How to password protect a folder on Mac

6 min read

There are likely a few files or folders on your Mac you'd rather nobody have access to. Sensitive financial information, personal documents, and work products are all great examples of files others shouldn't see. 

The simplest way to protect your digital documents is to use passwords for them. Here, we'll show you how to lock a folder, how to add a password to a folder and discuss some methods for both protecting your digital documents and reducing how much storage space those documents take up on your Mac.

How to add a password to a folder

You can password protect folder contents using macOS and Disk Utility, a built-in utility on your Mac. First, make sure everything you want to password protect is in a folder on your Mac. This is a good time to consider how you want to save files; don't just dump everything into one large folder, use individual folders or sub-folders for better organization.

Once you've settled on how you want your files stored, follow these steps to lock folders with a password on your Mac:

  1. Open Disk Utility on your Mac
  2. With Disk Utility open, select "File" from the menu bar
  3. Hover over "New Image"
  4. In the ensuing menu, select "Image from Folder"Select Image from folder
  5. Select the folder you want to protect with a passwordChoose a folder to protect with password

  6. Choose your encryption level: 128-bit, or 256-bitChoose encryption level

  7. Enter and verify the password for your folderEnter a password

  8. Name the folder if desired

  9. Under "Image Format" select "read/write" from the menuSelect read/write format

  10. Select "Save"

Password protecting individual files

Password-protecting folders in Disk Utility is the most secure method Apple has, but you can still use passwords to prevent prying eyes from seeing just about any document on a Mac. Here are two core methods for password protecting files on your Mac.


Apple's Notes app for macOS can password protect individual files with a few clicks. You can create a notes file from scratch, or scan in a document on your iPhone, which is saved as its own unique document. Whichever method you choose, follow these steps to password protect Notes files:

  1. Open the Notes app on your Mac
  2. Select the file you want to protect with a password
  3. In the menu bar of the Notes window, click the 'lock' icon
  4. Select "Lock Note"Lock Note
  5. Enter a password for the Note you'd like to protect

Enter your password

That's all it takes! If you want to protect a file that isn't in Notes, you can via Preview.


One thing to keep in mind about Preview is it can only password protect PDF files. If you want to protect a different filetype, you'll first have to export it as a PDF – then export it and password protect the file. Here's how to use a password for PDF files using Preview:

  1. Open Preview on your Mac
  2. Select the PDF file you want to password protect
    Note: You can also right-click a PDF in Finder and choose "Open With", then "Preview"
  3. In the menu bar, select "File"
  4. Select "Export"
  5. In the ensuing menu, check the "Encrypt" box
  6. Add and verify your password
  7. Select "Save"

Encrypt Preview

You can also password protect files in Pages, Keynote, or Numbers. To do so, open a file in one of those apps, select "File" from the menu bar, then "Set Password." 

Are there any other folder lock alternatives?

BetterZip for Mac is an excellent alternative to installed apps on your Mac. It can compress and password protect any filetype, and works for files and folders alike.

By default, BetterZip is a compression tool, shrinking the size of files to enhance the available storage space on your Mac. You can also use the app to modify zip files, preview zipped files, and manage them directly. No more unzipping, viewing, and re-zippinng!

When you compress a file, you can protect them with AES-256 encryption, which is done by default in BetterZip. It also supports over 30 unique archive formats like RAR, ZIP, 7-ZIP, and ISO. BetterZip even has a password generator and manager to enhance the level of protection across all of your files and folders. It chooses secure passwords for you so would-be data snoops don't guess them!

Protect your files in BetterZip

‎Why password protect folders?

Protecting files or folders with passwords is a practice more of us should have, especially with sensitive documents. It's especially critical for those of us who use cloud storage; if your container is hacked, all of your sensitive data could be exposed.

That's one reason we really like BetterZip; it compresses and protects files with ease, and allows you to continue syncing those folders to your cloud storage containers. It's additive to your existing workflow, and even supports AppleScript for power users with complex needs.

BetterZip is also available for free as part of a seven day trial of Setapp, the world's most robust suite of productivity apps and services for your Mac. In addition to BetterZip, you'll have immediate and unlimited access to over 200 other amazing apps. When the trial ends, retaining access to the full Setapp suite is only $9.99 per month – an incredible deal we know you'll love, so what wait? Give Setapp a try today!

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