How to Redact a PDF On Windows and Mac

June 9, 2023 • Shannon Flynn


Wondering how to redact a PDF on your laptop or Macbook? It’s easy if you use the right tools. Redaction ensures that no sensitive info accidentally gets shared when you send someone a document. It’s not as simple as highlighting text in black, though. This guide covers a few different tools and tricks for securely redacting text on PDFs on Windows and Mac. 

How to Redact a PDF On Windows

Learning how to redact a PDF on Windows PCs starts with downloading the right app for the job. Windows doesn’t have a built-in app capable of redacting PDFs, but there are plenty of good options online. Adobe Acrobat is widely considered the best app around for editing PDFs. 

It is important to note that you need a paid Pro subscription on Adobe Acrobat to access the redaction tool. You can use a free trial or pay for a single month if you only need to redact a few PDFs. However, you can’t redact PDFs on the standard version of Adobe Acrobat. 

What if you can’t afford to pay for Adobe Acrobat Pro or just don’t want to? In this case, you can always try the free DIY method below. As a general rule, be careful about using “free” PDF redaction tools online. Untrustworthy apps could be used to steal your personal information instead of redacting it, so stick to reputable apps only. 

How to Redact a PDF Using Adobe Acrobat Pro

Adobe Acrobat Pro has one of the most effective and secure PDF redaction tools available today. It even works on Mac devices as well as Windows PCs. Start by downloading Adobe Acrobat Pro directly from Adobe and remember to purchase your Pro subscription or free trial. 

Once you have Adobe Acrobat Pro downloaded, use it to open the PDF you want to redact. Navigate to the toolbar and select “Edit” then “Redact Text & Images”. Select the content you want to conceal. 

When you have the Redaction tool active, you can open the dropdown menu for it and select “Properties” to customize redaction on your PDF. You have a few options including the regular black bars, any other color in the standard color palette, or even “no color” to make the redacted areas blank. 

One cool feature in Adobe Acrobat Pro is the ability to also redact underlying metadata. When you select “Apply Redactions”, you’ll receive a prompt asking if you want to “Sanitize and Remove Hidden Information”. If you select this option, it will redact all of the underlying info attached to your PDF. 

Metadata can be created by users or the app that the document was originally created in. While it’s not visible on the document, metadata is viewable through the document’s properties. If you are particularly concerned about the security and privacy of your PDF, you can use this tool to make sure no sensitive information slips through in the metadata. 

How to Redact a PDF Using a Microsoft Word Trick

Adobe Acrobat Pro is a great tool, but some people may not be able to access it or simply prefer not to pay for it. Luckily, there’s a trick you can use to redact PDFs using a couple tools in Microsoft Word. It is worth noting that this DIY method isn’t as secure or foolproof as redacting with a purpose-built text redaction tool. 

To get started, open your document on Microsoft Word. You may need to convert your PDF into a Word document if it isn’t one already. Once you have the document open, go to the shapes tool. Select the rectangle shape and create a solid black box over any text you want to hide. When you’re done, select print and choose “Print to PDF” in the printer selection box. 

Keep in mind, creating a black box over sensitive text doesn’t redact it in the Word document. In Word, the box can be moved or deleted, but this isn’t the case once it gets converted into a PDF. So, if you use this hack, remember to only share the PDF, not the original Word document. 

How to Redact a PDF On Mac

Learning how to redact a PDF is especially easy on Apple computers. The Preview app on MacOS includes a built-in redaction tool that’s fairly simple to use. In fact, if you try to use the shapes tool to put a shape over text in the Preview app, it will even ask if you want to redact the text instead. The shapes tool doesn’t actually redact text, so it’s a good idea to use the redaction tool provided. 

The Preview app is included on most Apple computers by default, so you shouldn’t have to pay anything extra to use it. Start by opening the PDF you want to edit in the Preview app. Find the toolbar at the top of the window and look for an icon that’s a black square with a dashed border around it. This is the Redaction tool. 

Select the Redaction tool and choose the text you would like to conceal. If done correctly, this should create a black bar with thin gray X marks along on it covering the designated text. Once the file is saved, the redacted text can’t be accessed anymore. 

However, keep in mind that your Apple computer may still have unredacted copies on it through the “Revert To” function in the Preview app or the Time Machine tool. If you want to eliminate unredacted copies of the PDF, make a copy of the redacted version then completely delete the original. Make sure it is deleted in the recycling bin, as well. 

Redacting With Other Apps

The Preview app is the most straightforward way to redact a PDF on MacOS, but there are other options available. If the Preview app isn’t working or you would just like to use something else, Adobe Acrobat also works on Mac computers. Refer to the above section on how to redact a PDF in Windows for instructions on using Adobe Acrobat. 

Why Should You Redact PDFs?

If you’re wondering how to redact a PDF, you may already have a specific reason in mind. There are a number of scenarios where it is helpful to hide certain content on a PDF. Sometimes documents need to be shared to verify something for financial or legal reasons. You might also need to share a PDF as an example document or for tax purposes. 

Redacting PDFs before sharing them is a good idea for privacy and security reasons. Even if you are sending your document to someone you trust, it’s possible that their computer could be hacked or stolen. The same goes for your own device. So, if you’re going to save PDFs with sensitive info on them, redacting is an important best practice. 

Information you should consider redacting includes social security numbers, minors’ names and birthdates, bank or credit card data, passport or ID numbers, fingerprints, signatures, birth dates, and private contact information. 

You may also want to redact text that contains medical information or anything that you or the subject might find embarrassing or personal. For example, you might want to redact a piece of text in a transcript from a therapy session. 

Easy Strategies for Redacting PDFs

Learning how to redact a PDF is a key part of ensuring you aren’t sharing sensitive information when you distribute documents. Even if you are sending a PDF to someone you trust, it’s always possible that your document could fall into the wrong hands. Redacting it ensures that no vulnerable data can be compromised. Different apps are available on both Windows and Mac to make redacting PDFs easy and secure.