This is an example of the difference between an Enterprise and personal security product. Enterprise level products take into account the organizational needs to protect data while personal products rely on a single individual being responsible. With the well known issue of people forgetting their passwords it is asking for trouble providing people with a means to put their most valuable data at risk without proper safeguards.
Mark Hachman – ExtremeTech and Natali Del Conte – PC Magazine Fri Jul 14, 1:30 PM ET
If you’ve heard of Microsoft Private Folder 1.0, forget it. As of 2:30 p.m. Pacific Time on Friday, it no longer exists.
Microsoft quietly added the free encryption utility earlier this month, and then just as quietly deleted it. The utility allowed users to encrypt and store files inside a private folder.
“Private Folder 1.0 was designed as a benefit for customers running genuine Windows,” a Microsoft spokesperson said in a statement. “However, we received feedback about concerns around manageability, data recovery and encryption, and based on that feedback we are removing the application.”
While it lasted, the software created a “My Private Folder” on a user’s desktop by installing a Private Folder Service. Inside the folder, files were apparently encrypted and locked with a password.
The problem was that the password assigned to the folder was binding so losing or forgetting it locked users out of their data permanently.
“There are lots of passwords out there and with this, if you forget it then there was no way to get back into it,” said the Microsoft spokesperson.
One of the issues that also puzzled consumers was that the feature was remarkably similar to an existing option, where consumers could right-click a folder and select a “Sharing and Security” option. That allowed a user to manually add a password to a folder and protect users from using it.
Microsoft said that the utility was designed as an “extra” or reward for installing the WGA service. Other extras included Windows Defender, an anti-spyware services, which also requires installation of the WGA service.
Microsoft has no plans to fix or rethink the concerns that caused them to scrap the program, the spokeswoman said. The company is simply removing the application with no plans to re-release at a future date.
[Editor’s Note: The following was written when Private Folder was live.] I was afraid it would be just a pretty user interface for one of the many folder-encryption possibilities already present in Windows. It’s more than that – it runs a service in the background to allow encryption/decryption, and it pushes you to use a strong password. Looks like you can’t change the password ex post facto, so make it good. I’m not terribly impressed.
Right after I installed the Private Folder service my system slowed to a crawl, with over 90% of CPU usage devoted to svchost.exe (meaning *some* service was hogging the CPU). And when I uninstalled it, the CPU-hogging stopped. Coincidence? — Neil Rubenking