How to set up a locked folder in Google Photos on Android (and why you should)

Photo illustration by Rafael Henrique/SOPA Images/LightRocket via Getty Images

Did you know that Google Photos on Android offers the possibility to create a locked folder? Why do you even want that? You may want to take photos of your personal documents, such as vaccination cards or your diving license, to have them handy, or maybe you have pictures or videos that you’d rather not see.

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For such images, you can set up a locked folder in Google Photos on Android and tuck away those documents and other images for safe keeping. Once you’ve done that, the only way to view the images is via your standard screen unlock authentication (e.g. fingerprint scanner).

There is of course a caveat to using a locked folder. Photos or videos stored in this folder will not be backed up to your cloud account. So choose wisely the photos and videos you want to lock. Or, better yet, make sure you have saved a copy of this folder in a secure (think “encrypted”) folder on your local computer.

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I will demonstrate how to set up a locked folder in Google Photos on Android 12 running on a Pixel 6 Pro. This process should work similarly regardless of the device, as long as you have any version of Android, equal to or newer than 12.

How to create the locked folder

Open Google Photos on your Android device. From the main window, tap Utilities.

The main Google Photos window on Android 12.

Jack Wallen/ZDNET

In the window that appears, tap Set up locked folder.

Google Photos Utilities section on Android 12.

Jack Wallen/ZDNET

As of this point, Android doesn’t allow screenshots (as this is considered a sensitive area), so just follow the instructions carefully (don’t worry, it’s easy).

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On the next screen, tap Setup in the lower-right corner of the display. You will then be prompted to authenticate using your default method (e.g. fingerprint, face scan, PIN or pattern). After successful authentication, you will be greeted with a window that says Nothing here yet and a button to move items. Tap Move Items to open the file picker where you can select any photos (or videos) you want to add to your locked folder.

Tap the pictures you want to move to the locked folder, then tap Move in the upper-right corner of the screen.

It seems that file selection is not considered a sensitive area in Android.

Jack Wallen/ZDNET

You will be asked again to authenticate yourself. After that, Android will show you a final warning that says:

  • Associated photos (including copies and edited versions) will not be moved.
  • Items will be deleted when Google Photos is uninstalled.

Tap Next and then Move (when prompted) and Photos will create the locked folder and add the selected photos.

How to access the locked folder

Now that you have created the locked folder and added photos/videos, how do you access it? Simply. Open Google Photos, tap Utilities and scroll to the bottom of the page where you will see Locked Folder entry.

The Locked Folder entry is in the Google Folder Utilities section.

Jack Wallen/ZDNET

Tap on that entry and once you’ve successfully authenticated, you’ll be shown all the photos and videos you’ve added to the locked folder.

Use this feature wisely and it will keep prying eyes away from your more delicate images. I recommend using this feature to anyone who keeps photos of things like driver’s licenses, credit cards, vaccination cards, and other similar items. The added protection can prevent someone from stumbling upon information you don’t want them to see.

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