How to password protect a Word document

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What if you share a computer with other people in your home, but you have a Word document that you don’t want anyone else to be able to read?  Maybe it’s a list of Christmas presents you are planning to buy for your kids and you don’t want them to see it.  Or it could be just a document that contains all of your passwords to various websites and online accounts.  What you need to do is add a password to that document.

Password protect a Word document

Adding a password to a Word document is actually not all that difficult.  But before you do that, you have to think about what you want to achieve by adding the password.

A password restricts what can be done with a Word document.  But there are different levels of restriction.  The most strict form means that a password is required to even open the document at all.  However, you can also set a password that will allow the document to be opened but not edited in any way.  Or you can designate only certain types of editing to be allowed.

What we are going to show today is the maximum restriction – this means that someone needs to enter a correct password in order to be able to view the document at all.

How to password protect a Word 2010 document:

1. With MS Word open, click on File – Info, then click on Protect Document.

MS Word password


2. In the menu that appears, select “Encrypt with password”.  I hope you know already that you should choose a good password – one that has not been used anywhere else and is not pronounceable (if it is hard for you to remember, it’s even harder for someone else to guess it).

3. Enter the password you have created, and click OK:

password protection

4. You will be prompted to re-enter the same password just to make sure you typed it correctly.

At this point, in the Info section under “Protect Document” you will see the Permissions notice:

Word password protection

So whenever anyone (including you) tries to open this Word document, they will be prompted for the password.  If they cannot provide the correct password, they don’t get to see the contents of the file.

How to remove the Word 2010 document password

I knew that was the next question you were going to ask – “How do I take off the password?”.  It’s easy.  First, you have to open the document (you will of course need the password to do that).  Then, go through the exact same process as outlined above, but when it asks you to create a password, just make the password field blank.  When you do that and click OK, you will see that it is open again for anyone to read:

remove Word password

What about older versions of MS Word?

For Word 2007, the procedure is slightly different because of the design changes from the 2007 to the 2010 version.  It’s the same idea though.

In Word 2007, click the Microsoft logo in the top left corner, move down to “Prepare”, then click on “Encrypt Document”.  From there, just type in your password and click OK.

Password protect Word 2007

For Word 2003, the procedure is quite different.  Here is how you password protect a Word 2003 document:

1. In Word 2003, click Tools – Options.

2. Click on the Security tab.

3. In the “Password to Open” field, type the password you want to use and click OK.

If you are using a version of Word that is earlier than 2003, you need to upgrade to a newer version.

Note: the steps I listed above are all for Microsoft Word.  However, the same procedure should apply if you need to password protect an Excel spreadsheet or a Powerpoint presentation (and probably other MS Office files).

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