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Media Vault vs Prevent Direct Access: Secure WordPress Private Media Files

Last Updated on September 22nd, 2021

Published on July 23rd, 2018


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Digital piracy is a serious problem you have to face while running and managing an online business. So if you care about your WordPress website and online business, you should find a way to secure WordPress private media files against search engines and the public. Among all WordPress plugins available in the market, Media Vault and Prevent Direct Access Gold turns out to be the only two viable solutions to restrict direct access to media files.

Which one is better than the other?

In this article, we will compare Media Vault and Prevent Direct Access Gold to help you choose the right solution for your website and online business. So, let’s begin.

About Our Contenders

Media Vault and Prevent Direct Access Gold are both excellent plugins that offer must-have features for you to block direct access to WordPress private media files.

Media Vault is a free plugin highly rated at 4.7 stars on the WordPress Plugin repository. It provides a simple yet powerful tool to restrict direct access to private media files. That’s probably why Media Vault becomes so popular with over 10,000 downloads in total and 1,000 active installations thus far.

Though Prevent Direct Access was born a few years later, it has quickly become a major challenger of Media Vault. There is a lite version of Prevent Direct Access available on WordPress.org for free. However, it seems being developed purely for marketing purposes with very few features. For that reason, we’re going to compare the Gold version of Prevent Direct Access and Media Vault.

Without further ado, let’s look at both plugins on the following criteria:

  1. Features
  2. Ease of Use
  3. Extensions & Integration
  4. Documentation
  5. Updates & Support
  6. Price

Round 1: Features

Media Vault allows you to prevent direct access to file uploads through the so-called “file access permissions.” If unauthorized users attempt to access to your private file URLs, they will be redirected to your WordPress login page. Also, a custom placeholder image will be displayed if users don’t have access permission to the protected images embedded in your content.

media-vault-protected-image (1)

Similarly, Prevent Direct Access Gold protects WordPress uploads folder as well as prevent a file from direct URL access by redirecting unwanted users to your 404 not found page. You have an option to change this no access page to any other page that you’d like to such as your login and registration page. Better yet, the plugin also stops search engines such as Google and Bing from indexing these private file URLs. As a result, people won’t be able to find your private media files on Google search results and the like.


What’s more? The Gold version allows you to create unlimited private download links which can be either expired by clicks and time or restricted access by IP addresses. This means you can share your private files with certain people, at the same time, protect them against public access and sharing.

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Last but not least, Prevent Direct Access Gold also provides good-to-have features such as “prevent image hotlinking” and “disable directory listing.” The plugin additionally enhances your website’s security by blocking access to WordPress sensitive files such as readme and license as well as hiding its version against the public.

FeaturesMedia VaultPDA Gold
Protect Unlimited Files & All File Types under

  • “Add Media”
  • Media list & grid view
  • Attachment page
Block File URL accessYesYes
Block Google & Search Indexing of Protected FilesxYes
Auto-Protect New File UploadsYesYes
– Disable auto-protection for new File Uploads on the flyUncheck auto-protection options under “Add Media”x
Protect & Unprotect Multiple Files At OnceUsing Bulk actionsUsing Bulk actions
Set File Access Permissions4 options: Admin users, the file’s author, logged-in users, anyone6 options: Admin users, the file’s author, logged-in users, anyone, no one, custom roles
Create Unlimited Private Download LinksxCreate Unlimited Private Download Links once protected
Prevent Image HotlinkingxYes
Mark Protected Files on Media Library Grid ViewxHighlight protected files with a red shadow
Block Access to WordPress Sensitive Files & Hide its VersionxYes
Filter Protected & Unprotected Files on MediaxYes
Support MultisiteYesYes
Support Ngnix & IISxYes
No Access PageShow WordPress login page and a placeholder for protected images on contentShow a default 404 page; able to change this to any other page

It’s really close in term of features, but we give round 1 to Prevent Direct Access Gold for more advanced features and options.

Round 2: Ease of Use

WordPress file uploads protection is an advanced and complex process. So any plugins which can make it friendly and easy to use even for non-technical users will get a definite advantage. Together with their features, this could be a key decision that separates the two plugins.

To know how easy Media Vault and Prevent Direct Access Gold is to use, we’ll compare them on 3 criteria below:

Installation and Set up

Similar to other free plugins, there are two standard simple ways to install Media Vault. You can type to search and download it from WordPress.org. Alternatively, you can also install it manually by uploading its installation zip file.   On the other hand, you have to pay to use Prevent Direct Access Gold. Once purchased, you will receive an email including a download URL and license to install and activate the premium version. So while it’s slightly more complicated to install and set up Prevent Direct Access Gold, it’s understandable for a premium plugin.

User Interface (UI)

Once installed and activated successfully, Prevent Direct Access Gold’s settings are accessible directly under the WordPress admin side menu while Media Vault’s settings are kinda “hidden” at the bottom of WordPress Media Settings page. Besides, Prevent Direct Access Gold is equipped with an intuitive configuration popup right on Media list view, which helps you manage and secure WordPress media files much faster and more efficiently.

How to Secure WordPress Media Files

There are three ways to protect your private media files provided by both Media Vault and Prevent Direct Access Gold, i.e. on Media grid view, their attachment page, Add Media on Pages and Posts. Both also allow you to protect multiple media files at the same time using Media bulk actions. The Gold version of Prevent Direct Access go beyond that and offers another and probably more intuitive way of restricting access to uploaded files directly on Media list view.

On the plus side, Media Vault allows you to control your file auto protection on the fly while you have to change Prevent Direct Access Gold’s default settings to stop the auto-protection for new uploaded files.

Having said that, you need some technical knowledge to use other Media Vault’s features such as creating safe download links through the WordPress shortcode. With Prevent Direct Access Gold, it requires much less technical terms and knowledge for you to use, manage and protect your WordPress file uploads.

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Round 2 is a tie since both Media Vault, and PDA Gold have their pros and cons.

Round 3: Extensions & Integration

Media Vault prevents media uploads from direct access with ease. Unfortunately, it doesn’t come with any extensions to integrate and work with other popular WordPress plugins. In contrast, there are more than 12 extensions built on top of Prevent Direct Access Gold to extend and enhance its functionality. No matter what you need, it’s likely you will find at least one extension that does so.


Prevent Direct Access Gold works well with many other popular WordPress plugins too. For example, it integrates with top WordPress membership plugins such as Membership 2, WooCommerce memberships, and Ultimate Member. Also, to help you auto-protect file uploads, it works with the most popular contact forms plugin such as Contact Form 7, Ninja Forms, and Custom Contact Forms.

Round 3 to Prevent Direct Access Gold.

Round 4: Documentation

Does Media Vault provide you with great documentation? We would like to say so but we can’t. The plugin description and its FAQ provide limited information, especially for non-technical users. It’s quite understandable for a one-man show though.

Prevent Direct Access Gold, on the other hand, provides more detailed information covering various topics from explaining what original vs. private links are to integration with Ngnix webserver. We can’t say they provide extensive documentation for their plugin and extensions either – some even are confusing, but at least there is enough information for a novice starter to get started. Their troubleshooting section and FAQs are quite useful as well.

Round 4 to Prevent Direct Access Gold.

Round 5: Updates & Support

If you choose a free over a commercial option, it’s certain that you won’t get as responsive customer support as you’d expect from a paid service. Media Vault is no longer maintained and supported for more than four years. The author’s last response to his user requests was almost four years ago. This means you could never get your compatibility issues, let alone more severe problems, with the plugin resolved.

On the other hand, Prevent Direct Access Gold support is highly rated by their customers. There are a lot of positive customer reviews on their responsive and friendly support over the years. A normal customer request is typically answered within two working days. It also makes sense for premium users on higher plans such as Plus and Pro to get priority support and faster responses. Changes and new feature requests are welcome as well which is another plus.

Round 5 certainly goes to Prevent Direct Access Gold.

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Round 6: Price

Price shouldn’t be the most important consideration but free sounds good, which probably makes Media Vault popular and beloved by many WordPress users. Certainly, free comes with a price as the plugin only provides you with limited features and support.

Though you have to pay a little to use Prevent Direct Access Gold, it gives you more advanced and powerful features as well as integrations with multiple platforms such as WordPress multisite network, Ngnix and IIS webserver. Other benefits include a vast array of extensions, frequent updates, and priority support. That alone is worth dipping into your pocket, isn’t it?

Price wise, Media Vault wins simply for being available for free.

Our Verdict

The duel between these two WordPress plugins is pretty close. Both provide excellent solutions to restrict access to media files.   Media Vault provides users with simple installation and an easy way to keep WordPress media files private and secure. And of course, it’s free. That’s probably why the plugin still has over 1,000 active installations long after its author stops the development and support.


Similar to Media Vault, Prevent Direct Access Gold does a great job at preventing direct URL access to your media files. You don’t even need a complex user authentication to effectively protect file uploads against direct URL access from the public and unwanted users. Additionally, the Gold version not only extends and enhances its functionality with many extensions but also integrates with various popular WordPress plugins and platforms.

Media Vault vs. Prevent Direct Access Gold – Who is the Winner?

In the end, which plugin you are going to use depends on your circumstances and what you want to achieve. If you just need a free plugin to restrict uploads folder access to your logged-in users, then go for Media Vault. On the other hand, if you’re running an online business selling ebooks and videos, and don’t mind paying a little to block direct access to private file uploads more effectively, Prevent Direct Access Gold is the better solution. It’s even truer if you’re a non-technical user who needs fast and handy support.

Go To Prevent Direct Access Gold Go To Media Vault

So which plugin are you using to secure your WordPress media uploads and why? Leave your choice in the comments box below.

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