password protected files!!!
You can use a zip program to password protect, and if you don't want them compressed, just set it to Store mode.If you want to avoid zip-like files entirely, you can use the free program TrueCrypt. It can (among other things) create a section of your hard drive on which everything is encrypted.
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I second truecrypt.
One of the few encryption schemes that still hasnt been broken (through their tonnes and tonnes of awesome in their algorithms)
Frollard has a good point there about the strength. It is very easy to find a program that breaks the usual encryption on zip files.
This simple encryption is good enough for casual purposes, to signal that this material is private, but will not stop anyone determined.
If you can get hold of something like WinZip, you can save them in pwd protected archives. MS Office allows you to save documents with pwd protection also.If you're not packing files into an archive, and the file format doesn't allow a password, you are left with permissions, log-ins and the rest that dilandou advises.L
It depends on your Operating System, and File System, but most modern ones have this ability built in. For example, if you're using Windows, from NT upwards (2000, XP, Vista, 7 etc) using the NTFS filesystem allows you to encrypt the contents of your user directory.
If you're using Linux then you just need to set the file permissions to prevent anyone other than your user from reading the files, and again i believe the home directory for your user is protected anyway.
MacOS is similar again, as it's BSD based, so all you need are the file permissions set.
So with a little more detail we can help you on your way to protecting your private files. :)