If you have personal or confidential document, it is a good idea to protect the file from someone mistakenly opening and reading the content. There are lot of ways to password protect your files in Windows and Mac. However, the easiest way for Microsoft Word documents is to use the in-built password protect feature. In this article, I will explain how to password protect Word document in Windows, Mac and online editor with Microsoft 365. If you are using Word 2019 or 2021 individual app, then check the steps as explained in this article.
Password Protecting Word Documents
The password you set in Word is for the document level and you can decide the password is needed for viewing or only for editing the content. You will not be able to access the document if you forget the password. Here, I will explain with Microsoft 365 Word version and the process is same on earlier versions also. If you are interested in protecting your Excel spreadsheet, then learn how to protect sheets and cells in Excel.
1. Set Password for Word Document in Windows
Windows version of Word app has a “Protect” option under “Review” tab. Many users mistakenly think it as a password protection function since that’s how it works on Mac version. However, you can only apply editing restrictions under “Review > Protect” section. Follow the below instructions for properly protecting your Word document with a password.
- Open the document and go to “File > Info” menu.
- Click on “Protect Document” button and select “Encrypt with Password” option.
- As mentioned, you will see a warning that the document can’t be recovered if you lose the password. Type the password in the box and click “OK” button.
- Again, reenter your password and confirm by clicking “OK” button.
- Now, you will see the “Protect Document” section is highlighted in yellow color with a message “A password is required to open this document”.
- Save your document and close the app.
- Relaunch Word and open the document. You will see a prompt to enter the password. Word will only allow you to view the content if you enter the correct password.
Change or Remove Password
Follow the below steps if you decide to completely remove or change the password later point of time.
- Open the password protected document and enter the password.
- Go to “File > Info” menu, click “Protect Document” button and select “Encrypt with password” option. The box will show the previously entered password as dots.
- For deleting the password – simply delete the existing password and leave the box blank. Click “OK” button and the password protection will be removed from the document.
- For changing the password – type the new password and confirm it by reentering. Click “OK” button and Word will apply the newly entered password to protect your document.
Make sure to save your document, otherwise the old password will not be changed or removed.
Applying Editing Restrictions
Sometimes, you may not want to set the password at document level for viewing but you want to prevent the users from editing the content of the document. For example, you want to send a quotation or proposal document which you do not want the recipients to modify. You can do this with Word document without the need of converting it to PDF.
Open the Word file and go to “File > Info” menu. Click “Protect Document” button and select “Restrict Editing” option. Alternatively, you can use “Review > Protect > Restrict Editing” option from ribbon. You will see the sidebar appears showing three options.
- Formatting restrictions – check “Limit formatting to a selection of styles” option and click the “Settings” button. Select the styles that you want to allow from the list. If you do not want to restrict styles, then leave this check box as it is.
- Editing restrictions – check “Allow only this type of editing in this document” option and select the item from the dropdown. You can allow tracking changes, comments or filling form. Otherwise, select “No changes (Read only)” option to completely disable editing. Optionally, you can also select the specific content (for example – a paragraph) and allow selected user groups to only edit that portion.
- Start enforcement – click “Yes, Start Enforcing Protection” button to apply the restrictions selected in the above sections. You will be prompted to enter an optional password, type and reconfirm the password.
This will allow anyone to open and read the file’s content. However, pressing delete or any other key will show that the document is restricted for editing. Click “Stop Prevention” button to edit the document. You need to enter the password if you have set the optional password for editing.
Note: Remember, editing restriction works independent of password protection at document level. This means you can set encryption as well as editing protections in a single document.
2. Password Protect Word Document in Mac
Though Word for Mac (part of Microsoft 365 or individual app) works like Windows version, all the options are available in single dialog box making things easier. Open your document and navigate to “Review > Protect Document” from the ribbon (it will be showing as a dropdown under “Protect” group if the screen is smaller). It will show a pop-up with all the options for password protecting and content editing.
- Security – set a password for opening, modifying or both. You can change the password anytime later or make the password boxes blank for removing the set password.
- Protection – protect the document from accidental editing by selecting “Read only” option. Otherwise, only allow tracked changes, comments or form filling. You can set the optional password to avoid users removing the protection. When you try to edit the protected document, Word will show a message in the status bar that it is locked for editing. Click on the “Protect Document” button under “Review” tab to disable the protection or unlock the document with previously set password.
- Privacy – remove the personal information like author name when saving the file.
In my opinion, it is easier in Word for Mac to manage the password and content protection compared to Windows version.
3. Protecting Word in Online Editor
If you do not have Word app installed on your Windows PC or Mac, then you can use the online editor option. Online editor does not really provide password or content editing protection. You can only set the document to open in read-only mode, however, the user can continue editing. Remember, you should have a valid Microsoft 365 to access the Word online editor.
- Login to microsoft365.com and create or open your Word file.
- Go to “File > Info” menu and click “Protect Document” option.
- Save your changes and the document will open in read-only mode henceforth.
If you also have a desktop app installed and really want to set password protection, then click “Editing > Open in Desktop App” option. This will open the online document in your Word app and you can set the password protection as explained above. Otherwise, go to “File > Save as > Download a Copy” and get the copy of online document. Once you have the file, you can set the password using different methods in Windows and Mac instead of using Word protection.