Managed IT

How to Password Protect a Word Document | Tech Tips

Learn how to encrypt a Word document for the ultimate in easy yet thorough protection for working company data.


5 minute read

Sep 28, 2023

If you’re looking for document protection that is effective against outsiders while allowing insiders to do their jobs, regardless of whether you’re a Mac or PC user, it’s hard to find a form that’s easier to implement (while still actually working) than locking a Word document with a password.

Watch this video or follow the instructions below to figure out how to do it yourself! 

How to Password Protect a Word Document: Windows

First, be sure you’re working on the Windows desktop application. You cannot password protect a document on Word for Web.

Windows offers a panel to add in passwords as document protection. Just open it up using the below steps, enter in your password, confirm it, and save! Keep in mind that passwords are case-sensitive and at most 15 characters long.

  • Step 1: Go to File > Info > Protect Document > Encrypt with Password
  • Step 2: Enter new password, then type it again to confirm
  • Step 3: Click “OK”
  • Step 4: Save 

How to Password Protect a Word Document: Mac

Encrypting a document on Mac is almost exactly the same as Windows. The biggest difference is where to find the panel for entering your new password.

Mac also combines the panels for password protection in editing documents with opening them. When you follow the below instructions, you’ll be able to create password(s) for access and to restrict editing at the same time. They can be the same password or two different ones. It’s up to you!

  • Step 1: Go to Review > Protect Document
  • Step 2: Under “Security,” enter a password to open and/or modify the document, then type it again to confirm
  • Step 3: Click “OK”
  • Step 4: Save 

How to Restrict Editing in Word

Because Macs combine the opening and editing password panels, the below steps all apply only to Windows.

When you go to protect your document, instead of clicking “Encrypt with Password,” select “Restrict Editing.” That will make a pane appear where you have the option to limit formatting or allow only certain types of editing. The latter lets you track all changes, allow only commenting, allow only form fills, or make your document read-only.

Once you’ve made your selections, enter your chosen password, and you’re done.

  • Step 1: Go to File > Info > Protect Document > Restrict Editing
  • Step 2: Restrict formatting in section one
  • Step 3: Restrict editing in section two
  • Step 4: Click “Yes, Start Enforcing Protection”
  • Step 5: Enter and confirm a new password
  • Step 6: Click “OK”
  • Step 7: Save 

Choosing a Secure Password

If you lose or forget the password to your Word document, you’re in trouble: Word won’t be able to recover it for you. However, you don’t want to make your password too easy, or anyone can figure it out and it’s basically useless.

Things to include when creating a password:

  • Uppercase letters
  • Lowercase letters
  • Numbers
  • Special characters

Consider coming up with a passphrase instead of a regular password to have increased security and memorability at the same time. We also strongly recommend using a password manager so you have a secure place to store your passwords, eliminating the need to remember them entirely. 

How to Open a Password Protected Word Document

Assuming you’re the person meant to have access to it and you have the password, opening a protected document is easy!

Just double click the title or icon for the document the way you would a normal one, and Word will automatically prompt you for the password. Enter it and you’ll be able to access and edit the document as usual. 

How to Remove Password Protection in Word

If you want to share the document with a wider audience or simply no longer want to keep it password protected, removing the encryption involves almost exactly the same steps as implementing it.

Go to the same password panel, but instead of entering a new password, clear all fields. It will eliminate all trace of a password from your document.

  • Step 1 – Windows: Go to File > Info > Protect Document > Encrypt with Password
  • Step 1 – Mac: Go to Review > Protect Document > Security
  • Step 2: Clear everything in the password box
  • Step 3: Click “OK”
  • Step 4: Save 

Wrapping Up on How to Lock a Word Document

Encrypting a Word document with a password is one of the simplest and strongest forms of protection you can give it. It’s impossible to access the file without that password and the capability is built right into the Microsoft Word program you already have!

It’s also flexible in the level of access you want people to have to your document, allowing anything from read-only access to full editing capabilities.

But always be sure to choose a strong password and store it in a secure way. This is just one option in the much larger realm of IT security, and it cannot function as your only form of data protection. To keep your network and devices safe on a larger scale, you need to work with IT and cybersecurity experts.

If you don’t have access to these kinds of experts in your organization, outsourcing IT to a managed service provider (MSP) might be a good option. Access our eBook, Does Your Business Need a Managed IT Service Provider?, to see if it’s right for you. 


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