How To Lock and Password Protect Files, Folders On Mac

Last Updated: September 30, 2016

Macs and Windows PCs are inherently different in how the function, despite them existing to serve basically the same purpose. When you start using a Mac, for instance, you immediately realize that there’s no option for Cut, but rather just Copy, and if you want to move something to another location, you need to follow a slightly different process. One such difference is protecting your personal data. While Macs are more secure than Windows-based computers by default, there might be scenarios where you’re not concerned about protection against malware but instead password-protecting (or encrypting) your personal files, making them inaccessible to everyone besides yourself. This can be data like financial statements, credit card information, photos or pretty much anything. Well, you can easily do that on a Mac.

This has to do with the way OS X handles file storage compared to Windows. In Windows, you get encryption options, sure, but if you want to just password protect a folder, there’s no easy way to do that. You will have to employ a third-party software to create a secure vault. OS X, however, allows you to do that by default, although the process is not that straightforward. That’s the whole point of this guide – to show you how you can secure a folder on a Mac without using an external tool.

We will handle this via two different approaches. First method assumes that you have all the data that needs to be protected already in one folder and will work with just that. The second method will lead you to create a secure vault (a disk image, to be specific) where you can put your personal data as needed. Both these methods will make use of OS X’s built-in Disk Utility.

How To Password Protect Any Folder On Mac

For the sake of this guide, I have created a folder on my desktop called My Personal Stuff on my desktop. That’s what we will be working with.

To begin, launch Disk Utility. You can either do that via the Spotlight shortcut (hit Command + Space and type Disk Utility, and hit Enter), or you can find the utility in the Others folder on your Mac’s Launchpad.

Launch Disk Utility

Within the Disk Utility, navigate to the File menu from menu bar and select New Image > Image From Folder.

Method 1 Step 1

You will now be asked to select the folder that you want to make a disk image out of. Select your desired folder.

Method 1 Step 2

The next screen will ask you to select a name for your disk image, the location where you want to save it, and all the usual parameters. At the bottom of this dialog, there are the two options that matter the most: Encryption and Image Format. This is where you have to pay the most attention. For Encryption, select 128-bit AES encryption (recommended), and for Image Format, pick read/write.

Please note that when you select the encryption option, you will be asked to enter a password and verify it. Remember this, because if you forget this password, there is no way to access those files again.

Method 2 Step 3

Once you hit Save, the creation process will begin. Depending on the size of your folder, it can take some time so be patient.

Method 1 Step 4

When you get the successfully completed message on Disk Utility, the process is basically complete. You will notice a new .dmg file in your selected location which is your encrypted folder. Attempt to mount it and you will be asked to enter the password.

Please ensure that you do not allow for this password to be remembered in Keychain, as that will defeat the whole point of having this folder in the first place. Once you’re satisfied, you can even delete the original folder and continue working with the protected disk image. Whatever you had in this disk image is not password protected, and you can even add more data to it as you like.

Method 1 Step 5

Once you’re done using your password protected folder, don’t forget to unmount to restrict access. That’s all there is to it.

How To Create A New Password Protected Folder On Mac

Principally, this method follows the same practice as the first one, but it differs in a number of creation parameters, mainly with respect to how you approach the password protected folder. In the first method, you were using an existing folder and encrypting that; over here, we’ll show you how to create a new, empty storage vault (folder) with a specified file to store pretty much anything.

To begin, launch Disk Utility. You can either do that via the Spotlight shortcut (hit Command + Space and type Disk Utility, and hit Enter), or you can find the utility in the Others folder on your Mac’s Launchpad.

Launch Disk Utility

Within the Disk Utility, navigate to the File menu from menu bar and select New Image > Blank Image.

Method 2 Step 1

You will be presented with a dialog window offering a number of options. Specify the name of your vault, the size (pay attention to this; you will not be able to change it afterwards), image format, encryption, partitions etc. Please note that format should be OS X Extended (Journaled), use 128-bit AES encryption, partition is Single partition – Apple Partition Map and image format is read/write disk image. As before, selecting the encryption option will ask you to provide a password, along with all the associated options.

Method 2 Step 2

Once you hit Save, the encrypted disk image in your specified size and other parameters will be created in the selected location. Note that for the first time, this disk image will be automatically mounted. At this point, you can move any data that you need to protect to this disk image.

Method 2 Step 4

Once you unmount this image, the next attempt at mounting it will throw a password prompt. Make sure you don’t allow for remembrance of the password in Keychain, and you’re all set.

Method 2 Step 5

Now you have a password-protected vault that you can use to store your personal/confidential data up to the size that you specified during creation of this .dmg file. To store or access data, mount the disk image, provide the specified password and it will appear in Finder as a mounted drive. Copy whatever you want to this location and once you’re satisfied, unmount it to restrict access again.

SEE ALSO: How To Uninstall Programs And Apps On Mac

That’s all there is to it, pretty much. There are third-party solutions out there that will allow you to do the same thing, but if you have a built-in feature, I would recommend using that over an external software any day. Furthermore, the method is pretty straightforward, and even a novice user can easily protect their precious files and folders on a Mac by following these steps. Do keep in mind that the disk images created this way will be recognized by a Mac only; other OS will either not read them at all (like Windows), or will ask for password if you attempt on another Unix-based system.


Aatif is a veteran tech blogger with a passion for gadgets and mobile apps. He describes himself as a "student of technology" and spends most of his money on getting the latest and greatest gadgets. He is also a diehard fan of science fiction, and enjoys casual photography in his free time.