How can I open an encrypted file or folder?

Updated: 01/05/2018 by Computer Hope

This page is for help with opening files that have been encrypted using an encryption program. See our how to open a file page for general help with opening other types of computer files.

File decryption

Files and folders are encrypted to protect the data contained in the file or all the files in the folder. When a file or folder is encrypted, opening it requires the file or folder to be decrypted. Below are general guidelines on how to open an encrypted file.

In Microsoft Windows, a file or folder can be encrypted, or password protected, using encryption features built into Windows. To open the file or folder encrypted through Windows, a password is needed to decrypt the file. The password is set when the file or folder is encrypted, so the password needs to be obtained from the person that performed the encryption.

If a file or folder is encrypted using a third-party software program, the program likely uses a password or encryption key, which is needed to decrypt the file. When opening the encrypted file or folder, you need to enter that password or encryption key.

Encrypted files and folders can also be decrypted without the use of a password or encryption key, but it requires the use of high-end, sophisticated decryption software. It can be difficult and very expensive to obtain decryption software, especially good decryption software that can decrypt the most complex encryption types.