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Best encryption software of 2021: Free, paid and business tools and services

PRICE
VERDICT
REASONS TO BUY
REASONS TO AVOID
VERDICT
REASONS TO BUY
REASONS TO AVOID
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(Image credit: Future)

The best encryption software makes it simple and easy to keep your folders secret and safe for privacy purposes, and protect them from intrusion.

Encryption software has become increasingly important when it comes to protecting your files and folders. Hack attempts and privacy intrusions mean that it's become easier than ever for complete strangers to access your most personal details stored on your computer

For businesses it's worse, as the exposure of sensitive or confidential records can result in financial losses as well as heavy fines.

While there are a number of security solutions available, everything from free anti-malware tools for home consumers and cloud anti-virus for business, even simple human error can undermine these attempts to secure data.

Encryption software is already deployed by some large corporations and government agencies to protect data, but it's also available and now accessible for a wider range of users.

Once properly setup, even if your security software fails, thieves/hackers/snoopers would still find it almost impossible to do anything with any encrypted data that might be exposed.

Here then are the best encryption software tools.

We've featured the best ransomware protection.


(Image credit: Microsoft)

1. Microsoft OneDrive

Keep your documents secured

Reasons to buy
+Huge file storage+Choose files to encrypt+Office integration

Microsoft OneDrive may not be the first option that comes to people's minds when they think of encryption software, but what a lot of people don't realize is that it comes with its own secure and encrypted file storage area in the form of the Personal Vault.

You can choose which files and folders to include, and these will become locked and encrypted. However, while the default is for only you to be able to access them, there is the option to share specific files and folders with other users.

This is great because OneDrive works really well as a small business and personal cloud storage solution, so the ability to encrypt files is a great bonus.

Additionally, OneDrive is an excellent choice for anyone who is committed to using Microsoft's services, as it offers neat integration with Outlook.com, the company's popular email platform, for instance. OneDrive also ties in nicely with Windows and there is a selection of reasonable mobile apps to facilitate access on the move. 

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(Image credit: NewSoftwares)

2. Folder Lock

Effective encryption for individuals

Reasons to buy
+Free to download basic version+Effective personal encryption
Reasons to avoid
-Mainly mobile oriented

Although it’s important to protect assets on company computers, it’s also crucial to add protection to any device that stores critical data. For instance, most employees have access to their company emails and other accounts on their smartphones, and they need to be protected.

Folder Lock is a good option when it comes to adding encryption to your mobile devices. The app can protect your personal files, photos, videos, contacts, wallet cards, notes and audio recordings stored in your handset. 

There are some other hidden security features, too. Not only is there encryption, but you can also set a decoy password, hacker deterrents, log unauthorized login attempts, back up all your passwords and get notified on potential brute-force attacks. 

The basic app is free to download, with a pro version available for a one-time fee which opens up more advanced and useful security features.

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(Image credit: AxCrypt)

3. AxCrypt

Encryption for small teams and individuals

Reasons to buy
+Strong encryption for personal use+Free version available
Reasons to avoid
-Mainly mobile-oriented

While free software can be convenient for some, it’s not always as powerful as premium offerings, and AxCrypt is a good bet if you want something reliable. The software has been designed specifically for individuals and small teams within businesses. 

It provides strong security, with files protected by either 128-bit or 256-bit AES encryption, which should thwart any intruders. There are also cloud storage capabilities thrown into the mix – the software will automatically protect files saved on services such as Google Drive and Dropbox.

AxCrypt is fully multilingual, and it can work with languages such as Dutch, French, German, Italian, Korean, Spanish, Swedish, Russian and Portuguese – with more support planned for the future. As well as this, there’s passport management, and you can access your encrypted files through a smartphone app.

There is a free version but it's very limited and perhaps best thought of as a way to trial the software and help become used to the interface and basic functions.

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(Image credit: Veracrypt)

4. VeraCrypt

Free encryption for everyone

Reasons to buy
+Basic version is completely free+Provides effective encryption
Reasons to avoid
-Selective approach-Initial download is a bit confusing

VeraCrypt is one of the most popular security tools, providing you with enterprise-grade encryption for important data.

The system is quite easy to use, and all it really does is add encrypted passwords to your data and partitions. All you have to do is give the tool a few details about your data, such as volume size, location and specified hashing algorithms – and then the program does its thing.

What’s also nifty about VeraCrypt is that it’s immune to brute-force attacks, so you never have to worry about hackers decrypting your passwords and other sensitive data. The basic version of the software is completely free, as well.

Read our full VeraCrypt review.

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(Image credit: Cypherix)

5. Secure IT 2000

Encryption with compression

Reasons to buy
+Strong encryption+Compresses files to make them easier to manage
Reasons to avoid
-Takes longer than other programs

Secure IT 2000 from Cypherix is a file encryption program that also compresses your files. This means that it may take a little longer than some other programs, but it does mean your files are potentially more manageable after.

Secure IT 2000 offers file and folder encryption, compression and file shredding all in one with command line processing and secure emails. It runs on all versions of Windows (32-bit as well as 64-bit).

A master password is required to access any files, which can be a little limiting if you'd prefer to have different passwords for different files, not least if you're looking to share some of them with family and/or friends.


Other Encryption Software to consider

Concealer is a file encryption program specifically for Apple Mac computers. Rather than encrypt all files on your harddrive, instead it provides an encrypted area for you to drag files into - which means you need to ensure you delete the original copy so as to avoid having both encrypted and non-encrypted versions on your harddrive. You can also choose your preferred encryption strength as 128 or 256-bit.

Renee File Protector is another piece of file encryption software for Windows, but this one allows you to have different passwords for different files or folders, effectively creating multiple security levels. Alternatively, you can just stick with a master password if required. And if you forget any of your passwords, Renee File Protector can provide prompts to allow you to recover them, which is handy.

SensiGuard doesn't just encrypt your files and folders, it also hides them so that they will remain hidden from unauthorized users, which is a potentially useful feature. Additionally, you can also securely shred files, which means that it's even harder for hackers to locate any sensitive files on your harddrive that you've already encrypted, or deleted. 

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Brian Turner

Brian has over 30 years publishing experience as a writer and editor across a range of computing and technology titles, and has been interviewed multiple times for BBC News and BBC Radio. His specialty on Techradar is Software as a Service (SaaS) applications, covering everything from office suites to IT service tools. He is also a science fiction and fantasy author, writing as Brian G Turner.