If you’re concerned about protecting your email in Outlook from prying eyes, especially if you share a computer with others, you can protect the email in each Outlook account, as well as the calendar items, tasks, etc. by setting a password on each Outlook data (.pst) file.

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There are a couple of things you should know about protecting your email in Outlook. First, you cannot set a login password to get into Outlook itself. The password we’re going to show you how to set is for a single account, or data file, in Outlook. Anyone getting access to your computer can open and use Outlook; they just won’t be able to access any email accounts to which you’ve applied a password. However, this does not guarantee your data’s safety from true villains. Using a password protected account in Windows will add another layer of security if you’re sharing the computer with others.

Also, when you set a password for an Outlook data file, it applies to the entire account, or data file. You cannot password-protect individual folders in the account.

To set a password on an account in Outlook, right-click on the name of the account in the left pane and select “Data File Properties” from the popup menu.

The Personal Properties dialog box displays. On the General tab, click “Advanced”.

On the Outlook Data File dialog box, click “Change Password”.

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If you have previously assigned a password to the selected Outlook data file, enter that password in the “Old password” edit box. In this example, we’re assigning a password to this data file for the first time, so we enter a new password in the “New password” edit box and again in the “Verify password” edit box. Be sure you use strong passwords to properly secure your Outlook data files.

If you don’t want to enter the password every time, select the “Save this password in your password list” check box so there is a check mark in the box. However, if you share a computer with others, this is not recommended. If you don’t share your computer and you have a password protected Windows user account, you can turn on this option to avoid entering your password every time you open Outlook. This may seem like it defeats the purpose of assigning a password to your Outlook data file, but if you back up the .pst file to an external drive or to a cloud service, the file is protected from someone accessing it and trying to open it in Outlook.

Click “OK” when you’re finished. Then click “OK” on the Outlook Data File dialog box to close it, and click “OK” to close the Personal Properties dialog box after that.

The next time you open Outlook, the Outlook Data File Password displays asking you to enter your password before you can access your account.

If you decide you don’t want to have to enter a password for your account every time you open Outlook, or you just want to change the password, access the Change Password dialog box using the steps we described above. Enter your current password in the “Old password” edit box. To remove the password, leave the “New password” and “Verify password” edit boxes blank. To change the password, enter a new password in both of those edit boxes.

Applying a password to your Outlook data files also helps protect them when you archive and back up the data files, storing them on external media or in the cloud.

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Lori Kaufman is a technology expert with 25 years of experience. She's been a senior technical writer, worked as a programmer, and has even run her own multi-location business.
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