Skip to main content

NordLocker review

Protect all your most confidential data with this easy-to-use encryption tool

Website
(Image: © NordVPN)

Our Verdict

NordLocker's commercial version is expensive for what you get, but the free account is easy to use, and its 5GB data limit just might be all you need.

For

  • Free for up to 5GB of data per locker
  • Strong encryption
  • Securely share encrypted data with multiple users

Against

  • Very few features
  • No two-factor authentication
  • Windows and Mac apps only
  • A little overpriced

NordVPN may be one of the biggest VPN names around, but the company isn't stopping there. It's already extended its range into password management with NordPass, and now there's NordLocker, a new Windows and Mac app for encrypting all your confidential data.

NordLocker is simple to use. Create a secure locker on your storage device, and any files you drag and drop there are immediately encrypted with AES-256 (and ECC with the XChaCha20-Poly1305-IETF cipher, if you're interested), and only available if you have the master password.

There's no cloud storage with NordLocker, but the app works with all other cloud storage providers. Encrypt your files before you upload them, and they'll be safe from snoopers. But you'll still be able to open them directly from cloud desktop apps.

Individual files can be securely shared with anyone by assigning them permission from the app. It takes a little work - they must sign up and install the app, too - and isn't nearly as convenient as sharing a file from a cloud storage service, but it's still a welcome plus.

You're able to encrypt up to 5GB of data for free. That's probably not enough to manage all your documents, but it could work as a way to securely share important files with family or colleagues.

NordLocker's Premium plan supports unlimited storage for $8 billed monthly, and is an equivalent $5 a month on the annual plan, or $3 over three years.

(As we write it's on special deal at $2 a month on the annual plan, $1.49 over three years. That will expire soon, but keep it in mind, these are discounts worth having. If some other big holiday is coming soon, check the site to see what's happening.)

While this isn't big money, it is more expensive than many competitors. For example, CryptoForge is more basic than NordLocker - Windows only, no recovery key, no direct sharing from the app, and so on - but you can use it forever on your two main computers (PC, laptop) for a one-off $39.70.

Still, NordLocker's basic version comes free, and signing up should give you plenty of time to figure out if it's a good fit for you. And if you sign up and run into issues, no problem, a 30-day money-back guarantee offers a little more protection.

Setup

Tapping the 'Try Free' button on the website directed us to page where we were prompted to download and install NordLocker's Windows app.

Installation had some odd issues. 'Visual C++ Redistributable for Visual Studio 2019 x64 mandatory prerequisite was not correctly installed', it complained, before the main setup window asked us to check a box to confirm that we had installed .NET 4.8. This wasn't a big deal - the most obvious approach of ignoring the error and checking the box were the correct steps to take, for us - but it's likely to confuse some users.

Get past the first steps and you're prompted to create a Nord account. That's as easy as entering your email address and a password. (If you already have a NordVPN account, you can enter the same credentials here.)

Master Pasword

(Image credit: NordVPN)

You're next able to choose a master password. This defines the safety and security of your data, so lengthy and cryptic is the best way to go. Unfortunately, NordLocker doesn't do anything to enforce this beyond set a minimum requirement of 6 characters. There's no password strength meter, and we set our password to 'password' without any complaint.

There's also no two-factor authentication to confirm any sign in. Boxcryptor includes that by default, even in its free (for personal use) account.

Recovery Code

(Image credit: NordVPN)

Choosing a more random password is probably wise. Of course that means there's a good chance you'll forget it, but the installer also provides you with a 25-character alphanumeric recovery code which you can use to assign a new password, if you need it.

Setup Location

(Image credit: NordVPN)

Finally, NordLocker creates the first locker in your Documents folder, the OneDrive folder, or whatever other location suits your needs.

If you're unsure, it's safe to accept the default of the Documents folder. A locker appears to your device as a single file, so it's easy to move it elsewhere, or you can create as many additional lockers as you need.

Windows App

(Image credit: NordVPN)

Encryption

Launch NordLocker, log in, and the very simple interface - mostly just an empty space with the message 'drag and drop files here to encrypt them automatically' - makes it easy to figure out what you should do next. (Although if you prefer to browse to whatever files or folders you need, click Add and you're able to do that, too.)

We took the drag and drop route, and the app quickly added and displayed our folder in a Windows Files Explorer Tiles-like view. (No left-hand tree, as in the Details view, just an icon per file.)

File Manager

(Image credit: NordVPN)

NordLocker's file browser covers the most basic features only: opening, renaming or deleting a file or folder, or adding a new folder to help keep your data organised.

That's still going to be enough for many purposes. Double-click an Office document, you can open, edit and save it as usual, with NordLocker handling all decrypting and encrypting tasks in the background. Simple.

There's no significant File Explorer integration, beyond the ability to accept drag and drops. You can't right-click an object to send it to your locker, for instance, and you can't drag and drop an object from the browser to Explorer to decrypt it.

The app doesn't try to handle file overwriting issues, either. If you drag and drop a folder which is already in the locker, it doesn't waste time comparing file dates, times or anything else: it just adds the folder again under a new name (Folder, Folder (1), Folder (2)...)

Settings

(Image credit: NordVPN)

More seriously, NordLocker is missing a Move or Secure Delete option. If you want to protect a document by keeping it in a locker only, you must remember to delete the original. And if you're worried about someone undeleting it later - and you probably should be - it's up to you to install a file shredder such as Eraser to delete it forever. 

This does at least keep operations simple. Drag, drop, your files are encrypted. Double-click a file to open it in any associated app, maybe edit and save it directly to the locker. And if you need a decrypted version, select your files and click Export Decrypted Copy. Easy, and once you understand how NordLocker works, it's probably enough.

Sharing 1

(Image credit: NordVPN)

Sharing

NordLocker can encrypt and decrypt documents on your PC and Mac, but that's no help if you need to share a file or folder with others, and you don't want to take the risk of using email or messaging to send a decrypted version.

As a safer alternative, NordLocker enables sharing any locker files from within the app. And it seems easy, too - just save your chosen files to a shareable locker, and add the email addresses of whoever you would like to access it.

NordLocker sends emails telling your recipients that they've been invited to view the files. If they're interested, they click a link, download the app and sign up to the service for free.

Meanwhile, all you have to do is send them the encrypted locker, like you would any other file (email, messaging, cloud storage.) Once your friends have set up the NordLocker app, they'll be able to open your locker and browse its contents, too.

Sharing 2

(Image credit: NordVPN)

The interface for this is a little cumbersome, and as with the rest of NordLocker, it has the bare minimum of features only.

Added an email to the Shared list and changed your mind, for instance? No way to remove it: sorry. Start again, or just don't send them the file and hope they won't get a copy from any of the other recipients.

There's no control over user rights or permissions, either, and recipients have as much control over the locker as you do. If someone wants to add ten more email addresses to the share list, say, they can do exactly that.

If you're looking for enterprise-level control and configurability, this lack of features might be a disappointment.

But if your needs are simple, maybe just a secure way to store and share some project files with a couple of work colleagues, NordLocker could provide everything you need, maybe even for free.

Final verdict

NordLocker is short on features, especially for the price you're paying, but it's also easy to use, and its 5GB free allowance should be enough for many users. This is a decent start, and we'll be interested to see where the product goes next.