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How to Detect Encrypted Files

How to Detect Encrypted Files

How to Detect Encrypted Files

Electronic data encryption is an invaluable tool in the field of cyber security.

However, if you don’t know how to detect encrypted files and find a way to open them, then electronic data encryption can become your most hated enemy. That is the point, after all.

Of course, with a few tips and tricks under your belt, you can be sure to mitigate the risk of finding yourself in such a situation.

Why Bother Looking for Encrypted Files?

Encrypted files can contain important information that you stored on your computer by using a text-encryption program in order to protect the privacy of your financials, health records, etcetera. 

However, hackers can also sneak encrypted data into your computer for you to stumble upon. Then, like a minefield, the planted data can blow a hole in your computer’s operating system.

Finding Encrypted Files on Your Computer

The process is somewhat different for Windows-users than it is for Mac-users. For that reason, we’ve broken the process down into two different categories.


First, you’ll need to type “cmd” into the Windows search bar. This will open the Command Prompt. Command Prompt is a text-based code-processing software that enables you to run a myriad of functions. One such function is the cipher function.

In Command Prompt, type “cipher /u /n” without the quotation marks. Pay specific attention to the spacing. When entered correctly, this command will produce a list of every single encrypted file on your computer as well as where to find them.

Now you can go through and find the ones that you wish to encrypt. 


In Mac OS, the process is a little bit more complicated. Start by opening a Finder window. In the Finder window, you’ll need to click on “Kind” to open a dropdown menu. From that menu, select “Other.”

This will open a pop-up window with a line of text across the top, which should read, “Select a search attribute.” If it says something else, you are in the wrong area and need to start over. In the “Attributes” list, scroll until you come across “Security.”

Underneath the “Description” column and on the same row as “Security,” there will be a line of text that reads, “Encryption method used to make the document secure.” Select the check box immediately to the side of that text.

Now, click “Ok” and execute the search. This should produce only files that have been encrypted.


In either case, it is important to never decrypt any files that you do not recognize. If you notice files that you do not remember creating, avoid decrypting them, as doing so might unzip malware, ransomware, or other hostile programs into your hard drive.

Each of these hostile programs presents different and unique complications that can serve to completely and totally cripple your computer. If you find that your computer has been infected by ransomware, there is often no solution other than to execute a factory reset on your hard drive or to pay the ransom.

To avoid such situations, simply do not decrypt any unrecognizable files or folders.