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Password protect a presentation

First, how NOT to protect a presentation

Whatever anyone may tell you, saving your presentation as a PowerPoint Show (PPS, PPSX) file offers almost no protection at all.

Don't believe us? Start PowerPoint, choose File, Open and browse to your "protected" show file and click Open. How secure was that? ;-)

Similarly, marking a presentation as Final in PowerPoint 2007 and later isn't protection of any sort. It simply reminds the recipient of the file that you think nobody should edit it further. It doesn't prevent anyone from editing it.

Next, what do you want to share? What do you want to protect?

First, consider what you're trying to protect and why.

Do you need to protect critical information contained in the presentation? You may be able to prevent me from copying the presentation or the file that contains it, but if I can see the information, I can copy it one way or another.

If that's not acceptable, you'd probably better not distribute the presentation at all.

Do you need to protect the presentation itself? That is,the way you've presented the information rather than the information itself? For example, you might want to keep someone else from copying the presentation and passing it off as their own. Or from altering the information in a way that might embarass you.

In that case, one of the solutions suggested below may meet your needs. But keep in mind that there are ways to crack nearly any kind of copy protection. Don't trust state secrets to PowerPoint.


PowerPoint 2003 and later offer a feature called "Information Rights Management" that allows you to exercise considerable control over who has access to your PowerPoint presentations and what they can do with them. It's only practical for large corporate/institutional users, as it requires special server software. To learn more, start PowerPoint and search Help for "information rights management".

PowerPoint 2002 (XP) and later versions can password protect your presentations. This allows you some control over who can open and/or edit/print them. You can password protect your presentations so that only people who have the password can open them. Or so that only people with the password can modifty them.

PowerPoint 2000 and earlier don't support password protection. Mac PowerPoint doesn't support password protection either. You can't create password-protected presentations with them and you can't open password-protected presentations from later versions. Instead, you see a message saying that the PowerPoint file is corrupted and can't be opened.

If your audience is willing to install the free PowerPoint viewer, they can open and view (but not edit) password-protected presentations.

Other protection alternatives

Here are a few alternatives that may work for you depending on the level of protection you need:

Create a standalone EXE version of your presentation with optional password protection

You can create a self-installing package that includes the PowerPoint viewer and a PPT file. PowerPoint MVP Geetesh Bajaj explains how to do this with PowerPoint 2003 and PowerPoint XP (2002)

Distribute a show file instead of a presentation file

Open your presentation and save it as a PowerPoint Show (PPS or PPSX, depending on version) file.
This doesn't really secure the presentation, as mentioned above, but when naive users doubleclick it, it starts PowerPoint directly in Slide Show mode. They won't have the opportunity to edit the file. Experienced users know that all they have to do is start PowerPoint then open the file normally to gain full access to it.

Distribute a show within a show

A Powerpoint newsgroup user (you know who you are, Glenna) suggests this devilishly devious trick:

A really knowledgeable PowerPoint user may still be able to get around this trick, but it should work quite well in most cases. And it's simple. And free.

Zip it

Distribute your presentation inside a password-protected ZIP file or self-extracting EXE created from a ZIP file. Software and knowhow about ZIP files here

Embed it

PowerPoint 2000 and earlier don't allow password protection, but Word and Excel do. You can embed your PowerPoint presentation in a Word or Excel file, then apply a password to the Word or Excel file.

Only people who have the password will be able to open the "container" Word/Excel file and from there open the PowerPoint file embedded within. People with the password will have complete access to the embedded PowerPoint file; they'll be able to edit it or even extract it to a standalone PPT file.

Don't distribute your real presentation

Distribute a presentation that contains only pictures of your presentation. Export each slide in your presentation to a WMF or bitmap (JPG, PNG, etc.) file, then import each of these files into a new presentation and scale them up to fill the slide. WMF will usually make for a smaller presentation, but can be ungrouped and edited to some degree; bitmap files can't be edited but will make your presentation file size larger.

PowerPoint 2010 and later can do this for you automatically. Save your presentation as a PowerPoint Picture Presentation file. Important: Save a copy of your original presentation first or save to a different name when you save as a Picture Presentation. You cannot convert a Picture Presentation back to the original PowerPoint presentation.

The PPTools Protect PowerPoint add-in automates the process and adds a few niceties. And it never wipes out your original presentation.

Distribute Acrobat/PDF files instead of PPT files

You can use Adobe's Acrobat or other software to convert your PPT presentations to PDF files or use the built-in Save As PDF feature in PowerPoint 2007 and later. PDFs can be password protected in two ways, against opening/viewing the file and against editing the file and/or copying text and graphics from it.

More about making PDFs here and about making PDFs from PowerPoint here How can I make Acrobat PDFs from PowerPoint?

Other advantages to PDF:

Possible PDF issues:

Distribute a movie of your presentation

PowerPoint Mac and PowerPoint 2010 and later can save your presentations to movie files. These can be easily viewed or, with suitable software, converted to DVDs that will play on any standard television with a DVD player.

You can also save your presentation as a series of images (see the Save As dialog box), then bring the images into Windows Movie Maker (free!) or similar software, add sounds, transitions, titles and so on, then save as a movie file.

Screen recording software like Camtasia from TechSmith records your presentation then gives you a very sophisticated set of editing and distribution options.

For very simple, short presentations, you might also use Camtasia's free Jing application. With it, you can record short presentations and sound; Jing also provides free online space to post your presentations on the web.

Secure Pack

Another approach to distributing secured PowerPoint presentations is available from PowerPoint MVP Shyam Pillai. Salient features of Secure Pack:

Secure Pack - Distribute PowerPoint presentations securely

Other options

Some versions of PowerPoint's Presentation Broadcasting allow you to show your presentation without allowing the recipients to download the file. There are other similar web-based screen-sharing programs that do the same or similar things.

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Password protect a presentation
Last update 04 January, 2017