How to Know if a PDF Is Secure

By Elizabeth Mott

Adobe Acrobat provides an easy, productive way to share documents with others. It also offers security features to help protect the information in PDF files. In some cases, you may want to share a file but protect it from being altered, copied or even printed. The most sensitive files may be password-protected so only someone who knows the password can see what's in them. Any information you need to share as well as protect can be an ideal candidate for Acrobat security features.

Files Without a Password

Step 1

Launch Acrobat Reader, then double-click on the name of the Acrobat file you want to open.

Step 2

Select "Document Properties" from the "File" menu. Click the "Security" tab in the window that comes up on your screen.

Step 3

Examine the security limitations imposed on your document. Read the "Document Security" summary at the top of the window for a basic description of the security limitations placed on your file. Read the "Document Restrictions Summary" at the bottom of the window for a more specific list of limitations.

Step 4

Notice the padlock icon at the bottom of your document window. If the icon is not present, that shows the file doesn't have security features applied to it.

Password-Protected Files

Step 1

Launch Acrobat Reader, then double-click on the name of the Acrobat file you want to open.

Step 2

Type the password into the dialog box that comes up on your screen. If you type it incorrectly, the dialog box will come back up on your screen with an error message asking you to type the password again.

Step 3

Select "Document Properties" from the "File" menu. Click the "Security" tab in the window that comes up on your screen.

Step 4

Examine the security limitations imposed on your document. Read the "Document Security" summary at the top of the window for a basic description of the security limitations placed on your file. Notice the description lists the minimum version of Acrobat required to open the file and the type of security applied to it. Read the "Document Restrictions Summary" at the bottom of the window for a more specific list of limitations.

Step 5

Notice the padlock icon at the bottom of your document window indicating that security provisions are in effect in this document. Remember that you cannot change Acrobat document security using Adobe Reader.

Tips & Warnings

  • Password-protected Acrobat files can have two distinct passwords: one to open the file and another to change or remove the security features.