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Cipher.exe Security Tool for the Encrypting File System

The information in this article applies to:
  • Microsoft Windows versions 2000, 2000 SP1, 2000 SP2 Professional
  • Microsoft Windows versions 2000, 2000 SP1, 2000 SP2 Server
  • Microsoft Windows versions 2000, 2000 SP1, 2000 SP2 Advanced Server


Cipher.exe is a command-line tool (included with Windows 2000) that you can use to manage encrypted data by using the Encrypting File System (EFS). As of June 2001, Microsoft has developed an improved version of the Cipher.exe tool that provides the ability to permanently overwrite (or "wipe") all of the deleted data on a hard disk. This feature improves security by ensuring that even an attacker who gained complete physical control of a Windows 2000 computer would be unable to recover previously-deleted data.

IMPORTANT: Please note the following important information:

  • You must install Cipher.exe by using the installer package instead of copying the new version of Cipher.exe to your computer. The tool relies on additional NTFS functionality that is added as part of the installation process. If you only copy the Cipher.exe file to your computer and then run it, you could destroy data on the drive.

  • You must close all programs before you start Cipher.exe.

  • Cipher.exe is not a cure-all that makes it safe to store sensitive data in a plain-text format. Although you can use this tool to remove sensitive data from a drive, if best practices are followed, such data would not normally be created on the drive. For additional information about these best practices, click the article number below to view the article in the Microsoft Knowledge Base:
    Q223316 Best Practices for Encrypting File System


For additional information about how to obtain a hotfix for Windows 2000 Datacenter Server, click the article number below to view the article in the Microsoft Knowledge Base:

Q265173 The Datacenter Program and Windows 2000 Datacenter Server Product
For additional information about how to install multiple hotfixes with only one reboot, click the article number below to view the article in the Microsoft Knowledge Base:
Q296861 Use QChain.exe to Install Multiple Hotfixes with One Reboot

How to Obtain Cipher.exe

The following files are available for download from the Microsoft Download Center:
English (US):
[GRAPHIC: Download]Download Q298009_w2k_sp3_x86_US.exe now

[GRAPHIC: Download]Download Q298009_w2k_sp3_x86_AR.exe now

Chinese (Simplified):
[GRAPHIC: Download]Download Q298009_w2k_sp3_x86_CN.exe now

Chinese (Traditional):
[GRAPHIC: Download]Download Q298009_w2k_sp3_x86_TW.exe now

[GRAPHIC: Download]Download Q298009_w2k_sp3_x86_CS.exe now

[GRAPHIC: Download]Download Q298009_w2k_sp3_x86_DA.exe now

[GRAPHIC: Download]Download Q298009_w2k_sp3_x86_NL.exe now

[GRAPHIC: Download]Download Q298009_w2k_sp3_x86_FI.exe now

[GRAPHIC: Download]Download Q298009_w2k_sp3_x86_FR.exe now

[GRAPHIC: Download]Download Q298009_w2k_sp3_x86_DE.exe now

[GRAPHIC: Download]Download Q298009_w2k_sp3_x86_EL.exe now

[GRAPHIC: Download]Download Q298009_w2k_sp3_x86_EW.exe now

[GRAPHIC: Download]Download Q298009_w2k_sp3_x86_HU.exe now

[GRAPHIC: Download]Download Q298009_w2k_sp3_x86_IT.exe now

[GRAPHIC: Download]Download Q298009_w2k_sp3_x86_JA.exe now

Japanese (NEC):
[GRAPHIC: Download]Download Q298009_w2k_sp3_nec_JA.exe now

[GRAPHIC: Download]Download Q298009_w2k_sp3_x86_KO.exe now

[GRAPHIC: Download]Download Q298009_w2k_sp3_x86_NO.exe now

[GRAPHIC: Download]Download Q298009_w2k_sp3_x86_PL.exe now

[GRAPHIC: Download]Download Q298009_w2k_sp3_x86_PT.exe now

Portuguese (Brazil):
[GRAPHIC: Download]Download Q298009_w2k_sp3_x86_BR.exe now

[GRAPHIC: Download]Download Q298009_w2k_sp3_x86_RU.exe now

[GRAPHIC: Download]Download Q298009_w2k_sp3_x86_ES.exe now

[GRAPHIC: Download]Download Q298009_w2k_sp3_x86_SV.exe now

[GRAPHIC: Download]Download Q298009_w2k_sp3_x86_TU.exe now
Q298009_W2K_SP3_x86_en.exe contains the following files:
   Date         Time   Version        Size     Filename
   May-30-2001  16:25  5.0.2195.3653   36,112  Cipher.exe
   May-26-2001  07:48  5.0.2195.3649  512,272  Ntfs.sys 
Release Date: Tuesday, June 19, 2001

For additional information about how to download Microsoft Support files, click the article number below to view the article in the Microsoft Knowledge Base:
Q119591 How to Obtain Microsoft Support Files from Online Services
Microsoft used the most current virus detection software available on the date of posting to scan this file for viruses. Once posted, the file is housed on secure servers that prevent any unauthorized changes to the file.

How to Use Cipher.exe

To overwrite the deallocated data:
  1. Quit all programs.

  2. Click Start, click Run, and type cmd, and then press ENTER.

  3. Type cipher /w:'folder', and then press ENTER, where folder is any folder on the drive you want to clean. For example, the cipher /w:c:\test command causes the deallocated space on the test folder of drive C to be overwritten.

For more information about EFS, please see the following Microsoft Web site:

Additional query words:

Keywords : kbenv kbtool kbWin2000PreSP3Fix
Issue type : kbinfo
Technology : kbwin2000AdvServ kbwin2000AdvServSearch kbwin2000Serv kbwin2000ServSearch kbwin2000Search kbwin2000ProSearch kbwin2000Pro kbWinAdvServSearch kbWin2000AdvServSP2 kbWin2000AdvServSP1 kbWin2000ProSP2 kbWin2000ProSP1 kbwin2000ServSP1 kbwin2000ServSP2

Last Reviewed: June 20, 2001
© 2001 Microsoft Corporation. All rights reserved. Terms of Use.

Article ID: Q298009

Last Reviewed:
June 20, 2001

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