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Securing PDFs with passwords

  1. Acrobat User Guide
  2. Introduction to Acrobat
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    2. Introducing the new Acrobat experience
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    2. Opening and viewing PDFs
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    7. Working with component files in a PDF Portfolio
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    9. Overview of PDF Portfolios
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    1. Share and track PDFs online
    2. Mark up text with edits
    3. Preparing for a PDF review
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  11. Security
    1. Enhanced security setting for PDFs
    2. Securing PDFs with passwords
    3. Manage Digital IDs
    4. Securing PDFs with certificates
    5. Opening secured PDFs
    6. Removing sensitive content from PDFs
    7. Setting up security policies for PDFs
    8. Choosing a security method for PDFs
    9. Security warnings when a PDF opens
    10. Securing PDFs with Adobe Experience Manager
    11. Protected View feature for PDFs
    12. Overview of security in Acrobat and PDFs
    13. JavaScripts in PDFs as a security risk
    14. Attachments as security risks
    15. Allow or block links in PDFs
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    11. Adobe Approved Trust List
    12. Manage trusted identities
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    6. Creating accessible PDFs
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  15. Searching and indexing
    1. Creating PDF indexes
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    1. PDF/X-, PDF/A-, and PDF/E-compliant files
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    8. Automating document analysis with droplets or preflight actions
    9. Analyzing documents with the Preflight tool
    10. Additional checks in the Preflight tool
    11. Preflight libraries
    12. Preflight variables
  19. Color management
    1. Keeping colors consistent
    2. Color settings
    3. Color-managing documents
    4. Working with color profiles
    5. Understanding color management

Before you begin

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Password security basics

You can limit access to a PDF by setting passwords and by restricting certain features, such as printing and editing. However, you can't prevent saving copies of a PDF. The copies have the same restrictions as the original PDF. Two types of passwords are available:

Document open password

A Document open password (also known as a user password) requires a user to type a password to open the PDF.

Permissions password

A permissions password (the primary password) requires a password to change permission settings. Using a permissions password, you can restrict printing, editing, and copying content in the PDF. Recipients don’t need a password to open the document in Acrobat or Acrobat Reader. They do need a password to change the restrictions you've set.

If the PDF is secured with both types of passwords, it can be opened with either password. However, only the permissions password allows the user to change the restricted features. Because of the added security, setting both types of passwords is often beneficial.

Note:

You can't add passwords to a signed or certified document.

Add a password to a PDF

Adobe Acrobat deeplink

Try it in the app
Restrict editing by securing your PDF with a password in a few simple steps.

  1. Open the PDF in Acrobat.

  2. Do any of the following:

    • Go to All tools > Protect a PDF > Protect with password.  
    • Select File > Protect Using Password (macOS).
  3. In the Protect Using Password dialog box, select if you want to set the password for viewing or editing the PDF.

    Protect using password

  4. Type and retype your password. Your password must be at least six characters long. The password strength is displayed next to your password to indicate whether the chosen password is weak, medium, strong, or best.

  5. Select Apply. Acrobat displays a confirmation message that the file was successfully protected using password.

    Protection confirmation message

  1. Open the PDF in Acrobat, and do one of the following:

    • Go to All tools > Protect a PDF. From the Protect a PDF toolset in the left pane, select Encrypt with password.  
    • Select File > Protect Using Password. In the Advanced Options list, select Encrypt with password (macOS).
  2. If you receive a prompt, select Yes to change the security.

  3. Select Require a password to open the document, then type the password in the corresponding field. Your password must be at least six characters long. For each keystroke, the password strength meter evaluates your password and indicates the password strength.

    Select Require a Password to Open the Document
    Password Security - Settings let you set a password to open a PDF

  4. Select an Acrobat version from the Compatibility drop-down list. Choose a version equal to or lower than the recipients’ version of Acrobat or Acrobat Reader.

    Options control compatibility with previous versions and type of encryption
    Options control compatibility with previous versions and type of encryption

    The Compatibility option you choose determines the type of encryption used. It's important to choose a version compatible with the recipient's version of Acrobat or Acrobat Reader. For example, Acrobat 7 can’t open a PDF encrypted for Acrobat X and later.

    • Acrobat 6.0 And Later (PDF 1.5) encrypts the document using 128-bit RC4.
    • Acrobat 7.0 And Later (PDF 1.6) encrypts the document using the AES encryption algorithm with a 128-bit key size.
    • Acrobat X And Later (PDF 1.7) encrypts the document using 256-bit AES. To apply 256-bit AES encryption to documents created in Acrobat 8 and 9, select Acrobat X and Later.
  5. Select an encryption option:

    Encrypt all document contents

    Encrypts the document and the document metadata. If this option is selected, search engines can’t access the document metadata.

    Encrypt all document contents except metadata

    Encrypts the contents of a document but still allows search engines access to the document metadata.

    Note:

    The iFilter and the Find or Advance Search commands of Acrobat don’t look into the PDF’s metadata even when you select the Encrypt all document contents except metadata option. You can use a search tool that takes advantage of XMP metadata.

    Encrypt only file attachments

    Requires a password to open file attachments. Users can open the document without a password. Use this option to create security envelopes.

  6. Select OK. Retype the appropriate password in the box at the prompt to confirm the password and select OK.

Restrict editing of a PDF

You can prevent users from changing PDFs. The restrict editing option prohibits users from editing text, moving objects, or adding form fields. Users can still fill in form fields, sign, or add comments.

  1. Open the PDF in Acrobat, and do one of the following:

    • Go to All tools > Protect a PDF and then select Protect with password from the Protect a PDF toolset in the left pane.
    • Select File > Protect Using Password (macOS).
  2. If you receive a prompt, select Yes to change the security.

  3. Choose Editing, and then type and retype your password. Your password must be at least six characters long. The password strength is displayed next to your password to indicate whether the chosen password is weak, medium, or strong.

    Restrict editing

  4. Select Apply. Acrobat displays a confirmation message that the file was successfully protected using the password.

    Restrict editing confirmation message

Restrict printing, editing, and copying

You can prevent users from printing, editing, or copying content in a PDF. You can set the restrictions you want to apply to the PDF. Users can’t change these restrictions unless you provide the password.

Adobe Illustrator, Photoshop, or InDesign don't have view‑only modes. The user must enter the permissions password to open a restricted PDF in such apps.

Note:

If you forget a password, you can’t recover it from the PDF. Consider keeping a backup copy of the PDF that isn’t password-protected.

  1. Open the PDF in Acrobat, and do one of the following:

    • Select All tools > Protect a PDF, then select Encrypt with password from the Protect a PDF toolset in the left pane.
    • Select File > Protect Using Password (macOS).
  2. If you receive a prompt, click Yes to change the security.

  3. Select Restrict editing and printing of the document.

    All Adobe products enforce the restrictions set by the permissions password. However, if third-party products don’t support these settings, document recipients can bypass some or all your restrictions.

  4. Type the password in the corresponding field. Your password must be at least six characters long. For each keystroke, the password strength meter evaluates your password and indicates the password strength.

    Password Security options
    Password Security - Settings let you restrict printing, editing, and copying

  5. Select what the user can print from the Printing allowed menu:

    None

    Prevents users from printing the document.

    Low resolution (150 dpi)

    Lets users print at no higher than 150‑dpi resolution. Printing may be slower because each page is printed as a bitmap image. This option is available only if the Compatibility option is set to Acrobat 5 (PDF 1.4) or later.

    High resolution

    Lets users print at any resolution, directing high-quality vector output to Adobe PostScript and other printers that support advanced high-quality printing features.

  6. Select what the user can change from the Changes allowed menu:

    None

    Prevents users from modifying the documents listed in the Changes Allowed menu, such as filling in form fields and adding comments.

    Inserting, deleting, and rotating pages

    Lets users insert, delete, and rotate pages, and create bookmarks and thumbnails. This option is only available for high (128‑bit RC4 or AES) encryption.

    Filling in form fields and signing existing signature fields

    Lets users fill in forms and add digital signatures. This option doesn’t allow them to add comments or create form fields. This option is only available for high (128‑bit RC4 or AES) encryption.

    Commenting, filling in form fields, and signing existing signature fields

    Lets users add comments and digital signatures, and fill in forms. This option doesn’t allow users to move page objects or create form fields.

    Any except extracting pages

    Lets users edit the document, create and fill in form fields, and add comments and digital signatures.

  7. Choose any of the following options:

    Enable copying of text, images, and other content

    Lets users select and copy the contents of a PDF.

    Enable text access for screen reader devices for the visually impaired

    Lets visually impaired users read the document with screen readers, but doesn’t allow users to copy or extract the document’s contents. This option is available only for high (128‑bit RC4 or AES) encryption.

  8. Select an Acrobat version from the Compatibility menu. Choose a version equal to or lower than the recipients’ Acrobat or Acrobat Reader version. The Compatibility option you choose determines the type of encryption used. It's important to choose a version compatible with the recipient's version of Acrobat or Acrobat Reader. For example, Acrobat 7 can’t open a PDF encrypted for Acrobat X and later.

    PDF Compatibility options

    • Acrobat 6.0 And Later (PDF 1.5) encrypts the document using 128-bit RC4.
    • Acrobat 7.0 And Later (PDF 1.6) encrypts the document using the AES encryption algorithm with a 128-bit key size.
    • Acrobat X And Later (PDF 1.7) encrypts the document using 256-bit AES. To apply 256-bit AES encryption to documents created in Acrobat 8 and 9, select Acrobat X And Later.
  9. Select what you want to encrypt:

    Encrypt all document contents

    Encrypts the document and the document metadata. If this option is selected, search engines can’t access the document metadata.

    Encrypt all document contents except metadata

    Encrypts the contents of a document but still allows search engines access to the document metadata.

    Note:

    The iFilter and the Find or Advance Search commands of Acrobat don’t look into the PDF’s metadata even when you select the Encrypt all document contents except metadata option. You can use a search tool that takes advantage of XMP metadata.

    Encrypt only file attachments

    Requires a password to open file attachments. Users can open the document without a password. Use this option to create security envelopes.

  10. Select OK. Retype the appropriate password in the box at the prompt to confirm the password and select OK.

Remove password security

You can remove security from an open PDF if you have the permissions to do so. If the PDF is secured with a server-based security policy, only the policy author or a server administrator can change it.

  1. Open the PDF, then select All tools > Protect a PDF > Set security properties.

  2. In the Document Properties window, select the Security tab and then select Change settings.

  3. Your options vary depending on the type of password security attached to the document:

    • If the document had only a Document Open password, deselect the Require a password to open the document option, and then select OK to remove it from the document.
    • If the document had a Permissions password, deselect the Restrict editing and printing of the document option. Type the password in the Enter Password box when prompted, and then select OK. Select OK again to confirm the action.

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