How to Encrypt Files and Folders

PCCC uses an open source software called 7-zip to compress or zip files secured with encryption. 7-zip is free software that creates zip files that can be opened with WinZip or other similar programs.

When you send, store, or transfer files that contain Personal Identifiable Information (PII) or other confidential or restricted data, the files must be encrypted to ensure they are protected from unauthorized disclosure.

7-zip creates a container called an ‘archive’ that holds files to be protected. That archive may be encrypted and protected with a password.

To obtain a copy of 7-zip, visit and select the appropriate download link.

 Instructions for encrypting a file or folder

Once the 7-zip software is installed, please follow these steps to encrypt a file or folder:

  1. Right click on the file or folder to be encrypted.

  2. Select “7-Zip” then “Add to archive…”.

  3. Rename the file if you wish. This may be done in the “Add to archive” window.

  4. Change the Archive Format to “Zip”.

  5. Important - change the Encryption Method to “AES-256”.

  6. Enter a strong password with at least 12 characters containing upper and lowercase letters, a special character such as ! or @, and a minimum of one number.

  7. Select “OK” to create the encrypted archive file. The new archive file will be located in the same folder as the original.


Do not share the password through email or store the password with the archive file. Passwords must be shared “out of band” meaning that you send the archive file and password using different channels. For example, if you email the encrypted archive file, you can share the password over the phone.