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. If there was anything that Google Photos lacked compared to other photo management apps, it would be the ability to store your pictures in a folder that was inaccessible to everyone but you.
To give your photos and videos an extra layer of privacy, Google is bringing a new 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, how to use it, and more.
What is a Locked Folder on Google Photos app?
As promised last month, Google is now offering 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, it’s important that you know why you should use it. Here’s why you should move your photos to Locked Folder:
- It stores your photos and videos on your 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, library, 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?
In order to lock your pictures inside Google Photos, you will need to make sure you have the following things:
- A supported Google Pixel phone – Pixel 3/XL, Pixel 3a/XL, Pixel 4/XL, Pixel 4a/5G, or Pixel 5. [Support for other Android devices should come later]
- Google Photos app, updated to its latest version from Google Play Store
- Make sure you use a Google account that’s not managed by someone else
How to Set up your 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 and tap on the ‘Library’ tab at the bottom.
Now, select the ‘Utilities’ option at the top of the screen.
Inside Utilities, you should see a new ‘Locked Folder’ option. Tap on it to get started.
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, video, 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 these methods below.
Using Google Photos app
The easiest and the 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 pictures from Google Photos, Pixel devices get one more way of sending items to the Locked Folder. On a supported Pixel phone (Pixel 3/XL, Pixel 3a/XL, Pixel 4/XL, Pixel 4a/5G, or Pixel 5), you can capture pictures directly to the Locked folder without needing to move them separately.
For this, open the Pixel camera on your device and 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 tap as many pictures as you want inside 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.
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 and 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 and 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, go to the ‘Library’ tab at the bottom.
Inside Library, select the ‘Bin’ option 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, to 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, 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, so as to preserve the privacy of your sensitive photos and videos.
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.
|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.
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?
As we have explained earlier in this post, the ‘Locked Folder’ feature is currently only available on newer Google Pixel devices – Pixel 3/XL, Pixel 3a/XL, Pixel 4/XL, Pixel 4a/5G, and Pixel 5. If you own the original Pixel/XL or Pixel 2/XL, we hate to break it to you, ‘Locked Folder’ isn’t available for your devices, at least for now.
When Google announced the feature in May 2021, it was confirmed that ‘Locked Folder’ will arrive on more Android devices throughout the year. There’s no word on whether this functionality would arrive for its iOS app.
Another thing to note is that while ‘Locked Folder’ is coming to other Android phones soon, you still won’t be able to capture and store images directly using the Camera app as this feature is limited to the supported Pixel phones.
Google has also addressed that the ‘Locked Folder’ functionality will be restricted on devices that are 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.
That’s all there is to know about Locked Folder on Google Photos.
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