, e.g. B. the free Windows app PDFEncrypt and the online app Smallpdf. Whatever you decide to do, adding passwords to PDFs gives you at least some level of extra security for your important documents.

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