How to Password Protect A PDF: A Step-By-Step Guide

Did you know anyone can edit PDFs if they’re not password protected? Aside from revealing your information to unwanted eyes, this can be hazardous when dealing with legal contracts. If legal disputes ensue and both sides present different contracts, it could be a costly issue to navigate.

If you want to keep information on text documents private, you should know how to password protect PDFs. Password protection prevents people from editing or printing documents without permission. This is important if your line of work requires confidential information — or if you just need to keep things private. We’ll show you how.

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What Do You Need to Password Protect a PDF File?

You don’t need anything special. Luckily, password protecting PDFs is easy, and you have plenty of options to choose from. If you have a computer and internet, you’ve already got everything you need. 

Can You Password Protect a PDF for Free?

Yes. While paid-for services exist, you can also password protect files for free. MacOS has a free built-in feature to control PDF permissions, and you can also do it for free online.

If you already have a Microsoft Word subscription, you can add protection to PDFs. Although it’s not technically free, it won’t cost you anything extra to password protect files.

Password Protect a PDF: A Guide

You have plenty of options for password protecting PDFs. I’ll give you a step-by-step guide for password-protecting PDFs online, on macOS, Adobe Acrobat, and Microsoft Word. Hopefully, this covers your needs. 

Password Protect a PDF On macOS

If you’re using macOS, you can enjoy its integrated file protection features. They allow you to set permissions for PDFs including controlling printing, text-copying, and editing. Here’s how: 

  1. Open a PDF from the Preview app on your computer.
  2. Go to File, and then to Export.
  3. To make a password-protected copy, change the name of the current document.
  4. Click Permissions.
  5. From here, you can set a password for opening the PDF document.
  6. Click on Set permissions, to choose whether to allow printing, changing, and text-copying, alongside password protection.
  7. In the Owner password section, enter your password.
  8. Click Apply and Save.

When you open the document again, you’ll need to enter the password. Anyone you send the PDF to will also need the password to open or manage it according to your set preferences.

Password Protect PDFs Online (Windows & Mac)

Adobe offers a free online way to password protect your sensitive PDFs. It’s easy and quick —  all you need is your computer and an internet connection

  1. Go to Adobe Acrobat’s password protection page.
Screenshot of Adobe's online PDF password protection web page
It’s free tools like this that make the internet great
  1. Click on Select a file.
  2. You’ll then be prompted to upload a document from your computer.
  3. Once you choose a file, you’ll immediately get to set a password.
Screenshot of setting password for PDF on Adobe online
Don’t forget your password!
  1. Adobe will encrypt your PDF within seconds, so you can download the new password-protected file.
Screenshot of password-protected PDF ready for download
Easy as 1,2,3. . .

If you use a shared computer at home or work and want to ensure people can’t view this file without the password, don’t forget to delete the old unprotected version. It will still be where you left it by default.

Password Protect PDFs On Adobe Acrobat

If you don’t have an internet connection and need to password protect a PDF, you can do it on Adobe Acrobat’s app (if you have it preinstalled). However, it doesn’t have the password protection tool on the free version. So, you’ll either need to have the paid version, buy the tool, or use the free trial. Here’s how:

  1. Go to the PDF you want to password protect.
  2. Right-click on it and select Open with, and choose Adobe Acrobat.
  3. When it opens in Adobe Acrobat, click on Tools in the top left corner.
Screenshot of the Tools option in Adobe Acrobat reader
Adobe let you do it free online but not on the desktop app. Choice is yours
  1. You can find Protect in the selection of tools — depending on whether you have the tool, you’ll be given the option to either Open or Add this tool.
Screenshot of items in Tools menu with arrow pointing to the protect option
Welcome to Adobe’s perfect PDF toolbox
  1. Set your password and/or security settings (restrictions on copying or editing).
  2. Confirm your password by retyping it.
  3. Click Save.

Keep in mind, you’ll need to re-enter this password each time you want to open the file. Make sure not to lose your password!

How to Password Protect PDFs On Word

  1. Open the file you want to password protect.
  2. Go to File and then to Save as.
  3. Choose to save the file as a PDF and click on More options.
Screenshot showing More options during the file saving process
There are always more options
  1. A new dialogue box will open — from there, select Options.
Screenshot showing Options during file saving
More more options. . .
  1. A list of options will appear — tick the box saying Encrypt the document with a password and click OK.
Screenshot shot PDF-options and option to "Encrypt the document with a password
Finally . . . the options!
  1. Choose a password for your PDF file. You’ll have to enter this password every time you open the file.

Password Protect a Microsoft Word File

If you deal with text documents regularly, chances are you already have Microsoft Word on your computer. It’s a pretty feature-rich program and one of its handy built-in features allows you to password protect and encrypt files. Here’s how it works:

  1. Open the file you want to password protect in MS Word.
  2. Click on File in the top left corner.
  3. From the options on the left panel, select Info.
  4. You’ll then see the Protect document option.
Screenshot showing the Password protect option in Microsoft Word
Word files need love to . . .
  1. When you click it, a dropdown menu will appear, giving you a range of options.
Screenshot of Encrypt with Password option on MS Word
A secret document deserves a secret password
  1. If you choose the Encrypt with password option, you’ll be prompted to set a password and confirm it.
  2. When you want to reopen this file, you’ll be prompted to enter the password.

How to Sign a PDF For Free

Remote contracts are becoming more common, which means more people need to sign PDFs online. If you’re looking for a quick, free, and easy way to sign a PDF, here’s how: 

  1. Go to Adobe’s free Fill and Sign tool online.
Screenshot showing Adobe's Fill & Sign web page with option to Select a file
More free Adobe tools!
  1. Click on Select a file.
  2. You’ll be prompted to upload a PDF from your computer.
  3. At this stage, you’ll be asked to sign in or create an account.
  4. Once the file uploads, it’ll open the document in an editor.
Screenshot of option to Edit and Add signature in Adobe Fill & Sign
Paper contracts are a thing of the past
  1. To sign the document, click Add signature.
  2. Once you’ve signed it, click download from the right-hand side of the upper panel.

Pro tip: If you need to know how to write on a PDF, you can also use this method to edit PDFs. Click Edit in the top panel. You’ll either need a paid version or subscribe to a free trial. 

Use a VPN for Extra Privacy 

Hopefully, this guide helped and you’ve now successfully password protected your PDFs. Depending on your work, you may need extra privacy for sending files. If you’re dealing with confidential data, letting it leak into the wrong hands could jeopardize things. 

Connecting to a VPN when emailing files makes it harder for private information to slip through the cracks. What is a VPN, you ask? It’s a virtual private network which encrypts and reroutes your traffic through secure servers. This conceals your online activity from snoopers, Wi-Fi owners, and even your ISP. 

CyberGhost VPN uses military-grade encryption to scramble your connection data. Even if hackers could see your traffic (they can’t), they’ll never decode it. Our No Logs policy means we never track or monitor what you do online. Try CyberGhost VPN to enjoy an extra layer of security when sending important files.


How do I password protect a PDF for free?

You can password protect a PDF for free online using Adobe Acrobat’s free service. You can also do it for free on macOS. If you own an MS Word subscription, you can password encrypt files at no additional cost. See my guide on how to password protect PDFs.

Why can’t I password protect a PDF in Adobe?

You can only password protect PDFs on Adobe Acrobat if you’re using the premium version or if you’ve bought the file protection feature. You can also use this feature during the Adobe Acrobat free trial. 

Either way, it’s worth using a VPN for extra security when sending confidential files. VPNs reroute your traffic through a remote server so nobody on your network can see what you’re doing. VPN encryption also prevents your sensitive files and data from leaking into the wrong hands. Get CyberGhost VPN for military-grade encryption when sending password-protected files.

How do I password protect an editable PDF?

You can password protect an editable PDF the same way you password protect any other PDF. See my detailed guide on how to password protect PDFs on macOS, with Adobe Acrobat, or for free online.

Can you password protect a PDF in an email?

You can’t password protect PDFs in email editors. However, you can send password-protected PDFs as attachments in emails. When you email a password-protected PDF, the receiver will need the password to open it. 
If you’re sending emails with confidential information over free Wi-Fi, connect to a reliable VPN for an added layer of security. VPNs encrypt your connection and shield your online traffic so people can’t see your sent files.

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