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Hands on: MacPaw Hider 2 file-encryption tool

updated 12:00 am EDT, Thu April 3, 2014

Can encrypt and hide files and folders with 256-bit AES protection

While at the Macworld Expo last weekend in San Francisco, MacNN got a chance to talk with members of the MacPaw software team, best known for their duplicates finder Gemini II and their utility app Clean My Mac. The company released its latest upgrade, file-and-folder encryption tool Hider 2 (formerly MacHider), for OS X 10.8 and higher on Wednesday. The program is designed to allow users to hide, encrypt and password-protect sensitive files, whether they are confidential business documents or those pictures of an ex.

Hider 2 lock screen
Hider 2 lock screen

We got some hands-on time with the app and were immediately impressed with the interface and simplicity of operations. Any file or folder hidden by the program is unfindable in Spotlight or the Finder, and automatically encrypted with AES-256 encryption. Unlike some of its competitors, Hider 2 supports OS X Maverick's tag feature, offers external drive support, and lets users create custom groups of hidden items so that even the protected files stay organized.

Once installed, files can be hidden simply by right-clicking on a file or folder from any Finder window, and global hot keys are also available for those who prefer keyboard shortcuts. There is also a menubar icon so users can quickly access their most recent hidden files, or manage files from the app itself (which can also be locked for further protection). Hider 2 actually moves the encrypted file into its own vault, and even encrypts the filenames -- thus, even a search of the vault in Terminal will not reveal exactly what's in there.

Main screen
Main screen

Hider 2 also offers a secure notes feature, which we found to be very logical -- when one is working with sensitive files, that's often the time when one would want to write down information into a secure notepad. Secure notes are good for storing anything from credit-card data to details about the hidden files, medical information, other passwords that are currently being kept on a post-it note, and so on.

Secure notes
Secure notes

It does take a few moments for a file to be decrypted, unhidden and restored to its old location -- folders of stuff take longer to go through the decryption process, but Hider 2 is clearly not meant to be used as a replacement for FileVault -- it's intended for only the really sensitive or confidential material. Users need to have enough free space to let the app do its magic, as well -- the program temporarily requires twice the amount of space the file itself occupies to encrypt or decrypt the file, but the extra space is released once that is done.

The app is on sale exclusively through the Mac App Store, and is celebrating its debut by selling for $10, half off its normal price (the company also continues to offer MacHider for those on OS X 10.6.6 to 10.7.5). Having used a number of encryption/hiding programs in the past (most of which were unsupported sooner or later), the clean and usable interface of Hider 2, plus the extra attention paid to security (such as encrypting the filenames) may make it worth the money for those ready to more seriously protect the integrity of their personal and confidential data.

by MacNN Staff





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