TUCOWS ARTICLE

Three Ways to Keep Your Secret Files Hidden

Let's just say that, hypothetically, you had some sensitive files that you don't want your kids, your boss, or your snooping roommate to get into while you're away from the computer. You've got a lot of options.
Published: Apr 22, 2007
Author: Jordan Running
Related OS: Windows
Categories:
Compression utilities
Software that can help Good for Cow Rating
WinRAR (32-bit) 4.20
Shareware
Download WinRAR is a 32-bit/64-bit Windows version of RAR Archiver, the powerful archiver and...

Let's just say that, hypothetically, you had some sensitive files that you don't want your kids, your boss, or your snooping roommate to get into while you're away from the computer. You've got a lot of options.

Disclaimer: None of the options I discuss here will lock your files up like Fort Knox. The goal here is to ward off snoops, not defeat professional intruders, and do it with a low barrier to entry. If you want to keep out professionals, you're going to have to pay professional prices.

Microsoft has its own opinion on how this should be done in Windows, but it's not worth the pixels it's printed on. Microsoft says you should simply set the files' "Hidden" attribute, which sounds sensible until you scroll down to the part where it says how anybody can just change a folders' settings to show all hidden files by default, and believe me, most power users know where that setting is by heart, because they're sick of Windows hiding useful files from them.

So, since Redmond isn't any help, we must turn to third parties.

Free Hide Folder

A quick, free solution is Free Hide Folder, which is as plain and simple as its name implies.

Free Hide Folder

The first time you launch Free Hide Folder you'll be prompted to create a password. Then you simply choose folders that you want to hide by clicking on the "Add" button. The folders will stay hidden from everybody (including you) until you come back, enter your password, and click on the Unhide button.

I like Free Hide Folder because it's small and easy to use and gets the job done. If you're feeling a bit cleverer, though, I have another option for the more technically inclined.

Hiding Files in JPEG Images

The Tech Tray has a fun tutorial on how to hide files inside of JPEG image files. This isn't full-blown steganography�more like its little cousin. It works like this: You use WinRAR to put your secret files in a RAR archive. Then you use a simple command to attach the RAR file to a .JPG photo of your choosing. Then when someone opens the .JPG file in the ordinary way, they just see the photo, but when you open it in WinRAR you can get at the precious data.

RAR in JPG

Check out the full instructions at The Tech Tray. If you want to add another layer of security, I would recommend password-protecting the archived files in WinRAR.

Let's Get Physical

>Flash driveHere's one last option, which I'm particularly fond of: If you don't want your friendly neighborhood snoops sticking their noses in your data when you leave your computer, just take it with you! Get a USB flash drive�they're dirt cheap these days and come in all shapes and sizes�and keep all of your sensitive files on it. When you unplug from your PC at the end of the day, unplug your flash drive, too. Keep it on your keychain so you can never forget it (at least, not without forgetting your car keys, too). Some flash drives these days come with built-in encryption software, just for this purpose. But that's another article entirely.


About Jordan Running

Blogger since 1999, Jordan Running went pro in 2005 and never looked back. Sometimes programmer, occasional photographer, and serial tinkerer, he decided to to switch to Linux in 2001 but just hasn't quite gotten around to it yet.

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