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How to password protect PDF file on Windows and Mac

Working from home has activated a new workflow for most people. No one works directly with colleagues and takes coffee breaks in the office. Sharing sensitive documents and sending files between employees online has also become a bit stressful. After all, you do not want any third party to have access to the latest quarterly revenue, sales report or your hard earned customer lists. For security, add a layer of authentication to PDF files you share in Slack, Zoom or Skype.

Password protect pdf in Windows and Mac

You can upload the PDF file to OneDrive and add an expiration time for a shared web link. Or better yet, you can add a password and restrict PDF access to a specific group of people.

Windows and macOS offer built-in password protection options for PDF. If you are not happy with the built-in solution, you can always choose a third-party app from the web. Let’s get started with Mac.

How to password protect a PDF on Mac

macOS offers a skilled embedded PDF solution with basic editing. Go through the steps below to add a password to PDF on Mac.

Step 1: Open PDF on Mac using standard preview.

Step 2: Tap File in the menu bar.

Export pdf

Step 3: Select Export and select PDF as the format from the following menu.

Step 4: Enable Encrypt for the file and add the confirmation password.

Encrypt pdf mac 2

Select the export location and press Save at the bottom. Now send the PDF file with others, and the recipients must use the password to open the PDF file.

Use a third-party solution

Both Windows and macOS are loaded with excellent third-party PDF editing apps. All of these PDF editing apps offer additional features such as notes, highlighters, annotations, stamps, signatures and more.

While the Mac ecosystem has skilled PDF editing apps, PDF Expert came out on top in testing. We use PDF Expert to secure a PDF file with password on Mac.

Step 1: Download and install PDF Expert on Mac.

Step 2: Open a PDF file using the PDF Expert software.

Step 3: Make necessary changes using all the features.

Step 4: When you have finished editing the PDF, click File in the menu bar.

Pdf expert set password

Step 5: Select Enter password.

Step 6: Add password and confirm your decision.

Pdf expert password added

Go back to the original file location on your Mac and you will see the locked PDF file. After that, anyone who wants to access the file needs a password to view the contents.

How to password protect a PDF on Windows

Many users are not familiar with this trick. On Windows, you can just drag and drop a PDF into Microsoft Word to make changes. We will use Microsoft Word on Windows to add a password to PDF. Go through the steps below to complete the action.

Step 1: Open File Manager on your Windows laptop / PC.

Step 2: Open the Microsoft Word app. Resize the application window and drag and drop the PDF from File Manager to Word.

Step 3: Word automatically converts the PDF file to an editable interface. Make the necessary changes.

Export in the word

Step 4: Now tap File in the menu bar. Go to Export and select Create PDF.

Step 5: Select Export location and tap Options at the bottom.

Encrypt in ms words

Step 6: Enable Encrypt with password and it will ask you to add a password to protect PDF.

Use a third-party tool

Microsoft Word on PC requires a Microsoft 365 subscription to use the PDF functionality. If you are looking for a dedicated PDF editor on Windows, I would advise you to choose Small PDF.

Two reasons for that. First, it is web-based, so you do not have to go through a standard software installation process.

Note: We strongly recommend that you avoid using online tools for PDF files that contain sensitive information.

Second, you can purchase the subscription and use the service on other platforms such as Mac, Linux and Chrome OS because it is online. Now go through the steps below.

Step 1: Open too small PDF page in the browser.

Step 2: Scroll down to the bottom to see the Protect PDF option.

Protect pdf in small pdf

Step 3: Touch it. Import the PDF file from File Manager.

Small pdf select file

Step 4: Add a PDF password and confirm your password again.

Step 5: Select Encrypt PDF and download the file from the following menu.

Download small pdf

You can also use the email link to send the file directly to your colleague. If you are not happy with Small PDF, you can always try the traditional PDF editors like PDFElements, Adobe Acrobat or Foxit PDF.

Also at Guiding Tech

Secure PDF files

It is important to lock confidential PDF files from others. While both Windows and Mac offer built-in solutions for adding passwords to PDF, you can always choose a dedicated PDF editor to unlock more features. Which solution should you choose? Listen in the comments below.


Are you confused between PDF Expert and Adobe Acrobat on Mac? Read the post below to clear up the confusion.

Last updated 8 Oct 2020

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