5 Ways to Password Protect a PDF

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In the heyday of digital technology, extra attention is paid to the protection of personal data.

In this article, we will show you how to password-protect a PDF document. This prevents attackers from simply opening your documents, even if the document is leaked. Even a weak password will protect your personal data from unauthorized access.

Below you will find 5 reliable ways to add a PDF password.

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How we picked tools to protect a PDF

Here are some of the criteria we used when selecting ways of adding a password to PDF documents:

  • Encryption strength. We evaluated the encryption methods used by each app to ensure they meet industry standards and provide robust protection.
  • User-friendly interface. We chose simple tools to facilitate ease of use, especially for individuals with varying levels of technical expertise.
  • Platform compatibility. We ensured to include options that work seamlessly on the operating system you are using.

1. Icecream PDF Editor

This free PDF editor for Windows can not only encrypt PDF, but edit documents, annotate them, and manage pages, too. You can add a password to PDF for opening and changing the file. Launch Icecream PDF Editor and follow the instructions below.

  1. Open a document or create a new PDF from scratch using the "File" menu ("Open" and "New" options).
  2. Go to the "File" menu again and click the "File permissions" option.
  3. This will result in a new window, using which you can protect a PDF from opening and/or editing.
  4. Check the necessary options and enter the password for each one. They do not necessarily have to be the same. For example, you can enter one password to protect a PDF from opening and another from editing it.
  5. Apply the settings to PDF by clicking the "OK" button.
How to protect a PDF with Icecream PDF Editor

Pros:

  • Set the "Read only" permission that will allow you to view the file and forbid you from editing it.
  • User-friendly interface and program controls. Even a first-time user will appreciate it.
  • All the tools you need to work with PDF.
  • Annotate PDF files as you want.

2. Preview

Preview is a built-in macOS application that allows users to view and edit various types of images and documents. Below are instructions on adding a password to PDF using this software.

  1. Locate the desired PDF, right-click on the file, and choose "Open With" > "Preview".
  2. Go to the "File" menu in the top-left corner and select "Export".
  3. Select "Permissions". You'll be prompted to set a PDF password. Enter the desired combination..
  4. Click the "Save" button to export the newly encrypted PDF file.
Preview

Pros:

  • Comes pre-installed on macOS and is a free application.
  • Simple interface makes it easy for users with different levels of technical expertise.
  • Uses industry-standard encryption methods for password protection.

Cons:

3. PDFMate PDF Converter

PDFMate is free software that can convert PDF to other formats, merge pages, and more. Check how to password-protect a PDF with this program right below.

  1. Download the program, install, and launch it.
  2. Open a document using the "Add PDF" button at the top left of the window.
  3. Open the "Advanced Settings" and go to the "PDF" tab.
  4. Here you can set the password to open or modify the document in the "Security" section. Add a password to PDF for different scenarios: opening and/or attempting to edit, copy, or print.
  5. Confirm the changes and click the "Convert" button to save the protected PDF. Now you can send it, share it via cloud storage, and so on. It will be securely protected from external interference.
PDFMate

Pros:

  • Simple and intuitive interface that even a novice can handle.
  • Quick operation.
  • Does not take up much space on your PC.
  • Free way to lock a PDF.

Cons:

  • The PDF converter's interface is outdated and doesn't provide a visually appealing user experience.

4. Microsoft Word

Those who work with digital documents probably have Microsoft Office installed on their personal computers. But few people know that this popular software can also password-protect a PDF file.

  1. Right-click a PDF file you want to protect and select the "Open with" option in the context menu. Next, select Microsoft Word.
  2. At this stage the system will suggest converting the PDF file into an editable document, which you should agree to. Open the "File" menu and click "Save As".
  3. Set the folder to which the password-protected PDF file will be saved.
  4. Next, go to the "Tools" menu in the same window and select "General Options".
  5. Now enter the password twice and click "OK". The PDF document can be sent to recipients and shared in cloud resources and messengers.
Word

Pros:

  • The majority of the users are familiar with this program.
  • You can protect a file in a few simple steps, which even a beginner can handle.
  • Works on all operating systems.
  • Does not require an Internet connection and high PC specifications.

Cons:

  • Requires a paid subscription.

5. Adobe Acrobat Online

Adobe Acrobat Online includes various tools and services that allow users to work with PDF files directly through a web browser without requiring the installation of desktop software.

  1. Go to the official website and upload the PDF file to which you want to add protection.
  2. Set a combination users must enter to open your document.
  3. Confirm the password by entering the same combination.
  4. Click "Set password" and download the protected file.
Adobe Acrobat

Pros:

  • Password-protect a PDF directly from your web browser.
  • The platform estimates the password strength.
  • Access from different operating systems and devices.
  • Store, access, and share PDFs online.

Cons:

  • Relies on an internet connection, limiting functionality in offline environments.

FAQs

Do all PDF readers support password-protected files?
Most modern PDF viewers can open password-protected files, but it's essential to ensure that the software you are using has this capability.
What is the difference between a user password and an owner password?
A user password is required to open the PDF, while an owner password is used to control permissions for actions like editing and printing.
Can I remove all restrictions from the document if I have the owner password?
Yes, having the master password allows you to remove the protection and change permissions.
Are PDF passwords case-sensitive?
Yes, in most cases, passwords are case-sensitive, meaning "Password123" is different from "password123."
Is there a difference between a PDF password and a digital signature?
A password restricts access to a PDF, while a digital signature verifies the authenticity of the document and the identity of the signer.
Can I remove a password from a PDF file once it's been set?
Yes, if you have the password, you can typically remove it using the same software or tool you used to set the encryption.
How secure are PDF passwords?
Their effectiveness depends on factors like password strength and encryption methods.
Is there a standard encryption level for PDF passwords?
PDF encryption standards include AES-128 and AES-256, with AES-256 being more secure but potentially requiring more processing power.
Can I protect a PDF with more than just a password?
Yes, some advanced security tools offer additional features like watermarking, encryption algorithms, and access controls.

How to protect a PDF: Final words

In this article, we talked about how to protect a PDF by setting password protection using several popular programs. We recommend that you use a full-featured PDF editor for this. In this case, you will already have a suitable program to handle any PDF-related task.

Alexandra Meyer

Editor-in-Chief at Icecream Apps

With experience spanning over several years, Alexandra Meyer holds the esteemed position of editor-in-chief at Icecream Apps. Originally involved in the website's establishment in 2014, Alexandra now ensures the maintenance of the company's exceptional content standards across their various projects. Specializing in technology, software, online services, and human resources, she has extensively written and edited numerous articles on these subjects.
4 min read
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