This tutorial shows the basic way to password protect PDFs in Adobe Acrobat. We will also look at how to turn off password protection.
We will cover the advanced method with additional options in an upcoming tutorial.
You can create passwords to protect PDFs from being opened and permissions passwords to protect PDFs from being edited.
Table of Contents
For a full tutorial about preventing editing in Adobe Acrobat, please see my previous tutorial “How to Restrict Editing in Adobe Acrobat.”
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The images below are from Adobe Acrobat Pro. These steps also apply to Adobe Acrobat 2020 and Adobe Acrobat 2017. In addition, the steps are the same for PC and Mac.
These steps don’t apply to Adobe’s free PDF display software, Acrobat Reader. However, passwords created with Acrobat should be enforced in Reader.
Important Note: This tutorial is for general knowledge only. Because the PDF file format is open source, it may be manipulated by third-party software. Therefore, I do not recommend using the Adobe Acrobat features shown here to protect highly sensitive or classified documents. In addition, you can’t password protect PDFs that have been signed or certified.
How to Password Protect PDFs
- Open the PDF that you want to protect.
- Select the File menu.
- Select Protect Using Password from the drop-down menu.
- Select Viewing or Editing in the Protect Using Password dialog box.
- Viewing prevents the PDF from being opened without a password.
- Editing gives the password holder permission to make changes to the PDF. Without the permissions password, users can only use the comment tools, fill out forms, and sign signature boxes.
- Type a password that is at least six characters into the first text box and then retype it into the second text box.
Important Note: Acrobat does not provide a way to retrieve a forgotten password, so be sure to store a copy of the password in a secure location—otherwise you may get locked out of your own PDF!
- Select the Apply button.
A message should appear at the bottom of the screen stating that the file was successfully password protected from viewing or editing.
In addition, “(SECURED)” should appear in the file name at the top of the screen.
- Save your PDF.
How to Turn Off Password Protection in PDFs
- Open the PDF using the password if necessary.
- Select the Tools tab.
- Select Protect in the Tools Center.
- Select Advanced Options in the Protect toolbar.
- Select Remove Security from the drop-down menu.
- (For editing permissions passwords only) Type the password into the text box in the dialog box.
- Select the OK button.
- Select the OK button in the dialog box asking if you want to remove security (which is the password) from the PDF.
- Select the Close button in the Protect toolbar.
- Save your PDF.
Updated February 12, 2023