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How to encrypt and decrypt PDFs

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Before sending documents that contain sensitive information you might want to encrypt them in order to protect your data from the eyes of strangers. No matter which content you are trying to protect. You can learn how to encrypt PDFs in this Expert Advice. We’ll introduce you to several free-to-use programmes and explain general need to knows regarding the password protection of PDF documents.

If a PDF file contains important information it can be helpful to protect your data by encryption. Sending your PDF via email or uploading it to the cloud offers only limited protection against data leaks and espionage. Emails are an easy target for hackers and easily corrupted by a third party.

Encrypt PDFs with PDF Creator

The PDF Creator makes it easy to encrypt PDFs. To use the PDF creator, make sure to download the software from a reliable source. For this, we would always recommend the software creator's official website. When downloading, pay attention to not download any additional software or ads onto your computer. In order to do so, you’ll have to untick several boxes during the installation process.

To encrypt a PDF follow these steps:

  1. The PDF Creator as a software will be installed on your device as a virtual printer. To open a file with the PDF Creator, open the file and select “Print”. Afterwards, do not select your usual printer but instead choose “PDF Creator”. You can also convert Word and other documents into an encrypted PDF file using this technique.

  2. The PDF Creator will open and allow you to select the option to encrypt a PDF. The menu bar on the left-hand side gives you the option “PDF”, followed by “Safety”. You can now select any password to protect the file and also choose the level of encryption. This level defines what the recipient can do with the file. For example, whether the recipient can edit or print the document. You can choose from several different options in order to encrypt the PDF file according to your needs.

  3. The next step allows you to select a PDF password which gives you, as the file owner, the sole right to edit the file. Now save the file in any folder you'd like, e.g. under “Documents”. When selecting a password, pay attention to select a safe password. To learn more about safe passwords, read our blog entry on these safe passwords.

Password protection for PDFs with PDF24 Creator

PDF24 Creator is another software helping you to protect your PDFs with a password. Again this tool is free-to-use and should only be downloaded the software from a reliable source, e.g. the software creator’s site. First, select your preferred language on the website to start downloading the programme. Again, you first have to create a PDF from an existing file in order to encrypt your PDF. You can do so by printing your document on the virtual PDF24 printer. You’ll see a pop-up where you have the option to save your document with “Save as”. You can also access this dialogue by opening up the PDF24 editor. Just open up the PDF24 Editor and load any PDF file. Click on the “Save” icon that you’ll find in the menu bar. Under “Safety” you’ll be able to type in two passwords: one to encrypt the file and one to open the PDF. Just insert a password into both fields and adjust the recipient’s privileges according to your wishes. After you have saved the respective PDF, the password protection will be in place.

Encrypt PDFs with Adobe Acrobat 8 Professional

Is Adobe Acrobat 8 Professional installed on your computer? You can use this software to encrypt your PDFs. The following step-by-step manual will tell you how to encrypt a PDF with Adobe Acrobat 8 Professional.

  1. Open Adobe Acrobat and select“Create PDF”, before selecting “From File…” in the toolbar.

  2. Select the document you'd like to convert to a PDF (for example any Word document) by double-clicking or choosing the “Open”-button.

  3. The new PDF file will be displayed within Acrobat.

  4. Save the new file by clicking on “File”/”Save as…” in the menu bar.

  5. The file will be saved under a new name.

  6. Now you can activate the encryption. Go to “Protect”/”Protect with password” in the toolbar.

  7. By clicking “OK”, you confirm and change the protection of the PDF file.

  8. Under “Compatibility” select “Acrobat 7.0 and higher” and “Encrypt the whole content of the document”. Now tick the box “Password to open…” and enter the password you want to use as protection. Now confirm with “OK”.

  9. To confirm your password click “OK” again. Save your changes to the safety settings by clicking on the disk icon in the toolbar.

  10. You’ll recognize the encrypted file due to its file suffix “(Encrypted)”. To open the respective file you’ll have to enter the password. The file will only open up once you have entered the correct password.

Our general advice no matter which encryption software you choose to use: Before you send an encrypted file, make sure that you have the correct password and whether the recipient can open the respective file with the password.

General tips for the password protection of PDFs

Using safe passwords has become increasingly important. This also applies to the encryption of PDF files. Internet scams are more frequent than ever. Passwords are hacked, data is stolen. There is nothing more important than protecting your computer, personal files and account data from phishing, identity theft and cyber attacks with a safe password. This is not less important when it comes to PDFs. Read our blog entry on using safe passwords to prevent data theft.

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