Help protect your laptop on vacation this holiday season

I don’t know about you, but I never travel without my laptop anymore.

Even when I’m on vacation for the holidays and have no intention of doing work, I bring my laptop so I can download digital pictures and play slideshows right away, pass time on the plane by watching DVDs, or play a little FreeCell while my relatives argue about politics.

Because I use my personal laptop to do some work for my job at Microsoft as well as for keeping track of my financial and other sensitive information, if it fell into the wrong hands there’d be a mess of trouble.

Before I take my laptop on vacation for the holidays, I always spend a few minutes encrypting my files to help keep them safe.

Here’s how to encrypt a file or folder with Windows XP Professional or Windows Vista:


To encrypt a file or folder


Click Start, point to All Programs, point to Accessories, and then click Windows Explorer.


Right–click the file or folder that you want to encrypt, and then click Properties.


On the General tab, click Advanced.


Select the Encrypt contents to secure data check box.


Advanced Attributes dialog box


Note: Files or folders that are compressed cannot also be encrypted. If you encrypt a compressed file or folder, that file or folder will be uncompressed.

If you have chosen to encrypt a single file, you can also choose to encrypt the folder that contains it. Select Encrypt the file and the parent folder in the Encryption Warning dialog window. All files created in the encrypted folder will now be automatically encrypted.

Encryption warning dialog box

If you encrypt a folder instead of a single file, you can choose to encrypt all the contents of the folder as well.

Confirm attributes changes dialog box for encryption

For more tips to help you keep your portable data safe while you’re on vacation this holiday season, see 3 ways to protect your laptop on the road.

About the Author
Eve Blakemore

Group Manager, Trustworthy Computing

Eve Blakemore is a Group Manager for Trustworthy Computing who delivers consumer guidance around the latest trends in security and privacy. Eve joined Microsoft in 1998 and has worked in corporate and field roles with Microsoft Learning, US Public Sector, Read more »

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    The accuracy and contents of this article are great.  However, what is conspicuously missing is a HUGE warning that files encrypted using the EFS built into Windows CAN NEVER BE RECOVERED if one has to reinstall Windows – perhaps after a severe failure – unless ones has done several additional steps IN ADVANCE OF ANY CATASTROPHIC FAILURE.

    I am the victim of this very scenario, and while I believe solidly in ANYTHING Microsoft, it bothers me that, including this email-promoted article, Microsoft fails to sufficiently warn potential EFS users about the risk and to educate users on the somewhat complicated process involved should one need to recover encrypted files after failure/crash/corruption of the original Windows installation.

    With all that said, i would welcome any information available on this topic as I am still sitting on almost 500GB of inaccessible EFS-encrypted files in a replacement installation of Windows XP Professional w/ Sp2 which I cannot access though armed with the original login information.

    Thanks for your attention.

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