How to Easily Encrypt Files and Folders on Your Mac

If you have ever needed to enter a personal identification number into a document and store it on your computer or send a file over the internet that contains sensitive information, it’s likely that you’ve looked into encryption for files and folders. The best way to keep your data protected from prying eyes is to encrypt them with encryption algorithms that are incredibly tough to crack. Let’s take a look at how to encrypt files on Mac computers, using Mac’s built-in encryption tools, namely disk utility and FileVault. We will also take a look at how to encrypt Time Machine backup files and even provide you with a bonus on how to decrypt files and folders.

Method 1: How to Encrypt Files on Mac With Disk Utility?

While cloud storage, email storage, and hard drive storage are all common ways to store your files and folders, if you have to store sensitive information on your Macbook, you may want to encrypt it.  Here is how to encrypt files on Mac, including entire folders or an entire disk with Disk Utility.

How to Encrypt a Folder With Disk Utility?

  • 1. Open Disk Utility. You can get to it by going to Applications - Utilities- and clicking on Disk Utility. Or you can search for it by using the Command + Space buttons.

  • 2. In the Disk Utility menu, click File > New Image > Image from Folder.

  • 3. Now select the folder you want to encrypt via the search window.

  • 4. Enter a name for the folder and the encryption parameters for your folder and choose where you want to store it. Save.

  • 5. Choose a password for the encrypted folder.

Now wait until the encryption is complete. This process can take a while if the size of the files you are encrypting are large.

How to Encrypt an Entire Disk With Disk Utility

Please note: to encrypt an external disk with files already on it, make backups first as the disk will need to be reformatted into APFS.

  • 1. Connect your external disk to your Macbook and open Disk Utility.

  • 2. Select the drive from the left sidebar.

  • 3. Erase it.

  • 4. Now choose the GUID Partition Map scheme.

  • 5. Format to APFS encryption.

  • 6. Create a password for the external disk.

  • 7. Click Erase one last time. Now you have a new encrypted drive.

What Are Some Disadvantages to Using This Method?

  • Sometimes external hard drives are not recognized by Disk Utility. You will need to figure out why it’s not being recognized before you can encrypt it.

  • Any data on an external hard drive that is being encrypted will be erased - you will need to create a backup of it first.

  • If you lose your password to your encrypted folder or your encrypted external hard drive, you will lose complete access.

  • If you are running an older Mac, you may need to update it to format to the encrypted APFS.

Method 2: How to Encrypt Files on Mac Using FileVault?

FileVault is full-disk encryption, giving you peace of mind that any malicious party will not be able to take your data if your entire computer or laptop is stolen.  In order to turn on auto encryption, you must use either FileVault (Snow Leopard 10.6) or FileVault 2 which is on Lion 10.7 & Catalina 10.15.  To learn how to encrypt files on Mac with FileVault, read the steps below.

  • 1. Tap the Apple symbol on your Mac computer’s menu bar.

  • 2. Open System Preferences.

  • 3. Choose Security & Privacy.

  • 4. Find the FileVault tab and click it.

  • 5. Tap the lock on the bottom left and enter your password.

  • 6. Click Turn On FileVault... button. If you do not want to allow your iCloud account to reset your password, you can create a recovery key and store it in a safe place to unlock your disk.

  • 7. Choose Continue button and make a copy of the recovery key.

  • 8. Wait for the encryption process to end (it will take hours).

When you log into your mac computer, you will be able to access all un-encrypted files, but no one else will be able to access your data with FileVault on.

Method 3: How to Encrypt Your Time Machine Backup Files on Mac?

Time Machine is fantastic for making backups but it is unsecured. You can protect your data by encrypting your backup disk.  Here is how to encrypt your Time Machine backup files on Mac.

  • 1. Tap the Apple symbol on your Mac computer’s menu bar.

  • 2. Open System Preferences.

  • 3. Choose Time Machine.

  • 4. Click on the disk that you want encrypted backups stored on.

  • 5. Choose to encrypt your backups.

  • 6. Choose a password for encryption - use this to access future backups.

If you want to encrypt all backups on your computer, turn Time Machine off and choose the disk you’d like to encrypt. You will need to “remove” the disk and then select it again - this ensures all backups get encrypted. Just make sure to turn Time Machine on again!

Bonus: Decrypt Files on Mac With iMyFone BitLockerGoMac

Now that you have encrypted all of your files, folders, and disks on your Macbook computer, it would be best if you also knew how to decrypt them too. You can do this with iMyFone BitLockerGoMac, which is a simple to use Bitlocker utility program. You can use it to open encrypted drives by placing them into read-write-mode.  The only thing you need to do this with is by using the encrypted drive’s password or by importing the recovery key file.

imyfone bitlockergomac product

Features of iMyFone BitlockerGoMac:

Supports to mount drives into read-write-mode, giving you full access to all files and folders. Open, edit, rename, delete, and transfer as needed between your encrypted drive and other places.

Compatible with Catalina 10.15 and all older versions including 10.14/10.13/10.12, as well as Mac OS X 10.11/10.10.

Supports all types of drives including, external hard drives, thumb drives, flash drives, pen drives, memory sticks, and more.

Comes with a trial version which allows you to read the drive and preview the file directory.

Works on all types of Mac models, including Mac Minis, Macbooks, Macbook Pros, iMacs, iMac Pros, and Macbook Air that run macOS or Mac OS X systems.

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How to Decrypt Files on Mac With iMyFone BitLockerGoMac:

Step 1: Download, install & launch BitLockerGoMac on Mac. Connect the BitLocker-encrypted drive to your Mac and click “Ignore” on the error message that pops up.

launch BitLockerGoMac

Step 2: Click the Mount button and enter the passcode or import the recovery key file to mount this drive.

decrypt BitLockerGoMac

Step 3: After the drive is successfully mounted, you can access the files stored on it just like a Mac computer's native drive.

read/write BitLocker drive on mac

Step 4: Once you are done with your desired read/write operations, safely eject the BitLocker drive by clicking on the Eject button.


Now that you know how to encrypt files on Mac, make sure that you are running all up-to-date versions of FileVault as to prevent your Mac from running slower after encryption.  Other than this, if you want your encryption to be quick, remove excess large files from the encryption process.

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By  Simon Marcus , to BitLocker Drive

Updated on Aug 28, 2020

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