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Learn How To Create a Password Protected Folder On a Mac

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Your Mac should already be protected by a login password and your network protected by a wifi password, but is your most sensitive data in need of an additional password protection to ensure it remains out of sight? If you would like this extra level of security for selected data on your machine then we have just the trick to getting that done, as well as some apps that can give you similar results with potentially fewer headaches. Let’s look at how to password protect a folder on your Mac.

Setting a password for a folder

The utility we will be using to create a password-protected folder on your Mac is with Apple’s Disk Utility. This app is pre-loaded onto any modern Mac with OS X 10.2 or later, so if you can read this blog post on your Mac then you can likely perform this process. To start you will need a folder that you want to lock with a password. If you already have a folder identified for this then you can skip ahead to Password protect a folder.

Creating a folder:

  1. Using Finder, identify or create a folder that you’d like to lock with a password.

  2. Select File > New Folder, or you can create a folder in Finder using the shortcut ⇧⌘N.

  3. Drag any files you’d like protected into this folder.

    For this example, I’ve created a folder named “Locked Folder” and dragged two files into it that I would like to keep private. Once you have your folder ready with the files you want to be secure then you can begin. The process here will create an Image from a folder that will be encrypted and locked with a password.

    Password protect a folder:

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    1. Open Disk Utility. You can find this in your Applications folder in the Utilities folder.Password Protected Folder On a Mac-img-3

    2. In the Disk Utility menu, select File > New Image > Image from Folder…, or use shortcut ⇧⌘N.

    3. Click on the folder you want to be protected and push Open or Choose to select the folder.

    4. You will have an option to change the name and location. It is recommended that you leave these untouched for now (they can be changed later if desired).

    5. Set the Encryption to 128-bit or 256-bit encryption as per your preference.

    6. When you set the encryption it will ask you to set and verify a password.

    7. Write down this password and keep it somewhere safe. If you forget this password then you will not be able to open this locked folder and could permanently lose access to these files.

    8. Set the Image Format to “read/write” to ensure that you can access and add files later if needed.

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9. Double-check the name and location of the folder and then push Save.

10. Wait for Disk Utility to create the image for your encrypted folder.

11. When finished, you will see an option to select Done.

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That’s it! Now you have “locked” your folder so that it requires a password to see these files. In fact, what you have created is a copy of the original folder as a disk image file (extension .dmg). You should find this file in the same location as the original folder. To finish the process you should delete the original folder, but I would suggest opening the locked version first to verify that you can open it with the password.

To open your password protected folder:

  1. Open Finder and go to the location of the original folder.

  2. Next to the original folder is a file of the same name with the extension .dmg.

  3. Double-click to open the .dmg file.

  4. Enter the password you created.

  5. Locate the mounted drive under Devices in your Finder.

  6. Verify that you can access the files in this location.

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Once you are comfortable that you can access the important files you have now secured in this encrypted folder you can delete the original folder. Deleting the original folder will mean that your password protected disk image is the only way to access the documents that were in that folder. That is how you can password protect a folder on your Mac.

On an older Mac, you may find that the individual steps are different. However, your Mac can likely still create an encrypted disk image (.dmg) file from a folder. For older versions of Disk Utility, you will look for options that allow you to create a new image. Some older Macs may have Disk Copy as the app that creates a disk image. They should still allow for you to create an image from your folder.

Lock a folder with a sparse image

The one downfall of the above process is that your password protected folder will have a size limit. If you would like a locked folder that you can add to later with no size restrictions then you can create a sparse image.

  1. Open Disk Utility.

  2. In the Disk Utility menu, select File > New Image > Blank Image…, or use shortcut ⌘N.

  3. Add a name for the image.

  4. Set the Encryption to 128-bit or 256-bit encryption as per your preference.

  5. Enter the password and make a note of it somewhere.

  6. Under Image Format select Sparse disk image.

  7. Click on the Format section and choose MacOS Extended (Journaled).

  8. Click Save.

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You may have noticed that there is an option to determine the size of the image. That is not necessary as Disk Utility can be used at any time to resize a sparse disk image in the Convert menu. Nearly everything about this sparse image is the same as the disk image, but it can be resized to fit as many files as you need in this password protected folder.

Password protect an existing external drive

If you already have an external drive formatted for your Mac with all of your valuable files on it then you can follow these steps to add a password encryption to this drive.

  1. Connect the external drive to your Mac.

  2. Open Finder and locate the mounted drive in your Devices.

  3. Hold control and click or right-click on the device.

  4. In the menu that pops up, look for the option that says ‘Encrypt “Device Name”…’

  5. Enter a password that you would like to use to protect this drive.

  6. Select Encrypt Disk.

The drive will begin encrypting in the background so be sure to leave it connected. It could take several hours depending on the size of the existing data on the external drive. Do not disconnect the drive during this time.

Set up a password for a new external drive

You can password protect an entire external hard drive on your Mac in a similar way. The issue is that the drive has to be erased, so it is best to do this with a new hard drive or one that doesn’t already have all of your personal info on it. If you need to, you can simply transfer any files to your Mac before performing the next process as you will be asked to erase the external drive.

Password protect an external drive on your Mac:

  1. Connect your external drive to your Mac.

  2. Open Disk Utility. You can find this in your Applications folder in the Utilities folder.

  3. Locate the external drive in the left sidebar of Disk Utility.

  4. With the external drive selected, hit Erase.

  5. Enter a new name for the external drive.

  6. From the Format option, select MacOS Extended (Journaled, Encrypted)

  7. Enter a password and make a note of it somewhere.

  8. Select the number of times to “write over” the data so that the erased data cannot be recovered (3 times is recommended).

  9. Select Erase.

Now you have a clean external drive that requires a password to be accessed.

Using Apps for protection

There are several apps available that will perform the processes detailed in this article. These apps are focused on security with advanced encryption methods and unbreakable barriers between your data and unauthorized persons. On that note, the passwords that these apps ask you to make are extremely important to have a good way to keep track of them!


Encrypto is a free drag-and-drop tool that will add AES-256 encryption to any file or folder. It is available for both Windows and Mac which means you can send encrypted files to any other user and relaying the password or creating a clever hint will allow them to unlock the data. The app has no flashy extras or special features, it just encrypts files and folders in a user-friendly way.


Often times the experts on MacUpdate will balk at the idea of keeping secured data on cloud servers. SimpleumSafe uses a continuous encryption method that makes it impossible to decrypt your data even if the password was made public by using its own Finder via the app. It is available for macOS and iOS which will allow you to keep your sensitive data safe on multiple devices.

GPG Suite

The GPG Suite has tools based on the OpenPGP standard, the most widely used email encryption standard. The set of tools included in this package will generate a key that will work with this free encryption standard so anyone you allow to decrypt your data will have access to some free tools to get that done. Included in this suite is a plugin that allows you to send and receive encrypted messages via Apple Mail.


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