Occasional snoopiness is the habit of man. The little world contained within our computers isn’t safe from eavesdroppers. The need to feel secure probably explains the surplus of encryption software available. We all have some skeletons in our hard disks or just need to keep some valuable files away from prying eyes. We already have looked at a few ways to do it manually here on MakeUseOf. You can read about it here, here and here.
For those who don’t like the grease on the cuff, here is a roundup of 7 freeware applications to protect and hide folders and files, taking them away from common reach.
1. dirLock (v1.4)
A small and simple program that locks-unlocks directories/folders/files on a NTFS volume. Using the hide option, the folder can be made invisible (enable the “˜Do Not Show Hidden Files’ option in the Folder Options-View settings).
An uncomplicated software, it also adds a Lock/Unlock entry for quick access in the right click context menu.
The 266KB software is available for Windows 2000,XP, 2003 Server from here.
2. MyLockBox (v1.2)
For simplicity – yes. For encryption – no. The application allows you to assign a password to a single LockBox folder. If you want to handle multiple files or folders, you have to pull everything into a master folder and lock it. The locked folder disappears from view and cannot be accessed by anyone without the password. The folder according to the developer’s website is also not accessible remotely, through DOS or the safe mode.
But do remember that it does not encrypt the contents of the hidden folder. The software comes with a skinnable interface. The 1.2MB software is available for Windows 2000, XP, 2003, Vista from.
3. Sofonesia Folder Protector (v1.1)
A lightweight software at 477KB, Sofonesia Folder Protector requires .Net Framework to function. Beyond that, hiding the folders is a cinch. Just add multiple files to the protected folder’s list and click. The software also does not encrypt the contents, it only hides the folder. Folder Protector also works in the Safe Mode. Password protection also has a failsafe in a “˜Forget password’ hint question.
Un-installation requires the password and a dialogue reminds the user to unlock all hidden files.The software is available for Windows 2000, XP, 2003, Vista from here.
4. Cryptainer LE (v126.96.36.199)
Cryptainer does exactly as it advertises. The 3MB freeware creates encrypted vaults (plainspeak for an encrypted disk volume) which can be used to store any files in any media including USB drives. Multiple disks volumes can thus be created. The user can hide any file within the strong 128 bit encrypted password protected vault. Secure emails can also be sent using the encryption algorithm. Drag and drop any file into the “˜vault’ and it gets encrypted. The Cryptainer “˜vault’ is invisible so it effectively cloaks any file within it.
The free version of Cryptainer though only allows for 25MB of “˜vault’ space per disk volume. So if you are looking to hide larger files, this isn’t the answer.The free version is available for Windows 2000, XP, 2003, Vista from here.
5. CryptArchiver Lite (v3.1)
Cryptainer is a near twin to Cryptainer. It has a similar intuitive interface and follows the same process of secured protection. It similarly creates encrypted drives which can only be accessed by a password. When the drive is unloaded, it disappears from Windows and can only be accessed with the password. Similar to the aforementioned software, self decrypting files can also be sent to others through email.
The free version has a secured drive size limitation of 20MB and a bothersome nag screen which appears after 15 days.The 1.6MB software is available for Windows 2000,XP,2003 Server from here.
6. SuperStorm (v1.52)
Superstorm does it differently. The software enables a user to hide his secret files in any media such as pictures, audio, video, executable programs and many other file types. The secret file gets merged into the media file, but the media file continues to function like before.
SuperStorm can also be easily run from a USB Drive as it is a self extracting application. The only limitation that the freeware version of SuperStorm has is that it can only handle file sizes of up to 1MB for encryption. Also, the freeware version lacks a password protection feature for the hidden file.The 623KB software is available for Windows 2000, XP, 2003, Vista from.
If you think that freeware and industrial strength file security can never meet, the open source TrueCrypt could prove you wrong. TrueCrypt not only encrypts data (using 256-bit AES and 448-bit Blowfish algorithms) but also cloaks the files in hidden volumes. TrueCrypt functions by creating a virtual encrypted disk which appears as a real disk volume. Files can be encrypted on the fly when moved into this volume and decrypted when moved out.
This virtual TrueCrypt volume can be kept hidden thus making the files invisible. TrueCrypt can also encrypt an entire drive, partition or even an external storage device like a USB drive. As further evidence of its capabilities, TrueCrypt can also encrypt the Windows boot partition or the entire boot drive. Furthermore it has the ability to create and run a hidden encrypted operating system. With these advanced features, TrueCrypt has become a power user’s favorite tool.
And if all this sounds too arcane, don’t worry”¦TrueCrypt provides a wizard based setup for the inexperienced user.TrueCrypt is available for Windows Vista/XP, Mac OS X, and Linux from here.
You may also want to read our how-to on how to encrypt your USB stick with Truecrypt.
An Important Footnote:
- The software have been tried out on WinXp. Full functionality on Vista is not assumed.
- As a precaution initially try out the software’ on dummy files and folders to check for inconsistencies.
- Remember to remember the passwords.
Let us know your favorite way of hiding files and folders in the comments.