If you've followed the story of the Google Files app's Safe folder feature, you'd know it's been a roller-coaster. It was first spotted in development mid-June, but two weeks later, we saw signs of it being unceremoniously killed before it even went live for anyone. Well, it now appears to be alive and well, as it just showed up in the latest Files beta version. (Update: And Google has just formally announced the rollout.)

The feature allows you to move any file, be it a document or media file, into a secure location that's only accessible with a 4-digit PIN code. You might call it a porn folder, but it could also be useful for work purposes and to protect any other files you don't want someone to see inadvertently if they access your phone.

In Files 1.0.323, the new Safe folder shows up under Collections. Tapping it lets you set up and confirm a 4-digit PIN code that will protect your delicate files. Now when browsing through your regular files, you can select any items and tap the overflow button to move them to the secure folder. You're asked to verify your PIN again then and reminded that duplicates or backups might exist in other locations on your device.

To view your private files, tap Safe folder, verify the PIN, and you'll be able to check each item separately. Swiping between files doesn't work, and each one takes a while to open, possibly because of encryption. Video playback is also a bit choppy, but it works and the basic controls are there (play/pause, FF 10s, RW 10s).

As expected, all these secured files disappear from any other file browser or gallery app, so beware when clearing app data in the Files app or uninstalling it. If you do that, you'll lose access to those files because they're not reachable from anywhere else. I tested this and found that they didn't come back once Files was reinstalled and set up.

You can always move a file out of the secure folder, and the app is smart enough to return it to its original location instead of dumping it somewhere else.

To get Safe folder on your device, grab Files 1.0.323 from the Play Store or APK Mirror. You might get a notice that the feature isn't supported anymore — the same one that made us think it was being deprecated before release — but I found that a simple restart of the app made the notice go away. It's not clear which aspect is the bug here: Is the feature really rolling out and the warning is a mistake, or has the feature been killed but has inadvertently escaped into the wild in a working form? Only time will tell.

Now officially rolling out

Mere hours later, the feature is now official. Google has announced that it's rolling out for folks running the (above linked) beta version of Files by Google, with wider availability set for the coming weeks.

For more information, including some culturally different use cases you might not have considered, you can click through to Google's formal announcement.

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  • Swastil