Microsoft DOS cipher command

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About cipher
Availability
Syntax
Examples

About cipher

Displays or alters the encryption of directories [files] on NTFS partitions.

Availability

The cipher.exe command is an external command that is available in the below Microsoft operating systems.

Windows 2000
Windows XP
Windows Vista
Windows 7
Windows 8

Syntax

Windows Vista and later syntax
Windows XP and earlier syntax

Windows Vista and later syntax

CIPHER [/E | /D | /C] [/S:directory] [/B] [/H] [pathname [...]]

CIPHER /K [/ECC:256|384|521]

CIPHER /R:filename [/SMARTCARD] [/ECC:256|384|521]

CIPHER /U [/N]

CIPHER /W:directory

CIPHER /X[:efsfile] [filename]

CIPHER /Y

CIPHER /ADDUSER [/CERTHASH:hash | /CERTFILE:filename | /USER:username] [/S:directory] [/B] [/H] [pathname [...]]

CIPHER /FLUSHCACHE [/SERVER:servername]

CIPHER /REMOVEUSER /CERTHASH:hash [/S:directory] [/B] [/H] [pathname [...]]

CIPHER /REKEY [pathname [...]]

/B Abort if an error is encountered. By default, CIPHER continues executing even if errors are encountered.
/C Displays information on the encrypted file.
/D Decrypts the specified directories. Directories will be marked so that files added afterward will not be encrypted.
/E /E Encrypts the specified files or directories. Directories will be marked so that files added afterward will be encrypted. The encrypted file could become decrypted when it is modified if the parent directory is not encrypted. It is recommended that you encrypt the file and the parent directory.
/H Displays files with the hidden or system attributes. These files are omitted by default.
/K Create new file encryption key for the user running CIPHER. If this option is chosen, all the other options will be ignored.

Note: By default, /K creates a certificate and key that conform to current group policy. If ECC is specified, a self-signed certificate will be created with the supplied key size.

/N This option only works with /U. This will prevent keys being updated. This is used to find all the encrypted files on the local drives.
/R /R Generates an EFS recovery key and certificate, then writes them to a .PFX file (containing certificate and private key) and a .CER file (containing only the certificate). An administrator may add the contents of the .CER to the EFS recovery policy to create the recovery key for users, and import the .PFX to recover individual files. If SMARTCARD is specified, then writes the recovery key and certificate to a smart card. A .CER file is generated (containing only the certificate). No .PFX file is generated.

Note: By default, /R creates an 2048-bit RSA recovery key and certificate. If ECC is specified, it must be followed by a key size of 256, 384, or 521.

/S Performs the specified operation on directories in the given directory and all subdirectories.
/U Tries to touch all the encrypted files on local drives. This will update user's file encryption key or recovery keys to the current ones if they are changed. This option does not work with other options except /N.
/W Removes data from available unused disk space on the entire volume. If this option is chosen, all other options are ignored. The directory specified can be anywhere in a local volume. If it is a mount point or points to a directory in another volume, the data on that volume will be removed.
/X Backup EFS certificate and keys into file filename. If efsfile is provided, the current user's certificate(s) used to encrypt the file will be backed up. Otherwise, the user's current EFS certificate and keys will be backed up.
/Y Displays your current EFS certificate thumbprint on the local PC.
/ADDUSER Adds a user to the specified encrypted file(s). If CERTHASH is provided, cipher will search for a certificate with this SHA1 hash. If CERTFILE is provided, cipher will extract the certificate from the file. If USER is provided, cipher will try to locate the user's certificate in Active Directory Domain Services.
/FLUSHCACHE Clears the calling user's EFS key cache on the specified server. If servername is not provided, cipher clears the user's key cache on the local machine.
/REKEY Updates the specified encrypted file(s) to use the configured EFS current key.
/REMOVEUSER Removes a user from the specified file(s). CERTHASH must be the SHA1 hash of the certificate to remove.
directory A directory path.
filename A filename without extensions.
pathname Specifies a pattern, file or directory.
efsfile An encrypted file path.

Used without parameters, CIPHER displays the encryption state of the current directory and any files it contains. You may use multiple directory names and wildcards. You must put spaces between multiple parameters.

Windows XP and earlier syntax

Displays or alters the encryption of directories [files] on NTFS partitions.

CIPHER [/E | /D] [/S:dir] [/A] [/I] [/F] [/Q] [/H] [/K] [pathname [...]]

CIPHER /W:directory

CIPHER /X[:efsfile] [filename]

/EEncrypts the specified directories. Directories will be marked so that files added afterward will be encrypted.
/DDecrypts the specified directories. Directories will be marked so that files added afterward will not be encrypted.
/SPerforms the specified operation on directories in the given directory and all subdirectories.
/AOperation for files as well as directories. The encrypted file could become decrypted when it is modified if the parent directory is not encrypted. It is recommended that you encrypt the file and the parent directory.
/IContinues performing the specified operation even after errors
have occurred. By default, CIPHER stops when an error is
encountered.
/FForces the encryption operation on all specified objects, even those that are already encrypted. Already-encrypted objects are skipped by default.
/QReports only the most essential information.
/HDisplays files with the hidden or system attributes. These files are omitted by default.
/KCreate new file encryption key for the user running CIPHER. If this option is chosen, all the other options will be ignored.
/WRemoves data from available unused disk space on the entire
volume. If this option is chosen, all other options are ignored.
The directory specified can be anywhere in a local volume. If it
is a mount point or points to a directory in another volume, the
data on that volume will be removed.
/XBackup EFS certificate and keys into file filename. If efsfile is provided, the current user's certificate(s) used to encrypt the file will be backed up. Otherwise, the user's current EFS certificate and keys will be backed up.
dirA directory path.
pathnameSpecifies a pattern, file or directory.
efsfileAn encrypted file path.

Used without parameters, CIPHER displays the encryption state of the current directory and any files it contains. You may use multiple directory names and wildcards. You must put spaces between multiple parameters.

Examples

Display the status of each of the files in the current directory.

cipher

For example, running the above command may display something similar to the example below.

C:\DOCUME~1\ADMINI~1\Desktop>cipher

Listing C:\DOCUME~1\ADMINI~1\Desktop\
New files added to this directory will not be encrypted.

U 308374_harddisk_3.jpg
U cipher.txt
U FileZilla.lnk
U hope.txt
U inc
U l-gloss.pdf
U logos.gif
U Main_Page.htm
U Main_Page_files
U maxivistademo.zip
U move

Next, if we wanted to enable encryption on a directory, type a command similar to the below command. In the example below this is encrypting the hope directory and will encrypt any files added into that directory after the encryption has been enabled.

cipher /e hope

Encrypting directories in C:\DOCUME~1\ADMINI~1\Desktop\

test [OK]

1 directory within 1 directory were encrypted.

Additional information

  • See our cipher and encryption definitions for further information and related links on these terms.