Google Photos Locked Folder: Step-by-step Guide To Set Up, Add Photos, Move Photos and More

What to know

  • Locked Folder is accessible on all devices running Android 6 or higher. 
  • All items inside Locked Folder are accessible only on one device, they aren’t backed up, and can only be viewed using your phone’s screen lock or fingerprint. 
  • You can set up and access the Locked Folder by going to Google Photos > Library > Utilities > Locked Folder
  • Pixel 3 and newer models can easily capture and send pictures to the Locked Folder directly from the Camera app. 

Google Photos is one of the widely used apps that users across both Android and iOS take advantage of to view their pictures, back them up, and make nifty adjustments to photos with minimal effort. To give your photos and videos an extra layer of privacy, Google has a useful feature inside Google Photos – a Locked Folder that you can use to store and hide sensitive photos on your device without it being visible to others using your phone or a connected device. In this post, we’ll explain what Locked Folder on Google Photos is all about, why should you use it, and how to enable and use this feature on your Android device. 

What is a Locked Folder on the Google Photos app?

Google offers you a way to save your sensitive photos to a protected space that you can lock using your device passcode or fingerprint. This way, your sensitive photos won’t show up when scrolling through Google Photos. These photos can be anything from pictures of your loved ones, screenshots of payment receipts, a surprise gift, or anything you don’t want others to see when they have access to your phone, desktop, or a connected device like Nest Hub or Chromecast

In addition to this new feature on Google Photos, Pixel phone owners will exclusively be able to capture photos and videos inside the Camera app and send them directly to the Locked folder, so that they don’t get backed up before you manually try to send them to the Locked Folder. For safety reasons, pictures inside the Locked Folder are stored on the device you locked it from and won’t be backed up to the cloud. 

Why should you move your photos to Locked Folder?

Before we move on to explain how to use Locked Folder on Google Photos, you must know why you should use it. Here’s why you should move your photos to Locked Folder:

  • It stores your photos and videos separately without making them appear in the Google Photos grid. 
  • Lets you lock photos with your screen lock or fingerprint. 
  • Locked items don’t appear inside albums, libraries, or even if you search for them inside the app. 
  • Won’t be accessible by other apps on your phone even if they have access to your device storage.
  • Locked photos won’t appear in existing memories and newer memories will no longer be able to use locked photos. 
  • Anyone who has access to your desktop or a connected device with Google Photos won’t be able to see your locked pictures, since they’re stored on the phone you locked them on. 

What do you need to use ‘Locked Folder’ inside Google Photos?

To lock your pictures inside Google Photos, you will need to make sure you have the following things:

  • An Android device running Android 6 or later [Locked Folder isn’t available on iPhones]
  • This Android device has a screen lock or biometric lock activated to unlock your phone. 
  • Google Photos app, updated to its latest version from Google Play Store
  • Make sure you use a Google account that you own and one that’s not managed by someone else. Locked Folder isn’t available on fully managed devices and for certain account types.

How to set up Locked Folder on Google Photos

Once you have made sure you’re eligible to use the ‘Locked Folder’ feature, you can start setting it up inside Google Photos and start using it without much effort. To set up your Locked Folder, open the Google Photos app on your smartphone.

When the app opens, tap on the Library tab at the bottom right corner. 

Now, select Utilities at the top of the screen. 

Inside Utilities, tap on the Locked Folder option. 

On the next screen, select the Set up Locked Folder option. 

You will need to follow the on-screen instructions to complete setting up the Locked folder properly. If you didn’t have a screen lock set up on your phone, you will be asked to set it up since it’s a requirement for the Locked Folder to work. 

When your setup is complete, you should see the “Nothing here yet” message appear on your screen since there won’t be any items added to the folder yet. 

How to Add Photos to a Locked Folder

After you have enabled Locked Folder inside Google Photos, you can now start adding sensitive pictures, videos, or any other items that you don’t want to show up on your Google Photos library. There are two ways to approach this – one involves moving your existing photos to the Locked folder, and the other lets you directly save a picture you click to the Locked folder. We’ll explain both of these methods below. 

Using the Google Photos app

The easiest and most convenient way of adding items to a Locked folder is through the Google Photos app itself. To move photos to the Locked Folder, open the Google Photos app and navigate to the items you want to lock.

Once you locate the items to lock, tap and hold on any one of them to select it.

If you have multiple items to lock, select them after tapping and holding on them once.  

Once you have selected the items you want to lock, tap on the 3-dots icon at the top right corner. 

In the overflow menu that appears, select the Move to Locked Folder option. 

To confirm this process, tap on Move again, and the selected items will now disappear from where they were in your Google Photos library. 

Using Camera app

While you can lock your sensitive pictures from Google Photos, there’s an easier way to send items to the Locked Folder if you own a Pixel device.

On Pixel 3 to Pixel 6a

On older Pixel devices (Pixel 3, Pixel 3a, Pixel 4, Pixel 4a, Pixel 5, Pixel 5a, Pixel 6, and Pixel 6a), you can capture pictures directly to the Locked folder without needing to move them separately. For this, open the Camera app on your device.

Inside Camera, tap on the Photo Gallery icon at the top right corner.

Now, select Locked Folder from the overflow menu to make sure all your upcoming captures are sent to the locked folder. 

You can now capture as many pictures as you want from the Pixel Camera app by tapping the Shutter button. All the pictures you take with Locked Folder are automatically sent to your device’s Locked Folder. 

On Pixel 7 and 7 Pro

On newer Pixel devices like the Pixel 7 and 7 Pro, you can send photos you capture from the Camera app to the Locked Folder in a different way. To get started, open the Camera app on the Pixel 7 and capture a photo that you want to send to the Locked Folder by tapping the Shutter button

Once this photo is captured, it will be visible as a thumbnail on the right-hand side of the Shutter button. To send this picture to the Locked Folder, tap and hold on this thumbnail and select Locked Folder from the overflow menu. 

How to access your photos in Locked Folder

When you lock pictures and videos from your library, they’ll be moved to the Locked Folder in the Photos app. To access the locked items, open the Google Photos app.

Inside Google Photos, tap on the Library tab at the bottom. 

Select the Utilities option at the top of the screen. 

Inside Utilities, tap on the Locked Folder option.

You will have to unlock the folder using your screen lock or fingerprint.

Once you get past that, you will see all the pictures and videos you locked earlier. 

How to Move Photos from Trash to Locked Folder

Google currently only allows users to move photos that are in their library onto the Locked Folder. In case, you want to move items from the Trash folder on Google Photos to the Locked Folder, the only way to do it is to first restore the content from Trash back into your Photos library and then move it to the Locked Folder from there. 

For this, open the Google Photos app.

Inside Google Photos, go to the Library tab at the bottom right corner. 

Inside Library, select Bin at the top. 

On the next screen, you’ll see all the pictures and videos that you deleted recently (as old as 60 days). To restore them, tap and hold on the item you want to restore. If you have multiple items to restore, select them and then tap on the Restore button at the bottom. 

Once these items have been restored, go to their original locations and then move the photos to the Locked Folder as you would with any other items inside the Google Photos app. 

What happens when you move photos to Locked Folder?

When photos are moved to the Locked Folder, they can specifically only be accessed inside the Library > Utilities > Locked Folder. These items will no longer appear inside albums, shared items, or search results, and will also be excluded from new and future memories on Google Photos. If an item you moved to Locked Folder was included in an existing Memory or a draft print order, it will also be removed from these sections. 

Third-party apps that have access to files and folders on your device won’t have access to items in your Locked Folder. This also means that, even if you open the Locked Folder, you cannot share a photo or video from it directly without moving it out of the Locked Folder. Similarly, locked items will not be backed up in the cloud, to preserve the privacy of your sensitive photos and videos. 

How to restore photos from your Locked Folder

If you no longer wish to keep something hidden inside the Locked Folder, you can restore it to your Google Photos library. Doing so will bring back this picture into your “Photos” tab if it was captured on your phone or across other sections of your phone’s photo library if it was saved from elsewhere. To restore contents from your Locked Folder, open the Google Photos app on your phone. 

Inside Google Photos, tap on the Library tab at the bottom right corner. 

On the Library screen, tap on Utilities at the top. 

In the Utilities screen that appears, tap on Locked Folder

Now, authenticate your identity using the screen lock, fingerprint, or face unlock set up on your phone. 

Once authenticated, you should see the Locked Folder on your screen. Here, locate the picture you want to restore and tap on it to open it. 

When the photo loads up in full view, tap on Move at the bottom left corner. 

You should see a prompt on the screen asking you whether you wish to move the selected picture out of the Locked Folder. To continue, tap on Move inside this prompt. 

The selected picture will now move back into your Google Photos library. If you wish to restore multiple items from the Locked Folder, tap and hold on any item from the Locked Folder screen until it gets highlighted. Now, select more items from this screen to highlight them as well. 

Once you’ve selected the desired photos and videos you want to restore, tap on Move at the bottom left corner of the screen. 

You should see a prompt on the screen asking you whether you wish to move the selected picture out of the Locked Folder. To continue, tap on Move inside this prompt. 

When you do that, the items you selected will be moved out of the Locked Folder and sent to your Google Photos library. 

Difference between Locked Folder and Archive

While it may look similar at first glance, photos you move to Locked Folder and Archive behave quite differently. 

Locked Folder Archive
Removes items from Photos feed Removes items from Photos feed
Won’t show up anywhere else on Google Photos Will still appear in search results, albums, memories
Cannot be accessed on other devices Can be viewed on other devices when backed up
Won’t be accessible by other apps Archived items can be viewed by other apps if they have access to your files
Stored locally; Locked content cannot be backed up Can be stored both locally and on the cloud; Archived items will be backed up if their folder has ‘Backup & Sync’ enabled
Locked pictures and videos cannot be directly edited Items in Archive can be modified using the Edit tool from anywhere they can be accessed
Cannot be added anywhere unless unlocked Can be added to albums and shared folders
Cannot be sent to Bin without unlocking items first Archived photos can be directly sent to Bin

Disadvantages of using Locked Folder

The new ‘Locked folder’ can be a blessing to many users who were looking for ways to protect their sensitive and confidential pictures from others. While it has some use cases, there are also some disadvantages to using Locked Folder that may prompt you from reconsidering the option to move stuff into it. 

  • Locked pictures cannot be backed up: Although it’s for privacy reasons, you might lose your locked items in the event of a factory reset, OS failure, or theft. 
  • Locked content isn’t directly shareable: You may want to lock a picture from someone who has your phone but you might have to unlock the content to be able to share it as a message or post on social media. 
  • You cannot edit photos in Locked Folder: Items inside Locked Folder get the same treatment as those in Trash, meaning there’s no way to edit them unless you unlock them. 
  • Locked items cannot be viewed on any other device: This is pretty straightforward. Since they cannot be backed up, there’s no way to access locked items unless you save them manually on another device. 
  • Can be permanently deleted but can’t be sent to trash: It may seem like a privacy-centered move and to send a locked item to trash, you will need to unlock it first and then send it to Bin. 
  • Items may get permanently deleted if you deleted the Google Photos app or cleared its app data: Since content inside the Locked Folder stays on your device alone and isn’t backed up, you may end up losing items inside this folder forever if you deleted the Google photos app or cleared its app data. 

I moved a photo to Locked Folder. Why do I see it elsewhere?

If you’re able to see a photo/video you may have sent to the Locked Folder anywhere else on Google Photos, it may have happened due to any of the following reasons:

  • The Photos app hasn’t completely moved items to Locked Folder: Google in its support page said that it may take up to an hour for items to disappear from existing albums, memories, shared libraries, and connected devices. 
  • You may have more than one copy of the item you locked: If the picture you just locked on Google Photos had many other duplicates before you locked it, then it’s important to know that the app only adds the exact item you selected to the Locked Folder. All its duplicates, even if they’re identical, will still be accessible in the user’s library unless they’re sent to the Locked Folder as well. 
  • You may have mistakingly moved items to Archive: When sending photos to the Locked Folder, there’s a chance that you may have selected the ‘Move to Archive’ option instead of ‘Move to Locked Folder’. If that’s the case and if the selected files are in the Archive, you may see them inside Google Photos’ Library screen and also across other apps on your phone. 

I can’t see the ‘Locked Folder’ feature on Google Photos. Why?

The Locked Folder feature is available on all Android devices running Android 6 or higher. If you own a device that doesn’t run on Android 6, you won’t be able to use this feature on your phone. For non-Pixel devices, the Locked Folder functionality is only accessible inside the Google Photos app, so you won’t be able to send pictures you capture directly from the Camera app on these devices. 

To be able to move pictures directly from the Camera app, you need to own a Google Pixel 3 or newer device. If you’re using Pixel 2 or older devices, this functionality won’t work for you. 

The ‘Locked Folder’ feature won’t be available on devices that are fully managed by someone else or if your Google account doesn’t support it. So, even if you use a supported Pixel device, you may be unable to lock your content if it’s logged into a fully managed account. In such cases, you will need to contact your device/account admin and get it resolved. 

I moved a photo to the Locked Folder but I don’t see it there. Why?

The photos and videos you move to the Locked Folder on your phone will stay inside this folder for as long as you use the Google Photos app. If you previously moved items inside the Locked Folder but can no longer access it, it may be because:

  • You uninstalled the Google Photos app from your phone sometime after moving content inside the Locked Folder. 
  • You cleared the app data for the Google Photos app. 

Since content inside the Locked Folder stays within the Photos app on your phone, it isn’t backed up or synced across other devices you own. If you unknowingly cleared the app data for the Google Photos app or uninstalled the app on your phone, the Locked Folder and any items inside it will also be permanently deleted. 

If you’re planning to uninstall the Photos app or clear its data in the future, make sure you restore contents from the Locked Folder first to avoid losing your sensitive photos forever. 

That’s all there is to know about Locked Folder on Google Photos. 


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  1. Hi there .I read almost your every blog. I have a question How does a direct call flow between D2D initiate
    in mobile cellular wireless network according to the standards?

  2. I find it interesting that you can only move photos to your locked folder if your online… even photos just taken while offline. That raises a red flag for me.

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