How to Protect Against Ransomware with Controlled Folder Access in Windows 10

/ November 11, 2017

The Windows 10 Fall Creators Update introduced some new features and made a lot of improvements to the existing ones. Of all the new features in Windows 10 FCU, the Controlled Folder Access is very useful and is specifically designed to protect your files and folders from ransomware.

What Is Controlled Folder Access

Generally, traditional Windows programs can access all the files and folders in your system. If those programs choose to, they can easily modify the content of the files and folders. Rogue programs like ransomware can take advantage of this unrestricted access and encrypt all your data and hold you for ransom. This has become a big issue over the last few years.

To deal with this, Microsoft added a new feature called “Controlled Folder Access” to the Windows operating system, or more specifically, to Windows Defender. This new feature lets you lock down important folders of your choice so that no program, unless it is deemed safe by Microsoft or specifically selected by you, can modify files and folders in that specific folder.

Enable and Configure Controlled Folder Access
Due to the restriction it places on other programs, Controlled Folder Access is disabled by default. To enable it, search for “Windows Defender” in the Start Menu and open it.

In Windows Defender, navigate to “Virus and Threat Protection” on the left panel and click on the link “Virus and threat protection settings” appearing on the right panel.

In this window scroll down on the right panel, find the “Controlled folder access” option and toggle the button under it to “On.” This action will enable the Controlled Folder Access feature.

By default, this feature is configured to protect your home folders like Documents, Pictures, Videos, Music, Desktop, and Favorites. You cannot remove these default folders, but you can extend the protection to other folders.

To do that, click on the “Protected Folders” link appearing right under the On/Off button.

Click on the “Add a protected folder” button, select the folder or the entire drive from the Browse window, and click on the “Open” button.

As soon as you click the button, the folder will be added to the Protected Folders list. If you want to remove the folder in the future, simply click on the “Remove” button.

From this point onward, any program that tries to modify files in the protected folder will be blocked.

Provide Access to an App
If your favorite program is blocked from making changes to the protected folder, then you can manually give access to it. To give access to a program, click on the “Allow an app through controlled folder access” link appearing under the “Controlled Folder Access” section.

lick on the “Add an allowed app” button.

In the browse window navigate to the app installation folder, select the EXE file and click on the “Open” button.

You’ve successfully added an app that can modify files in protected folders.

When using the Controlled Folder Access feature, you might find that some programs like Photoshop are being blocked by Windows Defender. All you have to do is give them access as shown above.

It might cause some inconvenience initially, but the extra effort is worth it to protect your important files like photos, videos, documents, and other data. Do remember that this feature is not an alternative to regular backups. Always back up your important data.

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