Best Encryption Software of 2018

Nicole Johnston ·
Updated
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We spent more than 40 hours researching and testing encryption software. Based on our results, we believe Folder Lock is the best encryption software overall because it is very secure and easy to use, plus it includes a password recovery feature. It also has extra privacy features, including a file shredder, stealth mode and a virtual keyboard. If you are a Mac user, we suggest you use Concealer to encrypt your files. 

Best Overall

Folder Lock

Folder Lock is our top pick for encryption software because it makes it easy to both encrypt and decrypt files, works fast and uses the very secure 256-bit AES algorithm.
View on Folder Lock
Best Value

Secure IT

Secure IT has a file shredder and uses the most secure encryption algorithm to protect your information. It compresses files better than most programs and costs less as well.
View on Cypherix
Best for Mac

Concealer

Concealer uses the strongest encryption algorithm available and compresses your files as it secures them. It also includes a password generator and a password strength meter.
View on Belight Software

Product
Price
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Overall Rating
9.4
7.2
6.8
6.3
6.2
6
5.8
5.7
5.5
5.1
Performance
9.6
7.5
6.3
5
7
5
7.5
6.5
7.1
2.9
Security
8.9
5.6
6.7
7.8
4.3
6.7
1.1
2.8
3.3
7.8
Help & Support
10
10
10
10
7.5
10
10
10
2.5
10
Ease of Use
100%
100%
80%
70%
90%
90%
80%
90%
80%
60%
File Compression
90%
100%
80%
100%
96%
90%
80%
100%
100%
100%
Speed
100%
85%
90%
80%
77%
75%
100%
74%
90%
70%
Password Recovery
N/A
N/A
N/A
N/A
N/A
N/A
N/A
N/A
Password Strength Meter
N/A
N/A
Virtual Keyboard
N/A
N/A
N/A
N/A
N/A
N/A
N/A
N/A
Stealth Mode
N/A
N/A
N/A
N/A
N/A
N/A
N/A
N/A
Encryption Algorithm Type
256-bit Key AES
256-bit Key AES
256-bit Key AES
256-bit Key AES
256-bit Key AES
256-bit Key AES
256-bit Key Twofish
256-bit Key AES
384-bit Key Blowfish
256-bit Key AES
Password Generator
N/A
N/A
N/A
N/A
N/A
N/A
N/A
N/A
File Shredder
N/A
N/A
N/A
Self-Extracting Files
N/A
N/A
N/A
Windows 10
N/A
N/A
Mac OS
N/A
N/A
N/A
N/A
N/A
N/A
N/A
N/A
Windows Vista
N/A
N/A
Windows 7
N/A
N/A
Windows 8
N/A
N/A
Tutorials
N/A
Online Manual
N/A
Customer Support
FAQs
N/A
N/A
Best Overall

Folder Lock

We picked Folder Lock as the best encryption program because it is easy to use, includes the best security features and has more tools to protect your sensitive information than other software. It costs a bit more than other programs, but it also has a lot more features.
To encrypt files, you simply drag and drop them into Folder Lock. It took less than six seconds for the program to scramble our test files, and while we only encrypted 128MB of data, this equates to only a few minutes to secure several gigs. Once your files are encrypted, the program hides them so anyone who connects to your computer remotely or hacks into your system can’t see them. In addition to using the highest encryption algorithm available, Folder Lock includes a file shredder, virtual keyboard and password strength meter, which helps you create strong keys to your files. It is one of the only programs we reviewed that lets you recover your passwords if you forget or lose them – with other software, if you lose your password, you lose your encrypted data.
Pros
  • Encrypts fast
  • Has a virtual keyboard
  • Includes password recovery
Cons
  • Compresses files less than competing software
  • Doesn’t have a password manager
  • Costs more than other encryption programs
$39.95Folder Lock
Best Value

Secure IT

Secure IT is inexpensive, but it still securely encrypts data. It also compresses files as it encrypts them.
Since the resulting files are 3 percent smaller than the original, pre-encryption versions when you unlock them, they are easier to share in emails and instant messages. While it isn’t as fast as other programs we reviewed, Secure IT only took about 20 seconds to scramble our 63 test files. You can create self-extracting files, including those in EXE, RAR and ZIP formats, using Secure IT. They aren’t secure like encrypted files, but this feature makes it is easy to compress less sensitive data and keep information all in one place. The program’s file shredder can destroy any type of file. You choose the number of passes the files make through the shredder – the more passes they make, the less likely hackers are to find any trace of the information. However, the software is missing important features like a password generator, password recovery tools and a virtual keyboard. When you purchase Secure IT, you gain access to all the software’s version upgrades. It is also compatible with all versions of Windows.
Pros
  • Costs less than most programs
  • Encrypts using a 256-bit key AES algorithm
  • Includes a file shredder
Cons
  • Is slower than other programs
  • Doesn’t have password recovery
  • Can’t run in stealth mode
$29.95Cypherix
Best for Mac

Concealer

Concealer is designed specifically for Mac computers, and while it takes longer to encrypt files than other programs, it compresses them as it encrypts to free up storage space on your computer.
This Mac encryption software performed well in our ease of use tests, and we were impressed with the number of file formats it can encrypt, including text files and tax forms. You can create categories and save encrypted files under them to keep your information organized. In addition, you can customize and attach a card to each encrypted file so you know what it contains without decrypting it first. You also have the option to secure the database with a master password, or you can secure each card file with its own unique pass key. Because Concealer is a Mac program, it doesn’t have as many security features as those compatible with Windows. For example, it doesn’t have a file shredder or a password recovery option. It also doesn’t let you create less secure self-extracting files like EXE, RAR or ZIP. However, Concealer encrypts your files using the most secure 256-bit AES key and includes both a password generator and a strength meter, which helps you create passwords that are difficult for hackers to figure out.
Pros
  • Mac compatible
  • Easy to use
  • 256-bit AES security
Cons
  • No file shredder
  • No way to recover lost or forgotten passwords
  • Much slower than other encryption programs
$17.95Belight Software

Why Trust Us? 

We have been testing computer security and privacy programs for over 15 years. When we review encryption software, we consult with experts in the computer security industry as well as businesses that use encryption software daily, including those in healthcare, education and government industries. Their expert knowledge and experiences, as well as our own in-house tests, help us understand the many uses of encryption software, security levels and requirements, and the tools to look for when choosing a program.

How We Tested? 

We tested each program by encrypting 63 files – a total of 128MB of data. In general, we preferred software that encrypted quickly and integrated well with our computers’ operating systems.

Encrypting such a small batch of files only took seconds in most cases. However, some programs took minutes to finish the job. When you’re locking up only a few megabytes of information, speed isn’t a big deal, but if you’re encrypting gigabytes of data, a slow program could leave you waiting for hours.

We also clocked decryption speed and found that most programs let you access to your files quickly. However, in the case of SensiGuard, we had to wait more than six minutes for both encryption and decryption.

Key Features to Look for When Buying Encryption Software? 

Performance
If your encryption software is difficult to use, you may not use it at all. The programs we reviewed are simple and intuitive, particularly Folder Lock and Secure IT – they both guide you through the encryption and decryption processes step by step. Secure IT integrates with Windows, so all you have to do is right-click on a file and choose to encrypt it in the menu.

We found that programs typically compress files as they encrypt them, though only to a small degree – for example, from 128MB down to 124MB. It can make a difference when you encrypt large data files, so programs that protect and compress are preferable.

Security

Encryption software uses different types of ciphers to scramble your data, and each has its own benefits. Advanced Encryption Standard, or 256-bit key AES, is used by the U.S. government, including the National Security Agency (NSA), and is one of the strongest ciphers available. Blowfish and Twofish, the latter being a newer version of the former, are encryption algorithms that use block ciphers – they scramble blocks of text or several bits of information at once, rather than one bit at a time.

The main differences between these algorithms are performance and speed, and the average user won’t notice those disparities. Although any of these ciphers could be broken given enough time and computing power, they are considered practically unbreakable. AES has long been recognized as the superior algorithm, so we preferred programs that use it.

Version Compatibility

If your computer runs an older version of Windows, such as Vista or XP, make sure the encryption program supports your operating system. On the flip side, you need to make sure you choose software that has changed with the times and supports the latest versions of Windows, like 7, 8 and 10.

While all the programs we tested are compatible with every version of Windows, we feel that SensiGuard is a good choice for older computers because it only has the most essential tools and won’t bog down your PC. Plus, it is easy to move to a new computer if you choose to upgrade. However, it takes a while to encrypt and decrypt files.

If you have a Mac computer, you need a program that is designed specifically for that operating system – none of the programs we tested are compatible with both Windows and Mac machines. We believe Concealer is the best option for Macs, but Espionage 3 is also a good choice.

Mac encryption software doesn’t have as many extra security features as Windows programs. They typically lack virtual keyboards, self-extracting file creators and password recovery tools. Mac programs also take a lot more time to secure files compared to Windows software.

When Is a Free Program Enough? 

Many free file encryption programs exist, and they might be strong enough for your needs. We tested VeraCrypt and Windows’ built-in encryption solution BitLocker. These are bare-bones programs that allow you to protect your files and nothing else – they don’t have a file shredder, password generator or password strength meter. Also, these applications are less intuitive than their for-pay counterparts. The paid versions walk you through every step and have easy-to-read help files and tutorials.

So, if you’re comfortable with certificates and keys to encrypt files, BitLocker may work well for you. VeraCrypt’s system encrypts in volumes and allows you to create a hidden, encrypted volume within another encrypted volume.

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