How to password protect PDF files free on Windows 11

If you need to protect the contents of a PDF document, you can add a password using the PDFEncrypt app, and here's how on Windows 11 and 10.

Windows 11 add password PDF
Windows 11 add password PDF

Although Windows 11 (or 10) doesn’t include an option to protect a PDF document with a password, you still have many different ways to encrypt files, including using the PDFEncrypt tool.

Unlike many other apps in this category (Adobe Reader or Xodo PDF Reader), PDFEncrypt is a free and open-source tool designed to do one thing: add a password to PDF documents to encrypt their contents.

In other words, when you add a password to a document, the contents of the PDF will be unreadable. Only the person with the correct password will be able to decrypt the document to access its content. The app uses the iTextPDF open-source library for encryption and the source code is available on GitHub.

This guide will teach you the steps to password protect your PDF files on Windows 11, 10, or older versions.

Add password to PDFs with PDFEncrypt on Windows 11

To protect a PDF document with a password on Windows 11 (or 10), use these steps:

  1. Open PDFEncrypt website.

  2. Click the Portable Edition (no installer) button to save the app on your device.

    Download PDFEncrypt

  3. Open the Zip folder with File Explorer.

  4. Click the Extract all button from the command bar.

    File Explorer extract zip folder

  5. (Optional) Specify the extract location using the Browse button.

    Windows 11 zip wizard

  6. Check the Show extracted files when complete option.

  7. Click the Extract button.

  8. Double-click the PDFEncrypt.exe file to launch the app.

    PDFEncrypt app

  9. Under the “Source File” section, click the button on the right and select the PDF document to encrypt with a password.

  10. Under the “Destination File” section, click the button on the right and select the destination folder for the new encrypted PDF document.

  11. Under the “Password” section, click the Generate button to create a password or create a custom password to protect the PDF document.

    Password protect PDF

  12. (Optional) Click the Settings button.

    PDFEncrypt settings

  13. Choose the encryption options, such as encrypt metadata, allow printing, form fill, copy, and more. You can even select the encryption algorithm.

  14. Click the OK button.

  15. Click the Encrypt button.

Once you complete the steps, the application will create another PDF file with password protection without modifying the original document.

You can then send the document to other people through email, knowing that only the person with the password will be able to see the contents.

You don’t need a special application to open the file. You only need to double-click the PDF document, and then you will be prompted to enter the password to access the contents with the default PDF reader (such as Adobe Reader, Google Chrome, Mozilla Firefox, Microsoft Edge, etc.) available on the computer.

About the author

Mauro Huculak is a Windows How-To Expert who started Pureinfotech in 2010 as an independent online publication. He has also been a Windows Central contributor for nearly a decade. Mauro has over 14 years of experience writing comprehensive guides and creating professional videos about Windows and software, including Android and Linux. Before becoming a technology writer, he was an IT administrator for seven years. In total, Mauro has over 20 years of combined experience in technology. Throughout his career, he achieved different professional certifications from Microsoft (MSCA), Cisco (CCNP), VMware (VCP), and CompTIA (A+ and Network+), and he has been recognized as a Microsoft MVP for many years. You can follow him on X (Twitter), YouTube, LinkedIn and Email him at [email protected].