If you have sensitive information stored on a laptop computer, you should definitely look into your data encryption options. Fortunately, there are many options available that can make the process straightforward — even for less-than-advanced computer users.
In Windows 7, basic data encryption is easily achieved. First, right-click the file or folder you'd like to encrypt, click the General tab, then click advanced. Then select "Encrypt content to secure data", and then click OK. This will encrypt the information stored on the disk, but won't force you to enter a password to open the file. Here's a how-to-video from Microsoft. Windows 8.1 also offers device encryption.
If you have a Macbook, you can use the Disk Utility to create encrypted disk images that act like regular folders, and you can also add password protection for added security. Here's a how-to document from Apple Support.
Microsoft Office documents also have password, permission and encryption settings. But remember, Microsoft can't help you if you lose or forget the password. Here's the lowdown on securing Office files from Microsoft.
While Windows 7 no longer offers password encryption, several third parties, such as TrueCrypt, offer free solutions that allow you to encrypt entire drives or portions of them.