Reader Ash wants to know if there's a way to password-protect individual folders in Windows 7:
"I have a PC and I am the main user of it 95% of the time. As such, I don't have it request a password from me when it boots, and haven't setup any user accounts. Occasionally, other people will use this PC, but there are a few documents and personal files I'd like to keep hidden with a password."
Seems logical to me. Alas, Windows lacks any kind of file- or folder-specific protections. You said you wanted to accomplish this without third-party software, but I'm afraid that's the only real option. (With multiple user accounts, it's possible to prevent selected users from accessing designated folders--but that's a hassle to set up. Besides, you said yourself you don't have multiple accounts.)
If you don't want to spend any money, consider going the Zip route. Most Zip managers, including popular freebie 7-Zip, give you the option to password-protect any zipped files and folders. Yes, you have to jump through the hoops of compressing and decompressing folders, but perhaps that's not a big deal for stuff you access infrequently.
No good? Then drop a few bucks on a utility like Folder Lock, which is designed solely for the purpose of, well, locking folders. It's a little pricey at $40, so you might also want to check out Iobit's similar Protected Folder, which costs half as much.
Of course, all these options overlook one of my favorite methods: misdirection. You could create a folder with the world's most boring name--Widget Sales Projections 2007, for example--and nestle it a few folders deep where no one would ever find it. For someone in your situation, with a computer that's used by you 95 percent of the time, that might be the simplest and most effective solution.
What do you think, readers? What's the best way for Ash to accomplish his goal?
Contributing Editor Rick Broida writes about business and consumer technology. Ask for help with your PC hassles at firstname.lastname@example.org, or try the treasure trove of helpful folks in the PC World Community Forums.