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I need to hand out a file on a USB stick (or burn it onto a CD) but I do not want that file to be copied or distributed/forwarded (e.g. by attaching it to an email).

While I do not expect to find a bulletproof solution I want to make copy/distribution a bit harder (at least for a relatively unskilled PC user) than just leaving the file totally unprotected.

I thought to place my file inside a specifically created system special folder "somefolder.{RESERVED-GUID}" then make a link pointing to it (relative path without drive letter to use on the CD) which will keep the file easily viewable but not straightforwardly copyable.

I need some help to create this link, any suggestions?

Alternative approaches to address the same issue are most welcome

share|improve this question
Which file format? While there are plenty of (commercial) copy protection and DRM schemes available, they are all Evil™ IMHO. – Karan Oct 3 '12 at 18:38
Originally it is a .pdf but I made a script that checks the existence of another (sort of validation) file in the same dir (only if that validation file is present, then the .pdf gets executed). I converted the script to an .exe file so my answer to your question is .exe – Eta Beta Oct 3 '12 at 18:54
I forgot to mention that if that validation file is present, prior to the the .pdf file execution, a password prompt pops up. – Eta Beta Oct 3 '12 at 19:04
Are you using Acrobat to create the PDF? Adobe has some copy protection functionality – Brad Patton Oct 3 '12 at 20:16
I have already added all standard "pseudo-security" restrictions (prevent edit, copy, print etc.) to the .pdf file... BTW, there are plenty of tools (beside Acrobat) to do that BUT I do not intend to rely on that type of security since it can be very easily broken and in any case does not prevent distribution of the file. – Eta Beta Oct 3 '12 at 20:45

I suppose you could store your files in a hidden folder. You just need to create .whateverfolder then it will be invisible to the most basic users. Not exactly hard for an advanced user to discover though. You could create an install script/bat file that sends the hidden folder to a system location e.g. \Windows\ALocation\ then create a link to it. Here is an example with a folder yo called .hidden with a .exe file called file.exe and an INSTALL.bat file.

move .hidden C:\WINDOWS\Folder\

sutil hardlink create C:\Documents and Settings\%ALLUSERSPROFILE%\Start Menu\AnAPP C:\WINDOWS\Folder\.hidden\file.exe

That may need some tweaking, but you get the idea. (I'm a Mac user and have no way of verifying that that exact command works. Also, windows vista+ file system is slightly different, but you should be able to figure it out.)

Anyway, a hidden folder in a system folder should be pretty hard to find. Tell me if you need more information or if what I put doesn't work. Hope that helped.

share|improve this answer
Well, frankly the hidden attribute does not really prevent anything (unless the user is 5 years old, lol). The idea of burying the file somewhere on the local disk could be ok BUT there must be a shortcut pointing to it for the user to easily run the file, right? Well, (the properties of) that shortcut would easily give away the exact location of the target file no matter how remote that is. And in any case (with your approach) the original file would still be in plain sight and that is what worries me. – Eta Beta Oct 3 '12 at 20:53
I see. That is true. I'll check later to see if I can think of anything else to try. – Josiah Oct 4 '12 at 0:39
Ok, cool. Thanks :) – Eta Beta Oct 4 '12 at 6:06
Okay, you may want to check this place out. Not sure if it suits your needs, but I thought I would list it. – Josiah Oct 5 '12 at 0:47
Thanks for the link and for your continued support :) I had already checked CopySafe PDF but decided to decline the "DRM 3rd party apps" approach for various reasons: Beside the fairly steep price, the file recipient must literally jump through hoops to open a protected file and due to the fact that a custom PDF reader is required to decrypt and read the protected document all the bookmarks and tooltips that I carefully created in my file are unfortunately not supported (or stripped/ignored) by most DRM readers... – Eta Beta Oct 5 '12 at 7:45

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