Though Windows has strong in-built security, it's very difficult to protect a computer from a physical, in-person attack. One solution, however, is Windows 10 file encryption, also known as the encrypting file system (EFS).
Windows 10 EFS allows for easy encryption and decryption of files on your account's NTSF drives using tried and tested algorithms. Jargon aside, this means that anybody who tries to access your files and doesn't have the encryption key (password) only sees strings of letters and numbers.
Unfortunately, some people find that the encrypt contents to secure data option is grayed out. In this tutorial, we'll show you how to enable EFS on your PC to remedy this, as well as how to remove the EFS encryption option if you need to. We'll show you two methods to enable or disable EFS NTSF – the group policy editor and a registry file. Let's get started:
How to Enable or Remove EFS NTFS File Encryption in the Windows 10 Local Group Policy Editor
If you have Windows 10 Pro, Enterprise, or Education, the easiest way to enable EFS is through the local group policy editor. This way, you get a nice, understandable UI and full transparency about the changes you're making. If you have Windows 10 Home, check the registry section below. Otherwise, follow along here:
- Open the Local Group Policy editor
Press Start and type “Edit group policy”. Click the top result.
- Navigate to the EFS NTFS section and open the Windows 10 encryption policy
In the sidebar of the Local Group Policy Editor, find the “Filesystem” folder and click “NTFS”. In your main pane, you should see a setting called “Do not allow encryption on all NTFS volumes”. Double-click it.
- Enable or remove EFS NTSF encryption
In the policy, choose “Not Configured”, “Enabled”, to “Disabled”. Here's what each option does:
Option Function Enabled Remove EFS encryption as an option on all NTFS drives Disabled Enable EFS NTFS encryption as an option on all drives Not Configured Follow the system default settings
Press OK once you've made your selection and Restart your PC to apply the changes.
How to Enable or Disable NTFS File Encryption using a REG file
If you don't have Windows 10 Pro, don't worry – you can still enable the EFS service. However, it will require you to make some changes to your registry. Make sure you back up your registry before continuing just to be safe.
We'll walk you through the process manually for full transparency, but you can also check the section below for a .REG file if you're in a hurry. Let's get started:
- Open Regedit
Press “Windows + R” to open the Run dialog and type “regedit”. Click the “OK” button to open the Registry Editor.
- Navigate to the Policies key and create a new DWORD
In your Registry Editor search bar, paste the following:
In the main pane, right-click any empty space and choose “New > DWORD (32-bit) Value”. Name the DWORD
NtfsDisableEncryption, taking care to copy the capitalization exactly.
- Change the value data to enable or disable Windows file encryption
Modify the value data to turn NTFS EFS encryption on or off, setting it one 1 to remove the EFS option and 0 to enable it. Press “OK” when you're done.
How to Enable or Disable Windows File Encryption via .REG Download
To make the registry editing process simpler and safer, we have created a .REG file. You can simply double-click this to disable or enable EFS for your system. You can download the .zip file here.
After the download has finished, perform the following steps:
- Unzip the file
Right-click the .zip file and select “Extract All…” from the fly-out menu.
- Browse to the extraction location and click “Extract”
- Double-click the disable or enable NTFS registry key
- Press “Yes” to the warning dialog
- Click “OK” and restart your PC
lf you'd like to switch back to your original setting at any point simply double-click the other registry key and repeat the process. We recommend you keep both .reg files in a safe location incase you ever want to change the setting again.
That wraps up this Windows 10 file encryption tutorial. You can follow our guide to using NTFS encryption to check if “encrypt contents to secure data” is grayed out still and learn more. You may also want to check our BitLocker encryption guide and decide which method is best for you.