How to password-protect a PDF with free software

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Experience Level: Beginner
Joe Winograd, Fellow&MVE
50+ years in computer industry. Everything from development to sales. CIO. Document imaging. EE MVE 2015, EE MVE 2016, EE FELLOW 2017.
This video Micro Tutorial shows how to password-protect PDF files with free software. Many software products can do this, such as Adobe Acrobat (but not Adobe Reader), Nuance PaperPort, and Nuance Power PDF, but they are not free products. This video explains how to do it with excellent, free software called PDF-XChange Editor from Tracker Software Products.

Video Steps

1. Download PDF-XChange Editor

Visit the PDF-XChange Editor section of the Tracker Software Products website:


Click the white-on-green Download button for either product. It doesn't matter if you download PDF-XChange Editor or PDF-XChange Editor Plus, since you'll be selecting the Free Version when you install.


2. Run downloaded installer

Run the downloaded installer and select Free Version (unless, of course, you want more features and decide to purchase the Pro or Plus Version).


3. Open a non-secured PDF file in PDF-XChange Editor

Run PDF-XChange Editor and open a PDF file that does not currently have password protection on it.


4. Open Security section of Document Properties

Click File menu.

Click Document Properties.

Click Security category.


5. Open Password Security Settings dialog

Click Security Method drop-down.

Click Password Security.


6. Fill in Password Security Settings dialog

In Options section, select Compatibility from the drop-down and what you want encrypted via the radio buttons.

In Document Passwords section, enter password to open PDF and password to change permission settings.

In Permissions section, set Printing Allowed and Changing Allowed choices via the drop-downs; enable/disable content copying and text access for screen readers via the check-boxes.

Click OK as many times as needed to close all dialogs.


7. Save the password-protected document

Do File>Save or File>Save As or other Save choices on the File menu to save the PDF file with the password security.

Important: It is crucial to save the file after adding the password security.


8. Test the password-protected document by opening it with any PDF editor/reader/viewer

Open the password-protected PDF.

You should see something like this:

That's it — you now have a secured PDF!

If you find this video to be helpful, please click the thumbs-up icon below. Thank you for watching and have a great day!
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Expert Comment

by:Stephen Kairys
Hey Joe,
Someone sent me a password-protected PDF. I need to remove password. I changed Security Method to NO SECURITY, entered the password and did a save-as; however, the password still remained when I tried to reopen the doc.

What am I missing?
LVL 61

Author Comment

by:Joe Winograd, Fellow&MVE
Hi Steve,
I changed Security Method to NO SECURITY
That's good. And, of course, it means that you're able to open the password-protected file in the first place, i.e., you know what the password is (before removing it).
entered the password
You should not be entering a password here. When you change the Security Method drop-down to No Security, you'll get this:

pdfxc remove password
Simply click Yes, then OK, then File>Save As. Regards, Joe

Expert Comment

by:Stephen Kairys
Thanks, Joe. However, after I follow your steps, it still prompts me for a password. which make sense...you don't want some random person removing a p/w. So, I enter my existing password, click OK, and save-as. But, the doc remains protected....
LVL 61

Author Comment

by:Joe Winograd, Fellow&MVE
Hi Steve,
I think you're not understanding the sequence of events. You have to be able to open the file in the first place, meaning you already entered the password. So a "random person" cannot be removing the password — only a person who knows the password and has already opened the file can do it. Thus, there's no need to ask for the password when you remove it via File>Document Properties>Security.
So, I enter my existing password, click OK, and save-as.
No, no...that's what's wrong. Don't enter the existing password there. Select No Security from the drop-down, click Yes to the prompt, click OK, then do the File>Save As. Regards, Joe

Expert Comment

by:Stephen Kairys
OK, maybe there's a bug in the software. After I click YES to confirm, the program, on its own, reprompts for the password.
password problem
LVL 61

Author Comment

by:Joe Winograd, Fellow&MVE
Ah, now I see! Here's what's happening. There are two types of passwords for PDFs — Owner Password and User Password. The User Password is what's needed to open the file. The Owner Password is what's needed to set permissions/restrictions (and it may also be used to open the file). Your PDF file has an Owner Password on it — do you know what it is? If you open the file with the User Password, you will get the prompt that you posted for the Owner Password when trying to change security (or when changing any permissions/restrictions). If you open the file with the Owner Password, you will not get a prompt for the Owner Password when trying to change security (or when changing any permissions/restrictions). Note that you have a choice when opening the file of entering either the User Password or the Owner Password:

enter user or owner password
Regards, Joe

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