Google Drive is one of the most widely used cloud storage platforms for various reasons. It’s owned by Google, so there’s some amount of trust associated with it, it comes pre-installed on every Android device, and every user with a Google account already has their account associated with Drive, so there’s no additional sign-up required. However, every user is allocated only 15GB of free storage on G Drive, which might seem adequate at first but gets filled up sooner than you would think.
What’s worse is that once your Google Drive storage is full, you will even stop receiving e-mails on your Gmail ID because that, too, uses your Drive storage. If you are facing a similar situation, here are a few ways by which you can declutter your Google Drive storage and make space for your e-mails and files on G Drive. Now, of course, you can just go ahead and get a Google One subscription and bump up your storage if you are going to store a lot more files on Drive. But, if you don’t want to spend the additional money and you don’t use Drive extensively, this is the way to go.
Table of Contents
How to Declutter and Free Up Space on Google Drive
1. Locate and Delete Large Files
The first point might seem very obvious, but it’s something a lot of people aren’t aware of. Deleting large files will undoubtedly free up a lot of space, but it can be a daunting task to figure out which files are large, especially if you have a lot of files stored on Drive. Well, there is a fairly simple way to find out.
Open up Google Drive on your computer, and under “Storage” in the left pane, you will find a progress bar below which your space consumption will be mentioned. Click on it, and all your files will be displayed in the form of a list sorted in descending order based on file size. The top few files would be occupying the most storage, and you can see the fill sizes displayed in the right column. If these files are important, you can download them onto your laptop for the time being and delete them from Drive to free up storage. If the files are obsolete and you no longer need them, you can just delete them directly.
2. Clear Bin
Now comes the confusing part. Even after deleting a few files that you think would make enough room for new files or e-mails, you still see that the space occupied in your Drive has not changed and it still shows that you have no free space. Well, that’s because you haven’t cleared your trash. Google Drive, just like your computer, has a Recycle Bin where it stores your deleted files temporarily so that you can restore them if you’ve deleted some files by mistake.
The Bin also uses your Drive storage so once you clear it up, you will finally see that you have created free space in your Google Drive storage. Head over to “Bin” in the left pane and click on the small drop-down arrow next to the title “Bin” on top and select “Empty Bin.”
3. Delete Old Android Backups
If you use multiple phones or keep switching phones frequently, chances are that your phone automatically creates multiple backups of your phone’s data so that you can restore it if you wipe your phone or while you’re setting up a new phone. This happens in the background automatically if your Google account is signed in and you’re connected to Wi-Fi, so chances are you’re not even aware that your phone has backed up your data and has stored it on Google Drive.
The option to find these backups is also tucked into a corner so that it may have gone unnoticed by a lot of people. Well, here’s how you can find and delete them. Head over to the same section as we talked about earlier, which is by clicking on your space consumption metrics under “Storage” in the left pane. This opens up the page with all your files listed. On the top right corner of this page, you will see an option called “Backups,” as indicated in the image below. Clicking on it will take you to your list of backups from all the smartphones that you own.
From here, you can individually delete all the backups that you don’t need to free up some space on your Google Drive. Additionally, to stop backing up data from all your devices, you can launch the Drive app on all of your phones and head over to Settings > Backup and Reset, and turn off the “Back up to Google Drive” option. Also, note that your WhatsApp backup does not count in your Google Drive storage, so you don’t have to delete that. Make sure to check your Bin after this just to make sure you’ve completely gotten rid of the deleted files.
4. Check Your Google Photos Settings
Google Photos is an amazing app to back up all your photos so that you can view them on multiple devices. While Google gives you the option to back up unlimited pictures to Google Photos for free at the cost of a slight loss in quality, there’s also an option to back up your pictures in their original resolution, and this is not unlimited. This option takes up your Google Drive storage to upload those pictures (unless you’re using one of the older generation Pixel devices) and is often the biggest culprit. You may have unknowingly selected this backup option and may have forgotten about it, so let’s make the right changes.
Open Google Photos Settings on a computer and if your storage option is set to “Original,” change it to “High Quality.” This will ensure that your future backups will not take up your Google Drive storage. Now, to convert your existing original quality backups to high quality and to free up storage on Drive, click on the “Recover Storage” option, and you will see how much storage space you’re actually freeing up by doing this. Hit compress, and you’ve just freed up multiple gigabytes of storage! Make sure to check your Bin after this just to make sure you’ve completely gotten rid of the deleted files.
5. Delete Old/Spam E-mails
This might seem like the most difficult task if you have never cleaned your inbox before. If you’ve been using your Gmail ID for a long time, chances are that old and useless e-mails have accumulated over the years, and they actually occupy a lot more space than you would think. As you can see in our screenshot, Gmail occupies a massive 6GB storage of the 15GB allotted to you, owing to about 80,000 e-mails in our inbox. If you’re subscribed to a lot of mailing lists and receive a ton of spam emails in the form of promotions and social media updates, chances are that you are in the boat.
You can start by deleting all your spam emails because you’re sure there’s nothing important in there. If you’re using Gmail’s categorized inbox feature, your emails would be categorized into Primary and Social. Promotions, Updates, and Forums. You do not want to meddle too much with the “Primary” section because those are your important e-mails. The “Social” and “Promotions” sections are most likely the ones that occupy the majority of the storage space, so you can clear them completely since most of them are just spam anyhow.
Even the “Updates” section is not very important and usually contains e-mails from your bank, e-commerce portals, etc., so it is a good practice to keep clearing it from time to time as and when you read the e-mails about your shipping updates or your monthly statements. Mails under the “Forums” category can be important if you belong to some Google Groups or important mailing lists related to school/work, so be careful while deleting those e-mails. Once you delete all the e-mails you don’t need, head over to the “Bin” using the pane on the left and clear that up to permanently delete those e-mails.
Bonus Trick: Log In with a “.edu” E-mail Address
If you’re not able to clear up a lot of storage despite using these tricks, and you want to store large files, you can log in to Google Drive using an e-mail address that has a “.edu” domain, and you will get unlimited Google Drive storage. Of course, you need to be a student to have such an e-mail address, and if your school/college has allotted you one, make use of it to the fullest by storing as many files as you want on Google Drive.
These are five ways that we personally used to declutter our Google Drive storage until the time we bought a subscription to Google One because 15GB was not sufficient anymore. If you’re not heavily reliant on cloud storage and you don’t share a lot of files via Google Drive, you can still manage with the given 15GB as long as you keep making space as and when the storage fills up.