Lock folders and drives with passwords

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Password-Protect Folders

If you want to protect folders with passwords without encrypting the files, then Folder Guard is the tool you need. The password protection is instantaneous, no matter how many files the folder contains or how large the files are. However, the password protection takes effect only on your computer, where Folder Guard is running: if you move the folder to another computer, it will not be protected, unless that computer has Folder Guard installed and configured, as well. Read more about Folder Guard...

Encrypt external USB drives

If you have an external drive that you want to protect with a password, then USBCrypt is the software you need. This software creates an encrypted area on the external drive that you can use to keep your sensitive files. You can use the encrypted drive with other computers, that don't have USBCrypt software installed. If you lose the encrypted drive, your files will be safely protected with the password you've chosen. Read more about USBCrypt...

How to password-protect a folder with Folder Guard

You can use Folder Guard software to protect folders with passwords.

To lock a folder with a password: run Folder Guard and drag and drop the folder you want to protect to its window, or click the Lock another folder with a password link:

Use Folder Guard to protect folders with passwords

Select the folder to protect, enter the desired password, adjust the password properties, as needed:

Properties for the folder password

You can specify that the password may be used only by the local users, or by the network users, or both. You can choose the password to unlock a full access to the folder, or give the user the read-only access. (You can create several different passwords for the same folder, giving different access types to the users.)

Now apply the changes and try to open the folder you have just protected. Navigate to the protected folder, and you should see an empty window with the Unlock button in the middle:

The Unlock button lets you unlock the password-protected folder

Click the Unlock button, and prompt for the password should appear:

To open a password protected folder you must enter your password first

If you have entered the correct password, the folder should become unprotected and you should be able to work with the files and subfolders it contains without restrictions, as usual. However, if you don't enter the correct password, the folder will remain protected.

(Note that in order to unlock the folder this way, you need to double-click on the folder in the right-hand panel of the Windows Explorer window. If you select the folder in the left-hand panel that shows the folder tree, the password prompt will not be shown and the Access denied message will be shown instead.)

Now, after you have unlocked the folder, try to close the Windows Explorer window, and you should see a prompt to lock the folder back:

You are prompted to lock the folder when closing the Windows Explorer window

Reply Yes, and the folder will be locked back with the password again, and will remain inaccessible until you enter the correct password again.

In addition to the basic password-protection described above, Folder Guard lets you customize the way it works to suit your specific requirements:

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  • You can direct Folder Guard to add the Lock and Unlock commands to the Windows shortcut menu. You can use them to lock and unlock the password-protected folders by right-clicking on them, instead of (or in addition to) double-clicking on the folders as described above.
  • If you have locked many folders with passwords, you can make them all accessible at once by running Folder Guard and pausing the protection (you will need to enter your Master password, or course!) When you are done working with the protected folders, run Folder Guard and choose to resume the protection, to lock all folders at once with one click.
  • Instead of locking files and folders with passwords, your can completely hide them!

And more! Please feel free to download the fully functional evaluation version and give it a try. If you don't like it, use Windows Control Panel to uninstall it: no strings attached.

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Locking access to the external drives with Folder Guard

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Previously we’ve shown how easy it was to set up Folder Guard to prevent downloads of programs from the Internet. As a side effect, the filter that accomplished that task prevented running programs from the removable drives, as well. However, what if you want to stop users of your computer from using the external drives at all? For example, what if you don’t want them to copy documents and files from the computer to the removable drives they could bring with them? With Folder Guard, it’s easy to achieve that.

As before, let’s start by creating a file access filter that would restrict the use of the removable drives. Run Folder Guard, and choose View – Filters from the menu to switch to the window that shows the existing filters. If you use one of the latest version of Folder Guard, you should see a filter that we need already in the list, it’s called Lock external drives:

If you don’t see this filter in the list, it’s easy to create it: choose Filter – New from the menu, and then enter the properties of the filters as follows:

The most important part of this filter is the content of the Except folders box: it contains the mask C:*;\\*;*:\RECYCLE.BIN . Why it is there? Because we don’t want the restrictions that this filter would create to apply to the files located on the main drive of your computer (which is most probably the drive C:). We only want the restrictions to apply to other drives, which would have drive letters other than C:. The star character (*) in the mask means any set of characters, so the mask C:* would match any folder located on the C: drive. As a result, the filter would not apply to any file or folder on the C: drive, just what we want.

We also don’t want the filter to apply to the network files. Since the paths of such files usually start with the double-backslash, we use the mask \\* to specify such paths.

Finally, we’ve added the mask *:\RECYCLE.BIN to the Except forders box. It is necessary to prevent the filter from applying to the files located in the Recycle Bin folders. Without such a mask, Windows would be denied access to Recycle Bin, and it would cause it to display messages about it being corrupted.

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Now, if your computer has other drives permanently attached and you want the users to be able to use such drives without restrictions, you should add the appropriate masks to the Except for folders box, too. (You can separate masks with comas, semicolons, or line breaks). For example, if your computer has a DVD drive that has the drive letter D: and you want the users to use the DVD drive without restrictions, modify the content of the Except folders box to read as follows: (Press the […] button to modify the content of the box.)

C:*;D:*;\\*;*:\RECYCLE.BIN

The rest of the filter properties can be left empty. An empty Apply to box means Apply to all and an empty Except for box means Except for none. We have entered a star character in the Apply to files box, to emphasize that it should apply to all files, but we could have left the box empty, it would produce the same result as the star character.

Now that we have created the filter that we need, it’s time to apply a restricting attribute to it. We basically have two choices: the No access attribute and the Read-only one. Which one to assign to the filter depends on how exactly you want the external devices to be restricted. If you want to completely lock access to the removable drives, assign the No access attribute to the filter:

The result of the No access attribute would be that the users would be prevented from both opening the files from the external devices, and saving the files to them. If you only want to stop users from saving files to the removable drives, but allow them to open or copy files from them, than the Read-only attribute would do the job:

What if at some point you do need to access a removable drive? Just pause the protection of Folder Guard, perform the task, then resume the protection back (no Windows restart required).

Happy computing!

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Folder Guard updated to version 8.3.1

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This is a minor update to Folder Guard that corrects an issue that could cause the mapped network drives not to be protected as expected on the Windows 7/Vista computers in some situations.

If you have not experienced a problem protecting the mapped network drives with Folder Guard, you may want to skip this update. Otherwise, download it from our web site and install over the previous version.

Happy folder-guarding!

Protecting Dropbox folder with USBCrypt

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Dropbox is a popular online backup and file synchronization service. When Dropbox synchronizes files between your computers and the online storage, it encrypts the files while transferring them over the Internet, preventing other people from eavesdropping on your data. However, the Dropbox folder on your computer remains unprotected: Dropbox does not do anything special to restrict access to it. What if you lose your laptop or someone steals your computer? Wouldn’t it be nice to protect your local Dropbox folder with strong encryption, too?

You can protect your Dropbox folder using our strong encryption software USBCrypt. Yes, USBCrypt is not just for protecting the external drives, you can use it as a general-purpose encryption tool, as well. You can create a Virtual Encrypted Disk on your main C: drive, or on another drive that your computer has, and move your Dropbox folder onto the encrypted drive. This will make the files you store in the Dropbox folder safe.

Let’s begin by starting the Virtual Encrypted Disk which you want to use to keep your Dropbox files in. (If you have not created it yet, now is the time to do that.) Remember that when you start the encrypted drive, it will have a different drive letter than the host disk. In this example, the host drive is G: and the Virtual Encrypted Disk is K:, on your computer the drive letters could be different.

When starting the Virtual Encrypted Disk, select the option to start is as the fixed rather than removable disk. To do that, click on the More options button (located on the same page where you enter your encryption password) and select the option “Start as a fixed (rather than removable) disk”. The reason why this is necessary is that DropBox software may refuse to setup its folder on a drive that is marked as removable by Windows.

Now create a free Dropbox account, then download the Dropbox setup file and run it to start the installation. Proceed to the very last screen, and before you click Finish, check the option that lets you choose where to put the Dropbox folder:

Select the option to choose the location for the Dropbox folder

Click on the Change button and select the Virtual Encrypted Drive you’ve previously started (it’s drive K: in our example):

Select the encrypted drive to store the Dropbox folder

Verify that Dropbox folder location is now on the encrypted drive and press Finish to complete the installation:

The Dropbox folder will be stored on the encrypted drive

What if you already have Dropbox on your computer? No problem, you can move the Dropbox folder onto the encrypted drive: right-click on the Dropbox icon displayed in the taskbar notification area, choose Preferences, and then click on the Move button:

Moving the existing Dropbox folder onto the encrypted drive

Dropbox will move the folder to the encrypted drive for you. If you get an error that the folder cannot be moved to the removable drive, restart the Virtual Encrypted Disk as a removable disk (see above) and try again. After that, the files you put in the Dropbox folder will be protected with strong encryption and no one would be able to get them without the correct password.

The problem that remains to be solved is that if you leave Dropbox settings as they are now, then next time you start your computer Dropbox will complain that it cannot find its folder. This is expected, because by default Dropbox is configured to start automatically when you log in to Windows, and when it starts, it tries to locate its folder right away, before you have a chance to enter the password to start the Virtual Encrypted Disk.

To solve this problem, change the Dropbox autostart option: right-click on the Dropbox taskbar icon, choose Preferences from the menu, and clear the Start Dropbox on system startup option (see the image above). Instead of starting it automatically, you would start Dropbox manually, by double-clicking on its desktop icon, after you’ve started the Virtual Encrypted Disk.

If you are familiar with the batch files, you can go one step further and make Dropbox start automatically for you whenever you start the Virtual Encrypted Disk. The AutoRun feature of USBCrypt makes it very easy to achieve: create a file named autorun.bat in the root folder of the Virtual Encrypted Disk that contains the following:

   @echo off
   if "%1"=="start" (
   path-to-Dropbox.exe 
   )

(By the way, if you have AB Commander, its built-in Quick Editor is just the tool for such a job.) Replace path-to-Dropbox.exe with the actual path that is in effect on your computer. You can determine the correct path by examining the properties of the Dropbox shortcut that you have on the Desktop. Usually it is similar to: C:\Users\Joe\AppData\Roaming\Dropbox\Bin\Dropbox.exe

From now on, whenever you start the Virtual Encrypted Disk, the Dropbox software should start automatically, too.

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The last thing to discuss is stopping the Virtual Encrypted Disk that has the Dropbox folder. Before stopping the disk, you need to exit Dropbox software (by right-clicking on its taskbar icon and choosing Exit from the menu). Otherwise, if you attempt to stop the Virtual Encrypted Disk while Dropbox software is running, USBCrypt will report that the Virtual Encrypted Disk is in use and cannot be stopped. Exiting Dropbox software before stopping the drive solves this problem, unless you have some other software running that uses the files on the encrypted drive. If this is the case, you need to exit such programs, as well.

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How to set up Folder Guard to stop downloading from the Internet

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Password-protect and hide personal files and folders with Folder Guard for Windows 10,8,7, and XP.
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So you don’t want users to download programs from the Internet? Yet, you don’t want to block the Internet access completely and you would rather allow the users to be able to browse web sites and use email, etc.? Folder Guard has a tool for that.

To achieve such a goal, you need to prevent users from saving new executable files to the computer. At the same time, you want the users to be able to use the existing executable files, already installed by the administrator. They also should be able to keep working with other files as usual, with no restrictions. How could you set it up with Folder Guard?

It’s not too difficult. Folder Guard lets you create the file access filters. You could create a filter that would apply to any executable file or a script, but skip other files. You would assign the Read-only attribute to such a filter, and that would stop the attempts to create new executable files (and thus prevent downloading them!), while allow the use of the existing programs.

Let’s do that. If you have one of the latest versions of Folder Guard, the filter we need may already exist: run Folder Guard, choose View – Filters command from the menu to switch to the Filters view, and look for the filter named Stop common downloads. If it’s not there, select the Filter – New command to start creating a new filter. Click on the […] button next to the Apply to files box to specify which files this filter should apply to. The names of the executable files have the extension .exe, so you need to specify the mask *.exe to make the filter apply to any such file. You don’t want the users to download the DLL files either, so add the mask *.dll to the list, too. In fact, add a few other masks to make the filter apply to the files commonly used to run scripts, as well (because you probably don’t want the users to run arbitrary scripts!). Here is the text of the Apply to files box that you can use as a starting point for the list:

*.bat;*.cmd;*.com;*.dll;*.download;*.exe;*.hta;*.msi;*.paf;*.rar;*.scr;*.vb*;*.ws;*.wsf;

Of course, your case could require modifications to the list: for example, maybe your users are supposed to be able to modify the BAT scripts? If so, remove *.bat from the list.

What about the *.download files, you might ask? Some web browsers use such files for temporary storage while downloading the files, so we’ve included them in the list, too.

Leave the rest of the properties of our new filter empty: the empty Apply to boxes have the same effect at Apply to all. That is, the filter would apply to all folders, and to any program accessing the file. The empty Except boxes have the same effect as Except none, meaning that no file, folder, or program would be excluded from this filter:

Press OK to close the properties window. If it’s a new filter you’ve just created, you will be prompted to enter a name for the filter. Give it a meaningful name such as Stop common downloads to remind yourself later on why you’ve created the filter:

After the filter has been created, move it to the top of the list (using the Move Up command on the Filter menu) and assign the Read-only attribute to it (by, for example, right-clicking on the filter and choosing Access – Read-only from the shortcut menu). A small (I) icon should appear in front of the filter, to indicate the Read-only attribute:

(You may have other filters in the list, you can leave them as they are: if they have no icons in front of them, they will have no effect).

At this point Folder Guard is ready to start protecting your computer. However, before you continue, check the Trusted Users list of Folder Guard and verify that the SYSTEM user is there. Check the Trusted programs list, too, and make sure the following programs are there:

C:/Windows/System32/wuauclt.exe
C:/Windows/servicing/TrustedInstaller.exe

The above entries ensure that Windows Update is “trusted” and has an unrestricted access to all files and folders of your computer. Without them, the filter we’ve created would prevent Windows Update form updating Windows files.

Now resume the protection (or Apply the settings) and test it by trying to download a few programs from various web sites. (If you are looking for a few files to test, you are welcome to use the download page of our web site.)

If you try to download an executable file with Internet Explorer while the filter is in effect, the following error message is displayed:

Other web browsers could give similar messages, or they could just sit there forever expecting the download to start. The end result is, the users cannot download programs anymore while they still should be able to use the existing programs!

What if at some point you do need to download or install a new program, or remove an exiting one? Well, just pause the protection of Folder Guard, perform the task, then resume the protection back (no Windows restart required).

One side effect of the protection we’ve just set up is that the filter will not only prevent downloading the programs, but it will also prevent installing or copying programs from/to the CD or removable drives. It may be a good thing, or not, depending on your specific requirements. If you want the users to be able to run programs from the removable drives while the Stop common downloads filter is in effect, you need to create another filter that would specifically allow full access to the executable files located on the removable drives.

Happy computing!

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More information

Folder Guard 8.3 released

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What’s new in Folder Guard version 8.3:

  • An option to enable protection in the safe mode of Windows. (Previously, this could only be enabled manually).
  • User-specific restrictions for the domain users.
  • Several new filters to allow you to lock all applications, or lock your MP3 collection, or restrict access to any removable drive someone might attach to your computer.
  • Several other minor improvements and corrections.

If this sounds like something you were waiting for, give the new version a try. (It’s free for the first 30 days!)

More information about Folder Guard…

Is “Wipe the content” the same as “Secure Delete”?

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If you've been using AB Commander to manage your files and folders, you've probably noticed the Wipe the content option available on the Delete window (that appears when you choose the Delete command from the menu of AB Commander):

The Delete file window with Wipe the content option

You've been probably wondering, why would you need that option? Isn't the Delete command supposed to do that by itself?

To understand the need for this option, let's consider what happens under the hood when you delete a file. If you use Windows Explorer to delete a file on a drive that has a Recycle Bin on it, then the file is not deleted at all! Instead, Windows moves it to the Recycle Bin, giving you (or someone else who gets hold of your disk) the possibility to restore the file you've "deleted". The same happens when you delete the file with AB Commander and select the Move to the Recycle Bin option on the Delete window.

If you do not select the Move to the Recycle Bin option (or, if the file is located on a drive that does not have the Recycle Bin), then the deletion occurs differently: instead of moving the file to the Recycle Bin, Windows marks the blocks of the hard drive space occupied by the file as available for use by other files. That is, even though the file disappears from the file listings, its content still remains on the disk! That's what makes the undelete programs possible: they work by analyzing the internal structures that Windows keeps on the disk and use that information to reconstruct the files deleted in this way. If the file has been deleted only a few minutes ago and you have not created any new files yet, there is a good chance to undelete the file in this way. However, keep in mind that even if you yourself didn't create any files, Windows could do that silently in the background, and thus overwrite the blocks of data on the disk that used to belong to the file you've deleted.

In any case, the important fact about deleting a file without moving it into the Recycle Bin is that the content of the file is not getting destroyed and there is a possibility to reconstruct it (or a part of it), even after the file has been deleted. What if the file contains sensitive information that you want to actually be destroyed? That's what Wipe the content option is for. If you select this option, then before deleting the file, AB Commander wipes its content by writing constant bytes over the actual data the file contains. This way, if someone gets hold of your disk and uses an undelete program to recover the file you've deleted, the recovered file would contain the bytes written over by AB Commander when wiping the file, rather than the original content of the file.

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The bytes used to wipe out the content of the files depend on the number of passes you select next to the Wipe the content option. If you select 1 pass, then AB Commander replaces each byte of the file content with 0. If you select 3 passes, then AB Commander overwrites each byte 3 times. The first pass uses the byte 0x55 (which happens to have the binary representation of 01010101), the second pass uses the byte 0xAA (or 10101010 in the binary presentation), and the third pass uses the byte 0. Of course, keep in mind that using the 3-pass wiping takes 3 times as long to complete.

"Why don't you call this option Secure Delete then, like many of your competitors do", you might be wondering? Well, because "secure" is a strong word and we would rather use it only when something is really secure. Unfortunately, there are situations when the Wipe the content option may not produce the intended result. For example, if the file you want to erase is located on a SSD or a flash drive, there is a good chance that the drive controller uses the wear-leveling techniques, to extend the useful life of the device. It means that when the content of a file is overwritten, the new bytes may be written to a block of the drive's space other than that of the original file. In such a case, even if you select the 3-pass wipe option, each pass would be written to a new set of the drive space blocks, and no wiping of the content would actually occur. Calling such an operation "secure" would be very misleading.

Even if the drive does not use the wear-leveling, there is a possibility for the original content of the file to leak even after its content has been wiped. For example, when you save a file after editing it, many programs do not write the new content directly over the exiting data. Instead, they first create a temporary file, write the new content in it, and after making sure the file has been created successfully, they delete the original file, and rename the new file back to the original. (It may all happen in the background, without you noticing it). The result is, the previous content of the file is still available on the drive, even if you don't see it. If you wipe the content of the file you've just saved, you would wipe only the latest version of it, while the previous version would still be available for the undelete utilities to recover. Again, we would not want to use the word "secure" for the option that may provide an insecure result.

OK, if secure delete of files is not reliable, what should you do if you really want to make sure the file cannot be recovered no matter what? Well, the only 100% option is to physically destroy the drive. (Although that may not be easy: if you ever tried to disassemble a hard drive you know what I mean!). If physical destruction is not an option, the next best thing is to securely erase the whole drive. Go to the web site of the manufacturer of your drive and search for a secure erase utility in the Downloads or Support section: you may find such a utility offered by the manufacturer tailored specifically to your drive.

The third best option is to do a "full" (rather than "quick") format of the drive, using the Windows drive formatting tools. (See Windows Help for more information what your version of Windows has to offer in this regard). When Windows does the full format, it erases every part of the drive, including any previous versions of the files that might be lying around. While it may not stop a determined forensic analyst, the full format should prevent the regular undelete tools from recovering your files.

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AB Commander version 7.7 released

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Breaking news: we’ve just released AB Commander version 7.7!

What’s new in this version:

  • The Wipe the content option has been added to the Delete command. You can use this option to make it much harder (if not impossible) to reconstruct the contents of the files being deleted.
  • The file management commands (Copy, Move, Delete, etc.) are now performed asynchronously. For example, if you’ve started a long operation to copy a large file, you can continue working with AB Commander without having to wait for the copying to finish.
  • The Undo command has been added to the Command menu. (Previously, it was only accessible via the Ctrl-Z key combination).
  • Several other minor improvements and corrections have been made.

Enjoy!

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