How To Create a FREE Password-Protected PDF

imageThis question comes up a lot:

I have the free Adobe Acrobat Reader, but not Acrobat Professional – can I still create a password-protected PDF?
I don’t feel like paying $360 for Acrobat Professional
just for the ability to do encryption or password protection.

The short answer is ‘yes’, but you’ll need another program to do it.

I recommend the FREE open source program PDF Creator 0.9.8 (16.8 MB).

Below are detailed instructions you can share with your employees and clients:
– (Part A) PDF Creator program installation instructions
– (Part B) Creating the password-protected and encrypted PDFs
– (Part C) PDF opening instructions


  1. Download PDF Creator 0.9.8 from SourceForge
  2. Double-click the PDFCreator-0_9_8_setup.exe file and choose Run.
    Choose Run
    (If User Account Control pops up in Vista or Windows 7, click Allow)
  3. Select your language (English) and click OK.
    Pick English and click OK
  4. When the setup Wizard launches, click Next.
    Setup - Click Next
  5. Accept the license agreement, and click Next.
    Accept the license agreement - click Next
  6. For Type of Installation, choose Standard installation, and click Next.
    Standard Installation - click Next
  7. For Printer name accept the default of “PDFCreator”, and click Next.
    Printer Name - click Next
  8. On Select Destination Location, accept the default and click Next.
    Default Installation Path - click Next
  9. The installation will install the PDFCreator Browser Add On (annoying) but you can later uninstall via the Control Panel.
    Uncheck “Yahoo!” and click Next.
    Uncheck Yahoo - click Next.
  10. Under Select Components, accept the defaults and click Next.
    Components - click Next
  11. On Select Start Menu Folder accept the default and click Next.
    Start Menu - click Next
  12. On Select Additional Tasks accept the defaults and click Next.
    Additional Tasks - click Next
  13. And then click Install and click Finish when the installation is complete.
    Ready - click Install then click Finish

Now that the PDF Creator program is installed, it’s time to convert a file into a password-protected PDF.

(Interesting Part)

  1. Make sure the document that you want to convert is CLOSED.
  2. Right-click the icon of the document you want to convert, and choose
    Create PDF and Bitmap Files with PDFCreator from the pop-up.
    Right-click document, click Create PDF
  3. At the “It is necessary to temporarily set PDFCreator as defaultprinter” prompt click Don’t ask me again checkbox and click OK.
    Click Don't ask me again - click OK
  4. The document will open and then close again, and you will be left with a PDFCreator 0.9.8 dialog box, as shown below.Click the Options button.
    Click Options
  5. On the Options page, expand the Formats tab on the left.
    Expand Formats tab
  6. Click the PDF icon on the left, click the Security tab on the right, and check the Use Security checkbox.
    Click PDF, click Security tab, click Use Security
  7. Choose the following:
    – Encryption level (40-bit or 128-bit)
    – Password to open (user password)
    – Password to change permissions (owner password)
    – Any other user restrictions you want to set
    Pick encryption and password levels, click Save twice
  8. Hit Save on the bottom right of the Options page, and then Save again on the main PDFCreator 0.9.8 page (seen in Step 4 above).
  9. When the Save as dialog box comes up, give the file a name and
    click Save.
    Pick a file name and location - click Save
  10. PDF Creator will pop-up a small animated splash screen…image

    …and prompt you for the password you want to use to create your document. Enter the password twice and click OK.

    Pick a password - click OK

  11. If you leave the ‘Owner Password’ blank (which fine if you want to) you will get an additional dialog box letting you know that it’s blank. For more on PDF handling, read this post about whiting out a pdf document.
    Optional screen - only happens when Owner Password is blank
    Click Yes to leave the Owner Password blank, or click No to go back and add an Owner Password.
  12. Once the document is saved, it immediately tries to open in your preferred PDF reader (I use Foxit Reader) and prompts your for a password. Type the User Password and click OK.
    Enter password - click OK
  13. You should now be able to see your password-protected PDF.
    You're done dude!

Congratulations – That’s a few hoops to jump through! 🙂

(The most important part)

  1. E-mail them the password-protected PDF document
  2. They open the attachment and get prompted for a password
    Enter password - click OK
  3. Once they enter the password and click OK, the PDF opens.


  • Part A is just a one-time thing.
  • Part B is every time you want to CREATE a password-protected PDF
  • Part C is what the client (recipient) and does each time they want to OPEN the protected PDF.
VN:F [1.9.20_1166]
Rating: 9.8/10 (10 votes cast)
How To Create a FREE Password-Protected PDF, 9.8 out of 10 based on 10 ratings

9 Replies to “How To Create a FREE Password-Protected PDF”

  1. Hello, I was very hopeful to see this wonderful post… but – after installing the pdfCreator, when right-clicking the document – I don't get the option you mention. so – I tried to open the docx file and print it to pdfCreator and got the options and the security settings as suggested – but when saving – got only one line to enter the password and the ok button was not activated. Can you give me a clue – why it's not working for me?
    With thanks – Sharon

  2. Hi. I tried the PDF Creator. Its cool to create password protect pdf from a word or excel. However, if my original document is a pdf file itself, I can't use pdf creator to password protect the pdf file? Any other free solutions to password protect a original pdf file?

Leave a Reply