How to Decrypt EFS Files with Backup Certificate

November 21st, 2012 by Admin Leave a reply »

In the previous post we’ve covered how to encrypt files with EFS in Windows. If you still have access to the encrypted files, you can remove EFS encryption easily by right-clicking the files or folders, then click Properties. On the General tab, click Advanced button. Next clear the Encrypt contents to secure data check box.

The EFS files are encrypted using a certificate that’s attached to a specific Windows account, which means that any change to the password or account has the effect that the files cannot be decrypted anymore. If you prepare to reformat a computer or move the EFS files to another computer, you first have to backup the certificate in order to regain access to the encrypted data.

Backup EFS Certificate

Press Windows + R key combinations to bring up the Run box. Type certmgr.msc in the box and hit Enter. This opens the Windows Certificate Manager. Go to Personal > Certificates under Current User. You should see a certificate for your user account. Right-click that certificate and select All Tasks -> Exports from the context menu, this launches the Certificate Export Wizard. You will be asked to enter a password which will be used to protect the EFS certificate from third party access. Backup the certificate in a safe location.

2 Ways to Backup or Export EFS Certificate in Windows 10 / 8 / 7

Decrypt EFS Files with Backup Certificate

After re-installing Windows or move the EFS files to another computer, you need to import the EFS certificate to view the encrypted files. Just double-click the EFS certificate file that you have backed up. This will prompt for the password that you have set up during exporting the certificate. If the password is correct, the certificate will be imported, after which it becomes active and the encrypted files and folders are readable.

How to Import EFS Certificate into Windows 10, 8 and 7

Conclusion

It is essential that you backup your EFS certificate before you reformat your computer or change Windows account password! If you are encrypting files and don’t have the EFS certificate backed up, you will lose that data!