Protecting sensitive data through encryption is a powerful security measure. Even if you already have access to your data by entering your username and password (such as when using cloud storage services) adding an extra layer of security can make a huge difference.
AxCrypt is a free utility that lets you easily encrypt your files straight from Explorer context menu. The process is simplified so anyone can do it without putting too much effort into it.
Installation & Requirements
Installing AxCrypt is almost fully automated, but pay attention to the adware window that will attempt to push third-party software onto your system, unless you opt out. The program runs on Windows 2003, XP, Vista and 7 with no additional hardware requirements.
AxCrypt doesn’t have a user interface. It adds a new submenu to the Windows Explorer context menu, where you can access all of its options and tools. Just right-click any file you want to encrypt and take a look at the options under the “AxCrypt” menu item.
Choosing “Encrypt” will prompt you to enter a passphrase and/or a key-file. These will also be needed for decryption. “Encrypt a Copy” does exactly what it says: creates an encrypted copy of the selected file. The program includes the option to make a key-file. Think of it as a super strong password that will make the encryption a lot more powerful that a passphrase.
However, make sure you keep it safe on a removable storage device, because if you lose it, the files encrypted with the key-file are lost forever. You can choose to remember the passphrase and/or key-file for decryption as well as use them as a default for all future encryptions. The program also has a “Shred and Delete” option that you can use to delete a file permanently.
Keep in mind that AxCrypt is designed to work with files. If you would try to encrypt a folder, for example, the folder itself would remain decrypted and all the files inside would automatically become encrypted. Using the “Encrypt a Copy” option on a folder will create encrypted duplicates of all the files it contains and store them in the same folder.
The only way to encrypt a folder with AxCrypt is to archive it and then encrypt it. Then, after you decrypt it you simply decompress the archive and you get the original folder.
– Open-source, lightweight program.
– Encrypts files using powerful AES encryption with 128-bit keys.
– All of the program’s options are available as a submenu in Windows Explorer context menu.
– Lets you encrypt files using a passphrase and/or key-file which you can create with the program.
– Offers the option of remembering the passphrase and/or key-file for future encryption and decryption.
– Encrypting a folder can be done only by archiving it first.
– There is no unified help file. Online documentation is available on the official website, but it’s scattered across several categories.
AxCrypt is really easy to use and offers a strong level of security for most users. Using a key-file can make the encryption even more powerful than by using a passphrase and the program also includes a shredder function so you can permanently delete sensitive data whenever you need to.