In order to protect data storage on computer disks, encryption is necessary. Disk encryption allows data to remain protected even when the operating system is not active. The files can be decrypted again when an authorized user requests it by supplying a password when it is opened. Below is a list of 15 of the best free file encryption software and tools.
7-Zip is open source software under the GNU LGPL license. 7-Zip has ZIP container-based AES-256 encryption. You can easily create a compressed archive of files and add a password to it.
AxCrypt is an open source file encryption software that lets you compress, encrypt, decrypt, store, send, and work with individual files. It works with the Windows shell and it uses AES-256 encryption.
Cryptext lets you decode and encode files with a combined technology of SHAa1 and RC4. It locks files with a 160-bit password-protected keyword.
Disk Utility (Mac)
The Disk Utility software that comes bundled with Mac OS X lets you create encrypted disk images and file volumes using AES 128-bit or 256-bit. If you have never encrypted files using Disk Utility and want to learn how to do it, click the link above.
dsCrypt supports drag and drop and provides AES/Rijndael file encryption. The software features optimal implementation and safety measures. dsCrypt has Secure PassPad, brute-force password search resistance, and verified data/file processing.
Encrypt4all is an application that implements a real bit-per bit data encryption. It lets you encrypt any kind of file and set a password for the archives. You can also encrypt files that are larger than 2GB.
FreeOTFE/FreeOTFE Explorer (Windows/Linux)
FreeOTFE is an open source transparent disk encryption program that lets you create one or more “virtual disks” on PCs. FreeOTFE has support for Linux volumes, supports numerous hash (including SHA-512, RIPEMD-320 Tiger), and encryption algorithms (AES, Twofish, and Serpent) in several modes (CBC, LRW, and XTS).
GNU Privacy Guard (Windows/Mac/Linux)
GNU Privacy Guard (GnuPG) is an open source version of the Pretty Good Privacy (PGP) encryption software. GNUpg lets you encrypt individual files and groups of files. GNUpg uses a command line interface, but there are several front-ends with easy-to-use GUIs. Below is an image of GnuPG Shell.
Instant LOCK (Windows)
Instant LOCK is a file security software that can protect, lock, and hide private folders. It is also portable so you can copy and encrypt files on USB drives, CDs, DVDs, etc. It has a drag-and-drop interface.
Remora USB File Guard (Windows)
Remora USB File Guard is software that can encrypt and compress files on USB storage devices. It encrypts the files with 128 bits.
Rohos Mini Drive (Windows)
The Rohos Mini Drive protects USB flash drives with a password by making a hidden and encrypted partition on the USB flash drive memory. The free edition is limited to 2GB of virtual disk size.
SafeHouse Explorer (Windows)
SafeHouse Explorer is encryption software that can make files invisible. SafeHouse uses passwords and 256-bit advanced encryption to hide and defend sensitive files. SafeHouse can protect files that are on any drive including network services, USB drives, CD/DVDs, and iPods.
Sofonica Folder Soldier (Windows)
Sofonica Folder Soldier can protect your folder from unauthorized people. It has password protection and supports locking many folders in one click.
Sophos Free Encryption (Windows)
Sophos Free Encryption lets you securely send or store data. The software integrates with most e-mail applications to automatically create a new message with the selected encrypted archive attached.
TrueCrypt can create secure encrypted virtual disks or entire drives. The files can be encrypted on-the-fly so that they are decrypted as you access them and then encrypts again when you are done. TrueCrypt lets you create hidden volumes in encrypted volumes to make files even more secure.